Sunday, October 27, 2013

As Browns quarterbacks struggle the defense needs to step up

 Karl Kimbrough (pictured), Cleveland Urban News.Com Sportswriter (kimbrough@clevelandurbannews.com).  Cleveland Urban News.Com and The Kathy Wray Coleman Online News Blog.Com, Ohio's No 1 and No 2 online Black news venues (www.clevelandurbannews.comReach Cleveland Urban News.Com by email at editor@clevelandurbannews.com and by phone at 216-659-0473

CLEVELAND, Ohio-Against the Green Bay Packers, Browns fans didn't have to wait long to find out if Brandon Weeden would be successful in not allowing criticism to affect his performance. On Cleveland's first three offensive possessions they went three plays and out. This was a direct result of Weeden missing wildly on seven of his first eight passes. He was very high and wide on almost every throw. Those throws reminded me of a fastball pitcher who had lost his effectiveness. Now after almost a season and a half of professional football it is obvious that Weeden never left his first love, baseball. Weeden had failed at the pro level in baseball now it has carried over to football.

When a fastball pitch is not effective he tends to over throw. He gets wild, zipping his pitches high and outside. Physically Weeden was on a football field in Green Bay Wisconsin last week but mentally he never left his minor league baseball team. One of those early passes was a screen in which running back Fozzy Whittaker was less than eight yards away, but the pass was too hard too low and too fast like many of his short passes. If the criticism Weeden received had not gotten to him than his own self inflicked disconcerting thoughts had. A lack of self confidence can destroy the effectiveness and success of the most gifted athlete.

Head coach Rob Chuzinski and his staff took three days to lament the status of it's quarterback position because it is the one position that has a tendency to effect every other player on the team directly or indirectly. Chudzinski has and probably will always say that he will name the starting quarterback who gives his team the best chance to win each week. When he mentions team, he truly must take into consideration how every member of his team will perform with whoever plays quarterback. If the players don't believe that that quarterback is the right man to lead them they tend to fail to give 100 percent effort let alone 110 percent.
It is not a coincidence that the Browns as a team appeared to play their most competitive games when Brian Hoyer was the starting quarterback. Beside elevating the play of his fellow offensive players. Hoyers presence gave the defense and special teams players a hope and belief that they would win. Although team captian D'Quell Jackson and other players spoke up and gave their vote of confidence in Weeden after his poor performance against the Detroit Lions their effort against the Green Bay Packers did not support their statements. Obviously they were playing against one of the best quarterbacks in the league in Aaron Rogers. However, the Packers linemen on offense and defense clearly won the battle as well. The battle in the trenches is the true essence of football at any level even in a quarterback driven NFL. The game is still won and lost in the trenches.

So if this team is going to have a chance to win games the rest of the season their defense will need to avoid the tendency to play less than 100 percent because the offense is not playing at a high level. After the first five games of the season the Browns record was three and two. The defense ranked fourth in the league now they are seventh and 29th in the league in third down defense. More importantly they are now giving up more than 22 points per game after giving up over 30 the last two weeks. But the defense was the strength of this team when they were three and two. They still are when they play with intensity and conviction.

The Browns move to start Jason Campbell instead of Brandon Weeden means that the defense and special teams need to give Campbell a shorter field. If the offense has to go 80 yards or more on most possessions it will be hard to score because Campbell is not known for making long throws or big plays.
The coaching staff is hoping that Campbell's nine years of playing in the NFL will bring some confidence back to the offense that it has lost and make the easy throws that Weeden lacked touch on. When coach Chadzinski announced that he had decided to change quarterbacks he said,” Were going to evaluate it ( QB position) on a week to week basis.”

Currently Campbell has a passing percentage of 60.8 and a quarterback rating of 82.4. Campbell has thrown for 14,688 yards over his career and has a 76 touchdown to 52 interception ratio. He started his first five years in the NFL for the Washington Red Skins. After he failed to be the franchise quarterback that Washington was hoping for he was traded to the Oakland Raiders in 2010. He spent last year as the Chicago Bears backup after failing to secure the starting job in Oakland. Campbell has experience as a starter and a backup and has been called upon to substitute for the starter in Oakland and Chicago.

As a substitute Campbell has played well at times and not to good at a few others. But regardless of how Campbell plays the rest of his teammates especially the defense must show a sense of urgency and pride step up their performance. Getting some turn overs every game will help their cause as well. They had only nine after the first seven games.