We had the opportunity to ask 5 Questions to the SB Nation's blog for the Cleveland Browns, Dawgs by Nature. Their Head Editor Chris Pokorny took the time to answer the questions to give us more of an insight of the Patriots' Week 9 opponent. Hopefully, the Patriots can throw the ball to exploit their secondary and they can stop Peyton Hillis to slow their offense. Thanks to Chris for his answers, and here's to a good game!
PP: How has the offense changed with Colt McCoy at quarterback?
DBN: The offense really hasn't changed too much with McCoy under center, because Cleveland's strengths on offense involve tough running from Peyton Hillis and key passes to our tight ends. One thing that can be said about
McCoy is that for a rookie who faced the Steelers and the Saints in his first two starts, he didn't look nearly as flustered as he did in the preseason. He made decent reads, and he seemed to know when to take care
of the football (i.e. against the Saints, he had a few of incompletions that were throwaways in order to avoid a sack or interception). Seneca Wallace did bring some nice mobility and quick touch passes down near the red zone, but there were too many times in which his reads were slow. Another thing fans have been impressed with is that with McCoy under center, the Browns haven't been forced to burn timeouts early in a half because of confusion or the play clock running down.
DBN: I never thought I'd say this given our run defense the past several years, but it has been the ability of our front seven to stop the run. While Cleveland certainly isn't going to hold opposing running backs to a 2.5 yards per carry average or something, they have shown a tendency to stop a lot of running backs for no gain or a loss on second down plays, setting other teams up with some third and long situations. Cleveland has also been great at stopping the run inside the red zone, where they have only given up one rushing touchdown this season.
Three more questions after the jump!
DBN: Peyton Hillis has been as good as advertised. He always pushes the pile forward with his tough running style, follows his blocks quickly, and catches the ball well out of the backfield. Any time he gets a burst out of the backfield for a big play, you can just feel his energy rub off on the rest of the team. In terms of how he can be stuffed, you need to find a way to blow up his momentum in the backfield before he has a chance to get started. Our quarterbacks don't seem to have the option of checking out of a run play, so if the defense suddenly brings a safety right up to the line, Hillis is going to have no chance when contact is being made as soon as he touches the football.
DBN: At the beginning of the year, I said it was our linebackers because they lacked speed. They have been able to compensate for that with "smart" play and sound tackling. The weakness has been the secondary getting burned,
particularly starting cornerback Eric Wright. He has been our best cornerback for the past several years, but he has been picked on by opposing quarterbacks on deep passes. It's not like Wright is just getting unlucky -- suddenly, he looks completely lost out there. The rest of our secondary hasn't been "perfect" by any means, but if you take away all of the times Wright has looked lost, this unit would at least improve to having "average" production.
DBN: The Browns really haven't been beaten by a team with one method except for a game against the Ravens when Eric Wright was burned three times for touchdowns, with some of the plays coming when the Browns brought an all-out blitz but didn't reach the quarterback in time. In those instances, Rob Ryan has shown reluctance to stop bringing the all-out blitz despite the fact that it isn't working. Offensively, the Browns haven't done a very good job adjusting their gameplan after halftime -- that's one of the reasons the Browns blew opportunities to beat Tampa Bay, Kansas City, and Atlanta. Sticking with Peyton Hillis on the ground has usually been the formula for Cleveland's offense generating some production in the second half of games.
Thanks again Chris!