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Thoughts From the Other Side: Cleveland Browns

It’s that time again. Time for another installment of Thoughts From the Other Side. This week we had a few questions for Craig Lyndall, senior writer over at the Cleveland Browns blog, Waiting For Next Year. As per usual, I had my litany of questions and the other blogger answered each one to give us some insight into the Raiders’ next opponent. So as we welcome the Dog Pound into the Black Hole, let’s take a look into the doghouse.

Is Colt McCoy ready to lead the Browns? And why?

Not yet.  Colt McCoy has leadership qualities for days.  He does a very good job considering his experience level, but when I think of leaders, I think of the best QBs in the NFL like Brady or Manning.  When I think of leaders, I think of an experienced vet like Matt Hasselbeck because he has been able to stay consistent for so long.  Colt McCoy could potentially be that guy, but he certainly isn’t that yet because his play on the field hasn’t caught up with his leadership qualities.

What would you say is the strongest area of this Browns team?

It would be hard not to say special teams again with Josh Cribbs and since the Browns brought in Brad Maynard to take over their punting duties.  That’s a boring answer though. 

The Browns defense is probably the strongest area of the team overall.  Joe Haden has become a legit lockdown corner.  The Browns’ defensive line, while young, has shown more than most Browns fans would have expected so far.  The Browns linebackers aren’t the most talented in the league, but they are all veterans that make up for a lot with their experience and knowledge. 

Oakland is going to be sold out and it will be the Al Davis tribute game. How do the Browns typically fare in hostile environments such as this?

We have no idea.  One of the major problems with the Browns numerous changes since being an expansion team is that they lack identity.  They haven’t really established a brand.  They certainly haven’t established a track record in “big games” because they haven’t seen a lot of them over the last decade.  The closest thing you have to a track record for “big games” would probably be divisional games against Pittsburgh. This Browns team has won that matchup only four times since 1999 and only once in the last ten matchups.   

I have compared the fans in Cleveland to those in Oakland. Would you say that is a good comparison?

I would say it is a good comparison.  I think the level of intensity that these fanbases have for their football teams is pretty similar.  I think they both have that double-edged reputation as being both great and bad.  I think the Black Hole is probably tossed under the bus as being a negative in the press more frequently than the Dawg Pound for whatever reason.  Still, I think the comparison is apt.  I respect Raiders fans for their dedication and I think most Browns fans would agree with me in that.

What areas are in most need of improvement on this Browns team?

Offense period.  The Browns are young on offense and decided to go into this season figuring out what their young guys could be.  They have no proven weapons at wide receiver.  This week’s starters will be Mohamed Massaquoi and rookie second round pick Greg Little.  Not a lot of fantasy starts between those two in your average league, right?  They have one-year wonder (so far) Peyton Hillis and Montario Hardesty available to run the ball.  They have Joe Thomas and Alex Mack on the offensive line, but have filled the gaps with relatively young players in Shawn Luvao and Jason Pinkston at the guard spots.  And finally they have a young and hopefully developing Colt McCoy. This unit needs to prove that they can consistently keep the defense off the field and occasionally put up points.  Seems simple, but it hasn’t been easy at times.

What matchup are you looking forward to in this game?

I wouldn’t say I am looking forward to it, but I will be watching Kamerion Wimbley and hoping the former Brown doesn’t get the better of his old team.  Cleveland fans loved Wimbley, but always thought he was miscast.  The Browns seemed to run the 3-4 in spite of themselves over the last few years.  They finally switched back to the 4-3 this season, but that was only after about five years of drafting defensive ends and failing miserably at converting them to 3-4 outside linebackers.  The Browns used to occasionally ask Wimbley to drop into coverage.  It seemed like the dumbest, most ludicrous, hard-headed thing in the world.  Why draft a guy who doesn’t fit your scheme?  Better yet, why not use a scheme that fits your guys?  That was a long-winded way of answering your question, I know.

Who wins between these two teams on Sunday and why?

I refuse to say the Browns CAN’T win this Sunday.  I think honest Raiders fans would admit that Jason Campbell will probably have a couple of stinker performances this season.  He has played well, but you just can’t bet on him to have a perfect year.  That being said, I won’t predict a Browns victory. 

The Browns are coming off of a bye week, so hopes are high that they fixed some of their offensive problems during that time.  The Raiders have played pretty impressive games including gutting out the win last week against a good Houston team. 

The Browns have some pretty big injury question marks including Joe Haden and Alex Mack.  That could be a recipe for disaster on both sides of the ball.  If the Browns win this game, I think it will be more a case of the Raiders giving it away rather than the Browns imposing their will.

–My answers to his questions will be up shortly so be sure and check back as I will link to it here.

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