Browns-Jaguars: Five keys

Posted Nov 29, 2013

Browns Senior Editor Vic Carucci breaks down the five keys for Sunday’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at FirstEnergy Stadium.

>>Find a way to turn up the heat on Chad Henne. Earlier in the season, it seemed almost inconceivable that the Browns would go two games in a row without a sack. The front seven routinely was dominating and generating pressure, while piling up sacks. However, in the last two weeks, against the Bengals and Steelers, the Browns’ pass-rushers have come up empty. And that is largely why the team lost both games. The Jaguars have struggled with their interior blocking, and that should work in the Browns’ favor. The strength of the Browns’ pass rush is the defensive line, beginning with nose tackle Phil Taylor. This group should be able to control the line of scrimmage and create multiple sack opportunities for outside linebackers Paul Kruger, Jabaal Sheard, and Barkevious Mingo. Henne, who was under duress against the Houston Texans in Week 12, cannot be allowed to operate with any level of comfort. Although he is far from dynamic, he is good enough to make enough plays to lead Jacksonville to victory.

>>Brandon Weeden gives a competent performance. This has been a nightmare of a season for the man the Browns had once seen as their long-term answer at quarterback. In and out of the lineup due to a thumb injury and poor play, Weeden gets yet another chance for redemption as Jason Campbell recovers from a concussion he suffered against the Steelers. Weeden cannot focus on all that has gone wrong to this point or the criticism and booing he has heard. His only concern should be making the most of his fifth start of the season. And that begins with avoiding turnovers. Although most of it came in garbage time against Pittsburgh, Weeden did do a good job of connecting with wide receiver Josh Gordon. Weeden also has demonstrated that he has good chemistry with tight end Jordan Cameron.

>>Jordan Cameron exploits the Jaguars’ vulnerability in covering tight ends. The Jags have problems covering tight ends, mainly because they have a pair of rookie safeties in Johnathan Cyprien and Josh Evans. Consequently, Cameron should be able to have a productive game. On the strength of his early season success, he ranks third in the NFL among tight ends with 59 receptions for 661 yards. The key is to get him involved in the offense as early as possible. It’s also incumbent upon Cameron, who had two big drops against the Steelers, to hang onto the ball. This game is a chance for him to help re-establish himself as one of the league’s top players at his position.

>>Joe Haden shuts down Cecil Shorts III. Shorts is the lone game-breaking threat the Jaguars have at wide receiver. Haden was clearly frustrated with himself for giving up a touchdown against the Steelers’ Antonio Brown, but he must put that behind him. Haden has given a Pro Bowl-level performance all season, and he should be able to minimize Shorts’ impact as he has done against multiple top receivers this season.

>>Avoid special-teams breakdowns. The Jaguars have blocked two punts this season. The Browns are still smarting from the fact they allowed one punt to be blocked and had another partially blocked against Cincinnati. The Jaguars also have generated a safety and have had their share of long kickoff returns from Jordan Todman, who ranks second in the AFC with an average of 28.2 yards. In the last two games, they have had the edge in field position thanks to some good punting by Bryan Anger.

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