The Cleveland Browns have had a rough go of it lately. They started this off-season by hiring a guy who was fresh off bashing half their roster on TV to be their GM. Then came two weeks of Hoyer-Mania only to see that end abruptly. And just this week, the Browns did the Browns-iest thing ever by signing former Packer Charles Johnson and his shredded ACL to their active roster. If the Cowboys are ‘America's Team' then the Browns are definitely the sports version of America's Sweethearts. When they're not playing the Packers I actually root for them to win because, hell, Cleveland needs to catch a break. That said, the Browns actually have a surprisingly nice collection of individual talent. Will it be enough to stop the Packers from collecting their third win in a row this Sunday? Here are five things that could come into play.
On a scale of Drew Bledsoe to 10, Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden's mobility ranks somewhere around a 2. That makes him particularly susceptible to blitz pressure, something the second year starter/backup/starter has shown he's not all that adept at (Pro Football Focus had him ranked dead last in 2012). Fortunately for him, he's got one of the league's best left tackles in Joe Thomas to protect his blindside. But even with Joe Thomas and the Packers without their best pass rusher in Clay Matthews, I expect Dom Capers and the defense to bring the kitchen sink on Sunday. Weeden's got some talented receivers around him, including rookie tight end wunderkind Jordan Cameron, but his brief history has shown that when you bring pressure, good things happen for the defense.
More Tight Ends
The big knock on tight end Brandon Bostick so far has been that he can't block worth a damn. But without Randall Cobb, James Jones unlikely and Jordy Nelson lining up against the Browns' shutdown corner Joe Haden, the Packers criteria for who they trot out at tight end or receiver should look a little something like this:
1. Are you an NFL player?
2. Have you caught a football before?
3. Can you, like, run kinda fast?
Frankly, I'm excited to see what the combination of Finley, Bostick and Quarless can do if McCarthy works all three into the game plan. Jarrett Boykin and Myles White will certainly play a role in helping to fill the gaps left by injury, but involving the tight ends more now will only make the offense more dynamic for later in the season when everyone's healthy. *
* This may never happen
Andy Mulumba time
Unfortunately for the Packers, injuries to their linebackers have multiplied faster than a MRSA outbreak in Tampa. With outside linebackers Clay Matthews and Nick Perry both out, that leaves Andy Mulumba in line for his first career start this weekend. I'll be honest. I really have no specific data on why I'm excited about Mulumba other than HOLY HELL LOOK AT THIS GUY. There's always ‘looks like Tarzan plays like Jane' potential with guys like Mulumba (his name is awfully close to Mamula, after all) but in the opportunities he got in preseason, he looked like more than just a workout warrior. So far this season, Mulumba's recorded 10 tackles in limited time, so this should give us our first glimpse at what he's really capable of.
Aaron Rodgers coming to a boil
If there's one thing Aaron Rodgers has shown he's equally as good at as he is at playing quarterback, it's finding slights to motivate him. Throughout this season, he's had plenty of material to choose from. Greg Jennings took a jab at him earlier in the season. Then came the stupid, "Is Aaron Rodgers clutch?" narrative. And let's not forget that the collective media has been walking around with Manning-boners almost the entire year. This is more of a hunch than anything, but with some people now questioning whether Rodgers can win with so many injuries to the receivers, it seems like a good time for one of his patented, STFU-I'm-still-the-best-QB-in-the-league games.
Eddie Lacy had the best game of his young career last week, tallying 120 yards on 23 carries. In all, Lacy has been the kind of back I think most were hoping for. A pounding, yet shifty back with good vision and the ability to wear defenses down. But if Lacy is going to be a factor in the playoffs (assuming they get there), McCarthy will have to make sure Lacy doesn't get worn down. Rookie running backs with higher workloads frequently see a late-season drop off in their production and while it's still early, Lacy's had 20+ carries in his last two games. Getting James Starks back will obviously help but in the meantime, it might behoove the Packers to give Jonathan Franklin more than the one carry he got last week.
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- Packers Sign Victor Aiyewa to Practice Squad, Try Out Several Others
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