Browns vs Kansas City – Week 8 – DC Show Preview
Monday morning Jeff Garcia was calling Berea and telling the Browns front office he was interested and capable of playing quarterback for them. In case you need further context for how awful our QB scenario has been to have Jeff Garcia calling, it means that after we all watched Weeden’s play this season, after last Sunday if you happened to be a 43 year old quarterback whose glory days were over a decade ago and you haven’t played a meaningful down in 5 years, you’d seen enough of the “The Full Weeden” and proclaimed, “This guy’s terrible! I’m so better than him, even now. That’s it, I’m telling my agent to call Banner first thing in the morning.”
Of course if you are the rest of us and not a former NFL QB who apparently is incapable of letting go of his playing days, you just said something akin to, “Weeden’s terrible! Pretty much anyone with arms and legs has to be better.”
Sorry, Garcia, though you do still have both your arms and legs, you also had your chance 9 years ago here, and unlike your Playmate of the Year wife, your Browns stint was far from pretty.1 Which is why this week Jason Campbell will star in the leading role as the Browns 20th starting quarterback since 1999, and 3rd this year. Bottom line, the whole world knew watching Weeden fail all over the field this season that Jason Campbell representing an even worse option, eventually, wasn’t going to sound like such a bad idea. It did take the Browns until Wednesday to publicly agree with it finally being time to switch, but they did. Sort of.
When Coach Chud officially announced Weed’s was benched and Campbell would start he of course said all the right things, “…it’s in the best interest of the team…it gives us the best chance to win…”, he also said all the things you know he can’t be fully honest about, “…I’m excited to see what Jason will do with this opportunity…I have confidence in Jason, and have had all along the way…”, he quickly sprinkled in some crazy stuff that scares the hell out of you, “We’re going to evaluate it on a week-to-week basis…(?!)”, and then he said what was actually most important for this week, “You look at his arm strength, you look at his mobility and some of those things tie into it from a game plan standpoint of what we feel like we need for this game.”
What’s most important about that, you ask? Weeden’s arm strength isn’t worse than Campbell’s so any comparison there is at best redundant. What’s most significant for this week’s starter is clearly the part about mobility, especially when considering the game we’re talking about is against KC who has by far the best pass rush in the NFL. Chud might as well have said, “Look, Jason Campbell can do this thing that all professional athletes do, he can run. And we’re expecting him to have to run all day on Sunday. Hell, he might have to scramble for his life on every play. As for Brandon, well, he ain’t fooling anyone. I’ve seen bridges in Cleveland move faster.”
And welcome to the wondrous world of Browns starting QBs, Jason Campbell. You were not the first option, and you were not the second option even when you were technically the second option. But now, you are the only option. So get out there and don’t get killed. Literally.
Key Matchups to Watch Out For
– The Justin Houston and Tamba Hali Pass Attack of Horror- Want to know the key to KC’s #1 rated defense? It starts with these two monsters. Houston ranks #1 overall at outside linebacker, Hali ranks 4th, and between the two of them they have 68 hurries and 20 sacks in 7 games. The Browns as a team only have 21 sacks in 7 games, and they’re also one of the better pass rush teams in the league. That’s how good Houston and Hali are.
Getting pressure isn’t all this KC defense does well, either, it also ranks #2 overall against the rush and #1 overall in coverage. It’s just that getting pressure on the QB is what triggers everything else for them. In other words, what we were sold on being the strength of Ray Horton’s defensive scheme here in Cleveland, is, but KC is doing it better than anyone.
You have to think Joe Thomas will keep Hali on the right side of the defense mostly in check, it’s what Hall of Fame players do, but considering how weak the right side of the Browns offensive line has been this year, Justin Houston coupled with a strong d-line is likely to make up any difference needed to keep Campbell running all day. That is if it all doesn’t just force a bunch of bad decisions and throws that result in turnovers, which by the way, KC also leads the league in doing with 10 interceptions and 9 fumbles recovered.
– Alex Smith…Running with the Ball – The difference between Jason Campbell running this Sunday afternoon and Alex Smith will be the difference between one man running because of the basic instinct to preserve ones own life, and the other having his ability to run quite possibly being a key advantage in the game, and difference maker.
