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Cleveland Browns vs. Jacksonville Jaguars: Positional Breakdown & Notes

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Even Jack Del Rio doesn't know which version of the Jaguars to expect week-by-week.
Even Jack Del Rio doesn't know which version of the Jaguars to expect week-by-week.

As I stated earlier in the week, the Jacksonville Jaguars are a difficult team to read. And, although the Cleveland Browns have looked very good the past three weeks against solid competition, they lost to the "average-y" teams to begin the season, as Ryan indicated in his preview. Jacksonville can be taken apart defensively, but their offense can usually go toe-to-toe with their opponents. Will the Browns be able to stop Jacksonville without defensive leader Scott Fujita in the lineup?

Here are some notes heading into the game, followed by my positional breakdown and prediction for the game:

  • Joshua Cribbs has been ruled out, so that means Clifton Smith is projected to return kickoffs. He returned punts with Tampa Bay, so I imagine he would take over those duties too, but that doesn't rule out Chansi Stuckey from handling them.
  • With Cribbs out, I read an article in the Plain Dealer that it would remove about 20 plays from the playbook that Brian Daboll has handy to use that involves either the Wildcat or the trick/end-around type plays. Later in the article, it was noted that the Browns could try to use Seneca Wallace in the role Cribbs fulfilled. It's an interesting thought, because on certain run plays, Cribbs is just used as a decoy. However, you lose any threat of Wallace throwing a serious block. You also gain the threat of him having the ball in his hands and throwing it.
  • If not Wallace, then what about Carlton Mitchell? First off, I'm not sure the Jaguars' coaching staff has focused much of their attention on him. Second, Mitchell was the recipient of several end-arounds in the preseason, so the staff must like utilizing him in that formation. Mitchell wouldn't line up from Wildcat, but the Browns could find ways to not completely chuck the "Cribbs" section of the playbook.
  • I know some of you have been annoyed by CBS announcer Rich Gannon, who will be calling our game on Sunday, but here are some quotes from the Plain Dealer where he praises the play of Colt McCoy.
  • I'm sure Stuckey wants to do whatever he can to help make up for his overtime fumble against the Jets. I hope he gets that chance.
  • When Cribbs and Mike Adams were ruled out Saturday, one name that wasn't on that list was cornerback Sheldon Brown. Brown doesn't miss starts, so I expect the Browns to remain at full strength in terms of depth at cornerback. Joe Haden might see a few extra reps to keep Brown's reps limited though.
  • The Browns' defense was so concerned with the Jets' receivers last week that they often only rushed three men. I think you'll see the Browns go back to rushing five players fairly often this week, with an extra guy spying on Garrard with the option of coming in on a delay rush. Whoever that player is (my guess is Bowens) needs to keep Garrard contained.
  • Am I nuts for thinking that there's a good chance McCoy is going to toss multiple touchdowns with 250+ yards passing against Jacksonville?
  • If Cleveland's offensive line was able to hold their own or dominate their last three opponents, then they really should be able to manhandle the Jaguars' offensive line (although Alex Mack vs. Tyson Alualu should be a nice battle). I see the playbook attacking the Jaguars' weak secondary early on and then taking advantage of the limited number of defenders up front with Peyton Hillis.
  • If the Browns get down inside the 7 yard line this week, let's pound it with Hillis, or at least give the illusion that we could pound it with Hillis from that formation.

