As Week 4 approaches, Cleveland Browns fans can only hope for a victory this week against the Cincinnati Bengals. It seems a little awkward when you compare the two teams in the Battle of Ohio this week. The expectations for the Browns weren't very high heading into the season, but I get the sense that this team could easily have been 3-0 rather than 0-3. On the flip side, the Bengals are sitting at a record of 2-1, but I could easily see them being 0-3.
Each team has underachieved in their own right. For the Browns, it has been a combination of horrid second half offense and a poor game from a cornerback last week. For the Bengals, it has been the combination of a horrid defense one week and their offense never really living up to expectations in any game.
While the records don't indicate it, I think both of these teams will be battling head-to-head on a rather even playing field this Sunday. With many of the Browns' players ready to return from injury, could that end up being the difference maker.
Here is what the Browns have going for them:
- First and foremost, the Browns found their identity on offense, and that is Peyton Hillis. Besides his fumbles in Week 1, he has ran the ball better than expected and is also a consistent threat out of the backfield. Teams seem to be ignoring him in the flat, and if they continue to do so, that's an easy throw for our quarterbacks. If they start coming up to cover him, then that should open some more things for our receivers and tight ends.
- RB Jerome Harrison returned to practice, a player I am still very high on. With that said, given Hillis' production, I'd be crazy to call for the slow-starting Harrison to receive more touches this week. It'll be interesting to see how the team utilizes Harrison this week, because this goes back to the potential issue when Jamal Lewis was here.
I was fine with giving Lewis some carries (when he was doing well), but the problem was that Harrison was never utilized. If Hillis is the featured back now, Harrison can still be an asset on screen plays or as a change of pace back to the outside. I think defenses will still respect him if they see a playaction fake too.
- WR Brian Robiskie was at practice Wednesday too, and there's nothing wrong with him being inserted back into the starting lineup. Why? Because, as I've mentioned all season, Joshua Cribbs is a player who can be the No. 1, No. 2, No. 3, No. 4 receiver, RB, QB, etc. on any given play. It's almost like a rotation. Robiskie hasn't had the chance to shine yet, but I think he'll do better once Jake Delhomme gets back.
- Speaking of Jake Delhomme, I really hope he is at practice today like Eric Mangini suggested. While I commend Seneca Wallace for what he has done the past two games, I still haven't gotten my "fill" of Delhomme running the offense. Remember, he had a tremendous preseason and looked to be in sync with Mohamed Massaquoi, Ben Watson, and Chansi Stuckey. That's not to say he wasn't in sync with Robiskie or Cribbs, but I think he demonstrated the ability to make his reads quicker and get the ball to the right player.
UPDATE: The ABJ notes that Mangini stated Delhomme will start against the Bengals if healthy. That might seem like an obvious statement, but if he is healthy enough to practice Thursday and Friday, then I think that is a sign that he'll start. Mangini confirmed this morning that Delhomme will practice today (Thursday).
- On the offensive line front, wouldn't it be great to see Shawn Lauvao and Tony Pashos starting this week? John St. Clair sat out of Wednesday's practice, and Lauvao finally practiced (in a limtied role).
- Defensively, Marcus Benard is back. Although Carson Palmer ran all over the Browns last year, we need a guy who can get pressure on the quarterback more often to try to prevent our cornerbacks from being on an island too often.
- My confidence in Eric Wright right now? It's still high. He needs to forget about last week's game and focus on covering players he's faced several times in his career (Chad Ochocinco or Terrell Owens).
- The Browns were without Shaun Rogers, Robaire Smith, or Kenyon Coleman in Wednesday's and Thursday's practices, so that's really the noteworthy position to watch this week on the injury reports. Mangini stated that all three are expected to practice on Friday.
More information should be out shortly regarding who is practicing Thursday.