Browns-Bengals: Five keys

Posted Nov 15, 2013

Browns Senior Editor Vic Carucci breaks down the five keys for Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium.

>>Crank up the heat on Andy Dalton. The Bengals’ quarterback has thrown six interceptions in his last two games. The Browns need to force him into more turnovers with a sustained pass rush, and not allow him to regain the hot hand he showed in becoming the AFC’s Offensive Player of the Month for October. This is a game that their front seven most dominate. Paul Kruger, Jabaal Sheard, and Barkevious Mingo must consistently win their battles at the line. Defensive coordinator Ray Horton needs to be at his creative best in sending blitzers from a variety of angles, while also mixing up coverages to cause Dalton to hesitate before throwing as often as possible. Dalton struggles with long-ball accuracy, and the Browns need to get him to try to force deep throws that should lead to interceptions. They intercepted him once when the Browns beat Cincinnati in Week 4. They’ll need multiple pickoffs in this game.

>>Don’t let Giovani Bernard become a major factor as a receiver or runner. The Browns have had their struggles covering running backs on screen plays. Their zone-blitzing defense tends to put their secondary deep enough to leave space underneath where blockers can get in front of the back and pave the way for chunk gains. Bernard only averaged 6.3 yards per reception on six catches in the previous game, and the Browns need to maintain the same containment this time. The Browns also did a good job of preventing Bernard and BenJarvus Green-Ellis from tearing them up on the ground in Week 4. Their defensive line has to be exceptionally physical to prevent the Bengals from finding any consistent success on the ground. Otherwise, that will open the door to Dalton being more effective as a passer.

>>Jason Campbell has another strong performance. It seems so long ago that Campbell emerged as a hero for overcoming bruised ribs to have a three-touchdown outing against the Ravens. The good news is that it was nearly two weeks ago, and Campbell had the bye to heal. The question is, can he regain the form he showed in the second half at Kansas City and the following week against Baltimore? There is reason to believe Campbell should be even better because of the additional time he has had to work on timing with his receivers and to become even more familiar with the Browns’ offense as their starting quarterback for a third game. His quick release and mostly nimble feet should help him to avoid the pressure packages that Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer has planned for him.

>>Get Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron back into the offense. The Bengals will try to do what every Browns’ opponent has been looking to do since Gordon and Cameron made their early season splash with game-changing catches: take them out of the game with extra coverage. The Ravens were highly effective with that in Week 9, but Greg Little and Davone Bess stepped up with breakout performances. It would be nice to have Little and Bess do the same if Gordon and Cameron are again under wraps. But it would be much better if Gordon and Cameron were able to shake free from coverage and get back to their difference-making ways. The fact is that every Browns opponent is going to focus on shutting down the two best pass-catchers on the team, so it is up to Gordon, Cameron, coach Rob Chudzinski and offensive coordinator Norv Turner to figure out how to get them open.

>>Keep trying to find a running game. The Browns spent a good portion of their bye looking for ways to create at least some semblance of a rushing attack. Look for them to do some things schematically to create running room, mostly to the perimeter. This will involve variations in blocking and in the backs involved. Expect to see more of Chris Ogbonnaya and Fozzy Whittaker on carries. It also would make sense to utilize the backs more on screen passes to take advantage of some coverage mismatches.

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