You’ve heard all week how Alex Smith’s numbers throwing the ball aren’t that great, which is true.2 What you haven’t heard much about is just how well he’s moved the ball on the ground when he’s needed to or when it’s his best option.
Averaging 6 rushes a game at 5.1 yards a carry sees him ranked 6th overall among such better known running QBs as Wilson, Vick, Pryor, Griffin, and even Kaepernick, who, as Smith’s replacement in San Fran, only has 22 more yards running with the ball this year than Alex does. To give you a better perspective if you’re thinking 31 yards a game doesn’t sound like all that much, consider that Ogbonnaya is giving the Browns but 13 yards a game and McGahee is only giving you 9 more yards than Smith a game; when you then factor in the Browns defense is the second worst team in the NFL at stopping their opponent on 3rd downs, all of a sudden the idea of Alex Smith scrambling and extending drives and maybe even finding the end zone, becomes a very real and dangerous threat.
– The Norv Turner Playbook – We’ve seen fake kicks, fake punts, reverses, indirect snaps and the wildcat, in fact, we’ve seen pretty much all the tricks in the book outside of a flea flicker, and we’ve seen the Browns have some success as a result. Without question I expect Norv and Chud to pull some trickery here again this week, but more so I expect to see Campbell running screen plays as well as being under center and running play action.
One of the all too many criticisms of Weeden that’s out there which doesn’t get a lot of attention is just how bad he is at play action, and Norv’s play calling with him at QB shows it. With the league average for play action being around 21% of all offensive plays, when Hoyer was under center Norv dialed up play action to a tune of 24%. With Weeden’s poor play under center and overall stiffness, Norv only called play action for him 17% of the time.
Much like setting up screen plays to which Brandon is equally incapable of consistently having any success at, with Campbell at the helm you should expect a lot more of both play action and screen passes. This of course in no way says Campbell will have any success running these plays, but Norv will surely feel more comfortable calling them for Jason than he showed calling them for Weeden.
In what I would suspect to be a low scoring affair, if the Browns do get anything from Campbell and their offense as a result of the playbook being more open, there’s a real chance they hang around with KC. Being able to call plays that keep defenses honest, which is what play action and screen plays are all about, could go a long way in making this Browns offense look somewhat effective, and it might just be enough to give them a chance to beat Kansas City.
Just like the Browns, I’m 3-0 when Weeden doesn’t start, and 0-4 when he does, which is another reason to be glad Weeden isn’t starting this week. Will Campbell be any better? Is KC really as good as their 7-0 record? Do the Browns have any chance at all? Ultimately it feels like this season has ground to a halt for the Browns hopefuls, and thinking they’ll end the year with only 4-5 wins is yet again looking more and more a reality. That said however, KC at the beginning of the year was a team you thought Cleveland might have a chance against, and I’m not giving up total hope that this still isn’t the case. Yes, they are 7-0 at the moment, but it’s a record surely inflated by the fact that they have only beaten one team with a winning record, and that was Dallas, a team who hasn’t beaten anyone with a winning a record so far themselves. KC is good, but they’re definitely not as great as their undefeated record suggests, and the talent level on the field this Sunday isn’t going to be that drastic of a difference from one side of the ball to the other.
Vegas opened the line at +7 Browns and it’s moved to +7.5, though I don’t think the Browns win this one for one reason alone, the quarterback position, I do think they are capable of hanging around and making it close. Unfortunately, I think late in the game with a chance to tie or even take the lead, Campbell will show exactly why he wasn’t able to beat out an awful Weeden for the starting gig up until now, and makes his own boneheaded play(s) which seals the win for KC and also allows them to cover the spread. Sorry, I wish I had better news for anyone thinking any change away from Weeden will net result the Browns looking like they did with Hoyer, but I just don’t see it. Either way it’s likely to be many kinds of ugly all afternoon on Sunday, but hey, at least the Cavs start their season on Wednesday, and that’s sure to look a whole lot better than the Browns year looks right now. That’s a guarantee.
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- Jeff had a 2004 year plagued with injuries, posted a 0.0 QB rating week 2 against the Cowboys, and overall went 3-7 in 10 starts. [↩]
- Smith ranks 25th overall in QB rating and has posted a completion percentage of only 58%, which is his worst since he posted 50.9% his rookie season. [↩]
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