New Orleans Saints’ Opposition Intel: Cleveland Browns


Sep 7, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Cleveland Browns running back Terrance West (28) runs the ball past Pittsburgh Steelers defenders during the second half at Heinz Field. Pittsburgh won the game, 30-27. Mandatory Credit: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

I recently teamed up with Jared Mueller, managing editor of Dawg Pound Daily, to exchange several questions around the upcoming matchup between the New Orleans Saints and Cleveland Browns. I’ve done my best to pick his brain around a few things related to this Sunday’s matchup. I call it:

New Orleans Saints’ Opposition Intel: Cleveland Browns

1. What were your thoughts on Week One? How encouraging was it to see the Browns battle back to make it a game against the Steelers? Who impressed you the most?

Week one was tough for the Browns. The comeback was exciting for a variety of reasons and the problems in the first half all seem fixable. Two players really stuck out as impressive for us. On offense Terrance West, the rookie out of little Towson who struggled throughout pre-season look great. He made players miss, he hit the hole and gained a hundred yards. On defense Karlos Dansby, a big free agent acquisition, paired with rookie Christian Kirksey to provide great defense against the run and the pass in the second half.The two of them help establish a physical presence against the run but their ability to cover in the pass game will be vital against the Saints.

2. Cleveland’s defense, much like New Orleans, didn’t get off to the start they wanted to. What type of adjustments do you expect to see with Drew Brees and company coming to town?

Two big adjustments, 1 simple and 1 not so simple. The Browns will give rookie and top pick Justin Gilbert, less time on the field. He hasn’t adjusted great to the NFL and has struggled in coverage. Against the Saints the Browns need players who, while not at talented, will be in the right spots at the right time. That could mean fellow rookie Pierre Desir, who has good size and speed, or safety Jordan Poyer could get time covering the array of weapons that Brees can deploy at any time. The not so simple adjustment is related to tackling. In the first half the Browns had the Steelers in their grasps and just missed tackle after tackle. Some of it was poor angles and some of it was trying to make the big hit. Either way the Browns have to figure out how to make solid, form tackles.

3. Is Brian Hoyer the answer to the Browns quarterback situation, or is everyone calling for Johnny Manziel to play?

Hoyer isn’t the answer but neither is Manziel right now. Browns fans are fairly intelligent and recognize that Manziel isn’t ready to play. While a vocal minority want the new exciting guy, most think he will benefit from sitting for a while. He has struggled to throw the ball on time and with accuracy all off-season. While Hoyer didn’t light it up most of the Pre-Season, his second half gives fans, and the coaching staff, hope. Hoyer has shown he struggles with expectations. The fact that very few are giving the Browns a chance against the Saints means he should play well. Because it is the home opener you may hear fans calling for Manziel if Hoyer struggles but it likely won’t be a majority.

4. What lesser known player(s) should Saints fans keep their eye on for this game? What about your biggest impact player heading into this matchup?

I will actually give you the same name for both questions. Buster Skrine. Skrine is the Browns #2 corner. With Joe Haden locking down a certain receiver, likely Colston if it is not Graham, Skrine gets tested more often. Rookie Brandin Cooks is the type of player that Skrine could have success with. Skrine isn’t a big corner and struggles on the outside some but has done a great job over the past year in the slot. Keeping Cooks and other receivers from dominating the game will have a huge impact. If Skrine and Haden play well it could force the Saints into running the ball more, which the Browns excel at defending, or forcing throws in that lead to interceptions.

5. Both of these teams are coming off of tough losses, and the Browns historically have fared well against the Saints at the ‘Dawg Pound’. How does this game end?

I have zero clue. The Browns of the first half last week would get wiped off the field by the Saints offense. Rob Ryan’s defense would chew up and spit out the Hoyer led offense from the first half as well. Yet the second half squad that took the field could compete with most teams in the NFL. The defense could keep Brees from big plays and make solid tackles in the run game. The Browns got a ton of pressure on Big Ben in the second half, Brees could struggle if he took those kind of hits. The offense will look to exploit Ryan’s exotic packages. HC Mike Pettine understands the concepts well which should give the team an advantage.

I expect a close game. The Saints could be overlooking the Browns so I would not be shocked to see the Browns pull one out with a loud home crowd on their side.

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