Position-by-Position Breakdown

Pos Adv  Reason
QB - I came close to labeling this category as "even," but I decided to give David Garrard the benefit of the doubt. The Jaguars have been an inconsistent team for awhile, and Garrard has been apart of that. This is the first year where he seems to have three reliable non-running back targets available to him, and his numbers have flourished. He's on pace to throw 26 touchdowns; he's never reached 20 in his career. His completion percentage is usually around 60%, but this year it has climbed to about 70%. His mobility can also give teams problems.
I can't really complain about what I have seen from Colt McCoy, although his past two stellar outings came at home. McCoy's first two games were on the road against Pittsburgh and New Orleans, and he didn't look as good there. It could just be a sign of McCoy gaining more experience (as opposed to doing better at home). The Jaguars' pass defense isn't very good though, so I'm really not too concerned.
RB - Peyton Hillis was not fazed by the Jets' defense last week. He is playing at a Pro Bowl level right now. I don't know if there is a running back in the league right now that delivers more blows without hurting himself than Hillis does. I think we might between 7-10 carries for either Mike Bell or Thomas Clayton this week, if my final score projection comes to fruition.
Looking at the stats for Maurice Jones-Drew, I was surprised to see that he's still getting the ball quite often. The number of touches he receives aren't down very much, if at all. Instead, the difference maker is that he only has three rushing touchdowns. That could be attributed to the increased passing production of Garrard. The Browns have faced Jones-Drew in each of the past two seasons and have defended him well enough.
- I gave the Jaguars the edge here initially, but they lost it when I learned that Mike Sims-Walker was doubtful for Sunday's game. Second receiver Mike Thomas has been having an outstanding season, but if Sims-Walker can't go, he hasn't proven yet that he can be effective as the lone receiver in the offense. The next wideout on the Jaguars' depth chart has just seven catches this year. Marcedes Lewis has been having a good year at tight end, but two threats vs. three threats makes a world of a difference for Jacksonville.
The Browns will be without receiver Joshua Cribbs, which actually gives Brian Robiskie a few more opportunities to possibly get some catches in. I saw a few comments trashing our receiving unit this year, but every time the ball has been thrown accurately to Massaquoi, he has been hauling it in for positive plays. Cleveland's dual threat at tight end matches the Jaguars' threat.
OL - One of the things to pay attention to at the start of the game is how Cleveland shapes the right side of their offensive line. During the team's hot stretch, the right side featured Billy Yates at right guard and Floyd Womack at right tackle. Yates is now on the injured reserve. Womack will definitely take either right guard or right tackle, but depending on where he is, John St. Clair might play (right tackle) or Shawn Lauvao might play (right guard).
Jacksonville's offensive line has been a mixed bag. They have yielded 17 sacks on Garrard, but 7 of those came in one game against Philadelphia. Garrard has been able to extend a few plays due to the Jaguars' line holding its own.
DL - Chalk this ranking up to experience and how well Shaun Rogers has been doing despite the fact that he seems to be the only defensive lineman on certain downs. I think he's truly upset at himself for letting Mark Sanchez get free last week and will be extra motivated to wreak havoc in Jacksonville.
The Jaguars are in trouble on the defensive line. They already lost Aaron Kampman to a season-ending injury, and former first-round pick Derrick Harvey has been benched. The two guys starting in their place, Jeremy Mincey and Austen Lane, haven't been very good either. Joe Thomas shouldn't have many issues defending whoever is on his side. Rookie Tyson Alualu has played pretty well; I'll be paying the most attention to him.
LB - With Scott Fujita out of the lineup, veteran David Bowens will take his spot in the lineup. I'm happy to hear that Bowens will get some playing time. He's made some big plays this year in limited action and was also solid at the end of last season. He isn't the greatest tackler though, so hopefully that doesn't leave Cleveland vulnerable.
There aren't any stars on the Jaguars' side of the ball, but the unit hasn't played bad over the past two weeks. Together, the Jaguars' three starting linebackers have a total of one sack this year.
DB - Last week, Mark Sanchez was able to make some fantastic plays, but most of them came about as a result of our coverage being solid in the first place. Hopefully out secondary can come away with some interceptions this week instead of dropping gifts.
The Jaguars have been terrible in the secondary -- even worse than the Browns I would say. I think the Browns have a real advantage if they can pick on safety Don Carey, the player Jacksonville "stole" from them Cleveland year.
ST - I am in constant awe at how our kick and punt coverage units just stymie the opposition each and every week. Reggie Hodges continues to have a Pro Bowl type of season. The Jaguars also have a pretty good special teams unit overall, so I don't imagine this "advantage" for the Browns being a game-changer as much as some of the other positions.

You might not think that missing one player would make a world of a difference, but for a team that goes on hot and cold streaks on a game-by-game basis, I think it does. If Mike Sims-Walker isn't available to David Garrard, I think the gameplan will focus on handing the ball to Maurice Jones-Drew early on. I'm confident Cleveland can get some early stops, and then when Garrard goes to throw, having that one less option will throw him off rhythm and into the "bad" Garrard that has played three times this season.

McCoy threw the ball very well to his tight ends last week and the team's slot receivers. This week, he'll have another advantage -- those guys will be open, and so will his primary receivers. I imagine the Browns going pass-heavy early on, and while I usually advocate sticking with the strength on the ground, playactioning to Hillis, even if we haven't given him touches yet, should create some openings.

My prediction could be terribly off given Jacksonville's inconsistent play. I think their "hot" two-game stretch ends this week, and Cleveland beats them the way they did last December: physical play, with the added bonus that we have seem to have a quarterback now.

FINAL PREDICTION: Cleveland Browns 35, Jacksonville Jaguars 21.