The Cleveland Browns are off to a disappointed 0-2 start, and things don't get any easier against the Baltimore Ravens this week. This week's game against Baltimore will be critical in terms of how the remainder of the season will unfold, which leads me to believe we're going to see a few significant changes this week in personnel.
First off, let's discuss what a win would do. It would send us into our Week 4 match-up with the opportunity to play for second place in the division, since our opponent that week would be the Cincinnati Bengals. If your expectations were that the Browns would start the season off at 2-2, would you rather the wins have come against non-AFC North opponents? Being in that situation would be a complete turnaround in terms of the morale of the fans and the motivation in the locker room.
Winning these next two games is really the Browns' only chance at salvaging the season. Things didn't go well during the first two games of the season offensively, and while it's not exactly easy to move the ball on the Ravens' defense, I envision Eric Mangini mixing things up in an attempt to create a spark.
Disclaimer: I still attribute many of our offensive problems to the playcalling, but it's not as easy to toss your offensive coordinator aside.
One of those players is running back James Davis. While I'm still on the Jerome Harrison bandwagon and always will be, Davis has seen increased reps in practice due to Harrison's thigh injury. Harrison is expected to practice on Friday, but he might have several things going against him. He has shown fumbling issues this year, both in the preseason and then last week against the Chiefs. Although he should have been ruled down, the ball still shouldn't be coming out. His productivity through the first two weeks hasn't been superior to the point where a temporary shift to Davis would be out of the question. Here's a tidbit from Mangini's press conference Thursday morning on Davis:
(On James Davis’ saying he was going to do everything he can in practice to make him want to play him on Sunday and how he did) -- "First of all I love that answer. That is exactly the right answer and that’s what everybody’s perspective should be, ‘I’m going to practice so well you can’t help but to play me.’ To me that’s exactly the right approach from guys like James, or practice squad guys or anybody who wants more play time. That’s your opportunity to make your case for play time is during practice. I thought he had a good day. I was pleased with what he did with his chances and that’s one of the, you never want anyone to be injured, but that’s one of the positive things for guys who are the next guy down the depth chart, suddenly a world of opportunity opens up to you, what will you do with it."
Next up is wide receiver Brian Robiskie. While I don't think he has done anything to be in the doghouse, he has been missing practice with a hamstring injury. This coincides with Eric Mangini commenting after last week's game that more plays out of the Wildcat should have been called for Joshua Cribbs. Quarterback Seneca Wallace is expected to start again this week since Jake Delhomme has a high ankle sprain, and Wallace's favorite receiver throughout most of training camp seemed to be Cribbs.
I think we have to see a few Wildcat plays this week to try to counter the Ravens' solid run defense, but I think we'll also see him at the receiver position. As much as I don't want Wallace throwing the deep ball, if it was in the gameplan last week and Ed Reed is missing from the secondary, whenever the Ravens blitz, Wallace will probably lob the ball as soon as possible. If someone's going to be on the receiving end of those passes, I'd probably want it to be Cribbs.
We might also be able to get excited about Cribbs in the return game this week. At least one Ravens player has commented that the team will not kick away from Cribbs, and Cribbs doesn't think they will either:
Cribbs' reasoning? Because of Ravens special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg.
"Rosburg is the kind of guy not to back down," said Cribbs, who spent two seasons with Rosburg when he coached special teams for the Browns. "He doesn't back down. Even when we played here, I remember we used to play good returners, and we used to get up for games when we had good returners. That's the kind of coach that Coach Rosburg is."
Defensively, the Browns haven't really needed a spark yet considering how well they've been playing, but it's good to hear that linebacker D'Qwell Jackson might play in certain packages against the Ravens. Baltimore's offense has certainly not lived up to expectations through two games, but with Ray Rice, Anquan Boldin, Derrick Mason, and T.J. Houshmandzadeh all on one team, you know they have to break out at some point. Let's hope it's not against the Browns.
Are there any changes in terms of positions that you think should occur this weekend? If Harrison is healthy enough to play, is it worth giving Davis a shot?