With the Cleveland Browns set to come to Charm City for a 1 p.m. matchup this Saturday, I figured an in-depth, thorough scouting report on the Browns would be something worth doing to give our readers some background on what to expect from the Browns in this week’s contest against the Baltimore Ravens.
The last time the Baltimore Ravens faced the Cleveland, the Browns were sporting a 4-7 record, with a struggling offense and a beleaguered rush defense that couldn’t stop anyone. However, a top-ranked Cleveland pass defense did give Browns fans something to cheer about, and while they still rank third in the league against the pass, it’s been another miserable season for the “Dog Pound.”
Since the last matchup, a 24-10 Ravens win nearly three weeks ago, the Browns have dropped back-to-back road affairs to the Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals. Neither game was a blowout, but at 4-9 now, the Browns aren’t really playing for much. It’s hard to to say what there is left to play for if your a Cleveland Brown, maybe the progression of a young squad, but this team’s confidence has to be shot.
Clearly, the number one strength of this team is the pass defense, which I mentioned earlier. Allowing just 188.4 yards per game through the air, the Browns continue to remain one of the league’s stingiest pass defenses.
Another area where the Browns may surprise you is at the quarterback position, yes, that’s right. With second-year man Colt McCoy still not practicing because of concussion he suffered two weeks ago, and with his status in serious question for Saturday’s matchup, Seneca Wallace is likely to fill-in for McCoy. In his first start of the 2011 season last week, Wallace emerged as a legitimate replacement for McCoy. While the Browns were 20-17 overtime losers in Arizona, what Wallace brought to this very young squad last week, was a veteran presence under center, which provided some much-needed stability, stability that the Browns have been searching for all season.
In the first matchup between these two teams, the Browns rush defense was atrocious. Ravens running back Ray Rice carried the rock 29 times for a career-high 204 yards. I doubt in just three short weeks the Browns have made any serious strides when it comes to stopping the run. That being said, I expect to see more of the same from Rice and the Baltimore rushing attack. Currently, Cleveland ranks 30th against the run and have a rash of injuries in their front seven, which leaves a lot of questions to be answered.
Offensively, Cleveland has struggled as well. In their past three games, the Browns have scored a dismal 30 points. So defensively, they will have to be more efficient facing a team that can dominate the time of possession with its run game.
The Ravens should have no trouble this week. Baltimore is fighting for a No. 2 seed, a first-round bye and a chance to host a home playoff game. Plus, the Ravens are coming off a pitiful showing in San Diego and will want to prove that last week was just an aberration. Meanwhile, the Browns–well–they’re just fighting for pride, which can play a factor in a rivalry game like this one. But this is the team’s third straight road contest, which doesn’t make matters any better for a struggling team. Look for the Ravens to come out early and have their way with the inferior Browns.