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Browns-Buccaneers: 5 things to watch for


Browns running game vs. Gerald McCoy and LaVonte David

The agitation in the flow of the Browns' offense the last two weeks stems directly from not being to run the football. Cleveland has combined for 55 carries and 108 yards in their last two games – averaging 1.96 ypc. Oakland and Jacksonville stuffed the box eight men deep as often as possible, minimizing the amount of holes Ben Tate, Terrance West and Isiah Crowell could run through. The opposing defensive strategy has worked, meaning the Buccaneers could borrow it for Sunday.

And no matter if they are ranked 32nd as an entire unit, Tampa Bay has the star power to be the third straight team to shut down Cleveland. There's a reason the Bucs just rewarded McCoy with a nearly $100 million contract. He takes on two blockers every time and normally sheds them as if they are orange cones. Perhaps the even better player is David. The 24-year-old already has 80 tackles this season and he doesn't just bring ball carrier to the ground; he crushes them.

What to watch for: More Crowell. The undrafted rookie's carries have dipped in the past two weeks and he could be the sparkplug to make things happen offensively.

Mike Glennon vs. Paul Kruger

Now that his back is fully healthy, Kruger is picking right back where he left off in September. Kruger admittedly wasn't 100 percent against the Steelers or Jaguars. When he returned to full strength, he tortured the Raiders offensive line for three sacks and a forced fumble.

The Buccaneers offensive line has had issues protecting Glennon – who's been sacked nine times in the last two games. Glennon is most effective when he's given time to operate from the pocket. If Kruger and company can generate a consistent rush,

What to watch for: Barkevious Mingo. He had his best game of the season versus Oakland, recovering a fumble late in the fourth quarter. Mingo may see increased playing time.

Buccaneers tall receivers vs. Browns' athletic cornerbacks

There isn't a more frightening combination – size-wise – of wide receivers in the NFL than Tampa Bay's Vincent Jackson (6-foot-5, 230 pounds) and Mike Evans (6-foot-5, 231 pounds). In his last five games Evans has at least one catch of 25 yards or more.

Defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil says Joe Haden, Buster Skrine and Justin Gilbert aren't small and he loves the leaping ability of all three. The Browns aren't going to change the way they play.

What to watch for: Will there be less jamming Jackson and Evans on the line of scrimmage because of their superior strength?

Miles Austin and Travis Benjamin vs. Tampa Cover-2 defense

A potential way to beat coach Lovie Smith and his Tampa-2 deep safety zone is by utilizing Austin as more on an inside target, rather than an outside receiver. Assuming Jordan Cameron misses the game with a concussion, seam routes and other play designs that can get Austin the ball over the middle of the field will throw a wrench in how Tampa Bay wants to play defense. Safeties would have to play closer to the line, allowing Hoyer to find opening further down the field.

The Buccaneers also had a tough time defending Vikings gadget player Cordarrelle Patterson last week in space. Cleveland could carry over that trend in and give Benjamin more looks – on intermediate and deep routes down the field.

What to watch for: Ball-hawking safety Dashon Goldson still doesn't have an interception this year and might get antsy to jump a route. Cleveland should scheme up a double-move to get Goldson to bite.

Which Tampa team shows up?

The Buccaneers lone win at Pittsburgh in Week 4 was one of the most surprising and impressive to date this season, by any team. The defense forced Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers dynamic offense on a three-and-out and then Glennon marched his team down the field in 40 seconds for a stunning 27-24 win. The Buccaneers also forced the Saints to overtime a few weeks and have competed much harder than their 1-6 record indicates. 

Still, this is a Tampa team that also lost to Atlanta 56-14 on the road and allowed Joe Flacco to throw for five first half touchdowns in the Ravens 48-17 route. Lovie Smith and his coordinators have to do everything they can to take an early lead on the road.

What to watch for: How loud will the Dawg Pound be from the get-go? The Browns are tied for fourth in the NFL in forcing pre-snap penalties (false start, delay of game etc.) at home.

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