Good morning, Cleveland Browns fans, and welcome to gameday! Be sure to check out our game preview and prediction for the Browns' Week 8 contest today against the Kansas City Chiefs. In this week's edition of "The Sunday Five," I talk about Ray Horton's promise for a better defense over the next few weeks, a roster move at linebacker, drops at the receiver position, Brandon Weeden's future, and more.
If the Browns are going to win this week, they are going to need some quality play from new starting quarterback Jason Campbell, no doubt. The bigger key, though will be if Cleveland's defense can start playing better again. During this week's press conference, defensive coordinator Ray Horton made some bold predictions. One of them was that the defense was going to be better, starting in these next four games:
"I think this next four-week period for us, you’ll see kind of a different Cleveland Browns defense, and you’ll start seeing the names that everybody thought," Horton said on Thursday. He also acknowledged that the game plan the past two weeks was to play in coverage and not blitz very much, but that the problem was in two areas: the offense was not helping them out enough in situations, and their defense was not getting off the field in third down situations.
Third downs were something that the coaching staff reportedly worked hard at improving two weeks ago, but the results weren't on display against the Packers. Horton said that if the Browns' third-down defense was even average, which is where he hopes to get, that Cleveland would be the No. 2 defense in the league. He's probably right. I would love for the big names on the defense to start showing up some more, but until they start doing so, it's "all talk" right now.
The Browns made another roster move on Saturday, once again proving that the back end of their roster remains fluid: they waived backup inside linebacker Brandon Magee. Magee was claimed off waivers at the beginning of the season from the Cowboys, and had been a special teams linebacker this year. He had two tackles and one assist on special teams.
Taking Magee's spot is linebacker Darius Eubanks, who was promoted from the practice squad. The move seems a little unusual -- did the Browns really see Magee as enough of a weakness on special teams to make a move late in the week?
Here is a prediction that is probably way off base, put an "out there" possibility: maybe the Browns have seen Craig Robertson struggle in coverage at inside linebacker these past two weeks. I have no idea how Eubanks is in coverage, but perhaps the Browns liked that aspect of his game on the practice squad and want to work him into a few situations on Jamaal Charles this week? Eubanks was actually a safety in college (6-2, 222 lbs), so he's not foreign to playing in coverage. If you see No. 50 on the Browns' defense on Sunday, it's Eubanks.
Dropped passes have still been a problem for the Browns. Maybe the lack of confidence that QB Brandon Weeden inspired, coupled with his rocket passes, played a factor in that. Anyway, if an example was going to be made out of Greg Little earlier this season (an announced benching), what about Davone Bess?
According to STATS LLC #Browns have 20 drops (4th most in NFL); WR Davone Bess 5, WR Josh Gordon 4, FB Chris Ogbonnaya 4 & WR Greg Little 3— Daryl Ruiter (@RuiterWrongFAN) October 25, 2013
For Bess to have fewer reps and lead our team in drops is inexcusable -- this guy was supposed to be the reliable veteran. He does still make some nice moves on tape, but hasn't done anything overwhelmingly positive. I'd still rather see the Browns sign Jordan Norwood again and give him a shot. Heck, the Jets recently signed David Nelson, and he's already looking good as one of their receivers. The Browns added Brian Tyms this week, but conceded that he is a "developmental type of guy."
Despite the fact that he's been benched, QB Brandon Weeden faced the media on Friday and said all of the right things. I'm rarely a pessimistic guy, but I don't see the change to QB Jason Campbell going over very well. I still support a change away from Weeden -- for now -- because we need to see if a change at the position helps at all, or if maybe some of Weeden's issues can be corrected in practice these next couple of weeks. Weeden said he'll be ready if called upon again:
"I hope I get another shot,'' he said Friday. "I hope (it's here). I'm champing at the bit. You never know. This league is crazy. Whether it’s this Sunday, four Sundays down the road or at the end of December, I’ll be ready."
In the back of my mind, I actually feel very confident that Weeden will get that shot to start again, and sooner rather than later. With the Browns facing the Chiefs and Ravens over the next two weeks, if Campbell doesn't go down due to an injury, I'm expecting Weeden to be right back in there in a couple of weeks due to Campbell not producing enough. Ultimately, the end result will be the same by the end of the year: neither of these quarterbacks will be the answer in 2014. Until then, we're just trying to find the guy who, as Rob Chudzinski keeps saying, "gives us the best chance to win."
It's time to predict the inactives for today's game. Here are my guesses for the Browns' gameday inactives against the Chiefs (there are seven inactives required): WR Charles Johnson, WR Brian Tyms, TE Keavon Milton, OL Patrick Lewis, OT Martin Wallace, OG Garrett Gilkey, and OLB Quentin Groves.
My scenario would see the return of DE Billy Winn, who is questionable. DB Jordan Poyer would be making his debut as a special teamer; he'd basically be taking the place of S Josh Aubrey and then DB Julian Posey. Again, it's one of those positions that it fluid at the back-end of the roster.