The Browns have had two weeks to prepare for this game against the Patriots, so you can be sure that they know all they can know about the team. The Patriots, coming off of consecutive emotional wins against the Ravens, Chargers and Vikings are running off of fumes on offense, while the defense is just starting to hit its stride. Knowing what the Patriots are capable of, what is there to know about the Browns? How can the Patriots use this information to their advantage? Let's find out.
1. Colt McCoy, rookie, Quarterback. McCoy has been thrown directly into the fire, with his first game coming against the Pittsburgh Steelers, his second game against the New Orleans Saints and now his third game against the New England Patriots (and a fun fact: If he starts next week, it will be against the New York Jets). That's a brutal opening schedule. As the record stands, McCoy is 1-1, with passing stats appropriate for a player in his situation. So what type of quarterback is McCoy? What can the Patriots expect in their game?
Find out after the jump!
Here's a quick list of McCoy's targets:
TE Ben Watson, WR Brian Robiskie, WR Chansi Stuckey, TE Evan Moore, RB Peyton Hillis, RB Joshua Cribbs
His top target, Mohamed Massaquoi, was out last week with a concussion injury and it is not known if he'll play against the Patriots. His favorite targets, other than Massaquoi, are two tight ends, two running backs and a possession receiver in Stuckey. He lacks a real home run threat down the field, except for Cribbs, and his coaching staff is keeping him on a leash, forcing his passes to mostly be high accuracy passes that aren't far down the field.
Looking at McCoy's splits so far, we can determine a few facts:
McCoy has thrown 2 passes in the middle of the field, which means that he's not throwing into traffic. Also, he'll have to throw out of his comfort zone if he wants to exploit the Patriots' weak coverage underneath in the middle.
If the Browns are facing a 2nd and 6, or shorter, they are going to run the ball. McCoy has thrown the ball only twice in those scenarios, which means that the Patriots can pretty much bank on a hand-off. Look for the Patriots to stack the box on 2nd and 6 (or shorter).
If the Browns are facing and 2nd and 7, or longer, they'll probably throw the ball. McCoy has had some success and will throw the ball 4-5 yards down the field in order to set the Browns up for a 3rd and short, or maybe convert the first down. The Patriots need to be aware of this tendency and must not allow receivers to get open underneath, with space, and move the chains.
McCoy is fairly accurate with mid-range (10-20 yard) passes. Look for a lot of hitch routes as the Browns play to their strengths as well as the Patriots weaknesses.
The Patriots can go into this game knowing a few things; McCoy loves targeting his tight ends, he likes throwing mid range passes and he enjoys throwing towards the sides of the field.
How can the Patriots respond?
Rob Ninkovich should be able to cover a tight end with James Sanders over the top. There's no reason to single cover their tight ends, especially because they're the top producers for the Browns. With Ninkovich underneath and Sanders over the top, that forces McCoy to look to his receivers, who should be well covered by Devin McCourty on one side and Kyle Arrington and Brandon Meriweather on the other side. This defense only allows the Browns one more offensive weapon (5 lineman, 1 TE to cover Jermaine Cunningham, McCoy, 1 TE as a receiver, 2 WRs = 10 players), which will most likely be Peyton Hillis.
Hillis will have to be McCoy's outlet all game, unless he's asked to block Cunningham. Patriots ILB Dane Fletcher may have a big game as he could be asked to spy Hillis the entire game. However, if Hillis is asked to play the generic back, look for Jerod Mayo and Brandon Spikes to have a field day attacking him.
McCoy is a young player and the Patriots should be able to limit his impact on the game. By knowing his tendencies, as well as what plays are to be expected, the Patriots defense should be able to shut down their offense. Hopefully, the Patriots are able to force McCoy into bad decisions that end up in turnovers and keep the Browns' offense off the field.