Game Preview: Browns-Giants

Posted Oct 6, 2012

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Linebacker D’Qwell Jackson leads the Cleveland Browns into MetLife Stadium against Eli Manning and the New York Giants Sunday afternoon.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The Cleveland Browns head into Sunday’s game against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium after spending the last week preparing to face one of the most prolific quarterbacks in the National Football League in veteran Eli Manning.

Through four games, Manning passed for the second-most yards in the NFL. He has completed 103 of 160 attempts for 1,320 yards and seven touchdowns against four interceptions. He has also been sacked only four times for 32 yards in losses.

“He’s really bright at reading coverages, knowing where blitzes are coming from and adapting really quickly,” linebacker Scott Fujita said. “This is a guy who sees things so clearly, a lot like his brother (Peyton). I’ve played against both guys many times throughout my career and they just see the big picture so well. It’s tough to disguise coverages, to roll things one way or the other because he knows what’s coming.”

While Manning has completed 64.4 percent of his passes, he has done so by involving multiple players. Eleven different players have caught passes this season.

Third-year veteran wide receiver Victor Cruz leads the team with 32 catches for 388 yards and is second with two touchdowns.

“He’s just a playmaker,” defensive back Sheldon Brown said of Cruz. “He’s a confident guy that plays with passion and the New York media gives him the motivation to keep going and going. Wherever he’s at, they throw the ball to him.

“This team, they do a great job of developing their young talent. They don’t have many transitional changes within the team, so a lot of guys are still there from when I was back in Philadelphia. I think the guys that are playing now have been in the system. They understand how the system works. They just step in and go out and make plays.”

In last Sunday’s 19-17 loss at the Philadelphia Eagles, Cruz caught a team-best nine passes for 109 yards and one touchdown. The 14-yard scoring play was Cruz’s 11th career receiving touchdown.

“The guys up front better get home; the guys in the back end better hold on and get him on the ground,” Brown said of Cruz. “If you look at all his catches, most of the time, it’s the YAC, the yards after the catch. He takes a short play and creates a big play. For us, we have to all run to the ball and try to play a physical football game.”

While the Browns’ defensive players focus on neutralizing the threats of Manning and Cruz, the offense will work on eliminating the pass rush of New York’s front four.

The Giants have registered eight sacks for 63 lost yards combined against the Dallas Cowboys, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Carolina Panthers and Eagles. Of those eight sacks, the defensive line combination of Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck, Rocky Bernard, Linval Joseph and Osi Umenyiora have registered 5.5.

“They’ll rush five quite a bit,” Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden said. “They’ll bring (linebacker Michael) Boley; they’ll bring some guys other than the front four, but they love to sit back and play coverage and match up man-to-man or cover three. They like to get pressure with the front four, but of the tape I’ve watched so far, they’re bringing five quite a bit. As good as their front four is, they still like to add extra guys to cover up the back and do some things.”

Pierre-Paul is listed as the Giants’ starting right defensive end, but with the team’s rotation up front, New York’s coaches utilize his 6-foot-5, 278-pound frame at all spots across the defensive line.

Pierre-Paul ranks third on the team with 17 total tackles and has a Giants-best four for lost yardage. He has registered 1½ sacks for 16 lost yards and two passes defended.

“Pierre-Paul, he’s kind of a freaky guy,” Browns offensive coordinator Brad Childress said. “You’ve all seen the YouTube things of him doing back handsprings. He’s a rare athlete for a man that big and it presents some special problems and he doesn’t just rush from that end position. They kick him inside in the nickel and he rushes over the guard and center too.

“He has a long reach and matter of fact, I was just watching the Super Bowl game and watched him back balls back at a 6-foot-5 Tom Brady, so he presents some problems in the front. He can ruin a game if you’re not in tuned to where he’s at.”

Browns coach Pat Shurmur got his start with the Eagles and watched offensive lineman Jon Runyan compete against Michael Strahan of the Giants for many years. Watching Pierre-Paul on film has brought back some of those memories.

“When you see him physically, those are the kind of defensive ends you want to draft,” Shurmur said of Pierre-Paul. “He’s got fresh legs. He plays extremely hard. He’s very effective against the run, as he is against the pass, which I think Strahan was. He’s just an outstanding football player and he’s on the beginning part of his career.”

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