How can Eric Hagg have fallen so fast?
In today's edition of "The Sunday Five," we take a look at the changes in the Browns' secondary this week, the team's third-down running back situation, the importance of not starting the season at 0-3, and a new Browns blog that launched recently that you can check out.
One of things I'm paying attention to in today's game against the Bills is Cleveland's secondary. I know there have been reports that Sheldon Brown will no longer be in the starting lineup, but I won't buy it until I see it. Brown is an established veteran in this league, and every indication during camp was that Brown was going to be a starter. I know you have to develop his replacement at some point, but I think Buster Skrine can get the experience he needs playing on the outside over the next few weeks with Joe Haden out. The other reported change is that Eric Hagg will be replaced in the starting lineup by Usama Young. This is another somewhat puzzling move. Hagg was in the starting role since OTA's. Maybe we overestimated how "safe" his roster spot was in training camp since Young missed the entire preseason with an injury. I'm not stubborn the switch from Hagg to Young, but I also know that Young did not do very well in a starting role last year.
When offensive coordinator Brad Childress met with the media on Thursday, he talked about who would play the role of the third-down running back in the offense:
(On if he thinks the amount of work that Trent Richardson is getting right now is about right or if he is ready for more third down action)- "We kind of use him as we see fit. We had Obi (Chris Ogbonnaya) written into the plan last week and for right now he’s doing a good job with that. That’s always some of the hardest things to learn is picking up the protections and that type of thing, but we’ve got guys that I believe many hands make light work. You want to use guys whose particular skill level really kind of fits that situation and I think you’ll see Trent grow into playing more and more on those third down situations."
Long-term, it sounds like they want to move toward Trent Richardson playing in more third-down situations. While that is ambitious, I'm not sure if it is necessary. We seem to have two capable backup backs of picking up yardage and pass protecting on third down, so let's keep Richardson fresh.
This leads to another question: who is active today between Chris Ogbonnaya and Brandon Jackson? Jackson was a surprise inactive last week, but it might have been because Ray Ventrone was out and the team went with the better special teams player of the two. Ventrone is expected to return to action this week, albeit with a club on his hand. The big "flag" in my mind is that I thought Jackson was heavily-favored by the coaching staff prior to last week. For him to be sat before Montario Hardesty tells me they like Ogbonnaya in that role just a bit more. My guess is that we'll see Ogbonnaya active and in the third-down role again. My inactive projections for today's game include QB Thaddeus Lewis, RB Brandon Jackson, WR Jordan Norwood, TE Alex Smith, OT Oniel Cousins, LB James-Michael Johnson, and S Eric Hagg.
All games are big -- I get that. The game against Buffalo is bigger. Cleveland's next two opponents, the Ravens and the Giants, are considered Super Bowl contenders. If the Browns drop to 0-3 heading into those games, I don't want to face the fan reaction this early in the season about Pat Shurmur losing his job as the team's head coach. I suppose preventing that reaction will be tough as it is with Jimmy Haslam officially set to take over in a couple of weeks. The Browns have put together isolated games of a good offensive performance and a good defensive performance. It would be such a positive feeling for Browns fans if they could harness those two elements together and just decimate the Bills. It happened to Buffalo on the road in Week 1, so maybe Buffalo is already a little weary on the road.
I'd like to throw in a little cheap plug for Daniel Wolf's new Browns site, Man Bites Dawg, that he just opened last week. One of the articles he wrote recently talked about Jordan Cameron's lack of playing time and the fact that the media overreacted to his productivity in training camp. I think you have to look at a few other things when it comes to the hype surrounding Cameron, though. It wasn't just training camp that hyped people up for Cameron. It was Shurmur, who went out of his way to praise the second-year tight end back in May as one of the team's most improved players. Cameron followed that up with a great camp in terms of pass catching, and he appeared set to play a good amount of reps in the preseason. Then he got hurt, which seemed to help set the table for Alex Smith to secure his spot again. With Smith out this week (concussion), perhaps Cameron finally gets his chance to shine and prove that he was not just another victim of training camp hype.