Browns-Packers: Five keys

Posted Oct 18, 2013

Browns Senior Editor Vic Carucci breaks down the five keys for Sunday’s game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.

>>Brandon Weeden bounces back from his poor second half in last Sunday’s loss against the Lions. The quarterback’s psyche has never been tested as much during his brief NFL career as it has in the past week. His killer interception, punctuating a half in which the Browns produced only one first down and a mere six yards in the third quarter, prompted media questions about Weeden’s self-confidence and whether his teammates’ confidence in him is wavering. His coaches and teammates have given him a strong public display of support. Now, it is up to Weeden to hold up his end of the bargain by giving, at the very least, an error-free performance, and, at the very most, a showing that includes some big plays. He could do plenty to put to rest the uncertainty surrounding his status as the starter by leading the Browns to victory against one of the tougher road opponents the Browns will face this season.

>>Jabaal Sheard’s return makes a major difference for the defense. OK, so we were premature with this one last week, having assumed Sheard would be back from his knee injury in time to face the Lions. It turned out he needed another week to heal. But Sheard is expected to play against the Packers, and that should help make one of the NFL’s top defenses even better. He was having the best season of his NFL career before suffering the knee injury that kept him out of the past three games. His return to outside linebacker allows the Browns to do more rotating with the members of their front seven. That should be particularly helpful to fellow outside linebackers Paul Kruger and Barkevious Mingo, who haven’t been quite as effective while taking extra snaps.

>>The Browns need to find more offensive balance. The physical rushing attack that they used so effectively in the first half against Detroit has to become a greater part of their offensive identity. It would figure to go a long way toward helping Weeden to have more success as a passer because it would keep the Packers’ defense off-balance and help take some pressure off of Weeden. Having success on the ground against Green Bay won’t be easy, given the Packers’ exceptionally large defensive line. The Browns’ offensive line must show the same sort of aggressiveness and sheer brute force that helped it get consistent push through the first two quarters against behemoth Lions defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley. Willis McGahee and Chris Ogbonnaya also need to do their part by making all of the extra yards they can after contact.

>>The front seven goes back to playing stronger run defense. The Browns have not been nearly as effective against the run in the last two games as they were through the first four. Sheard’s return will help on that count. But it will take a far stronger effort from defensive linemen Desmond Bryant, Phil Taylor, and Ahtyba Rubin. The Browns can’t allow rookie running back Eddie Lacy, who has averaged 4.4 yards per carry, to have a break-out performance and/or breakaway runs.

>>Jordan Cameron has to go back to the game-breaking force he was earlier in the season. Opponents have understandably paid far more attention to the tight end since his dominant showings through the first few games. Nevertheless, Cameron and the Browns’ coaches have to find a way for him to gain more separation from defenders. Cameron has made the bulk of his big plays running longer patterns. He needs to work at being more effective on short and intermediate routes, where he is usually dealing with traffic.

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