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Cleveland Browns Tuesday Mailbag


Chris Conley: Will we see Johnny in more offensive packages? If so, will he be given the opportunity to showcase his throwing ability?

Kevin Jones: Rule number one when it comes to Johnny Manziel: using him in a package makes opposing defenses have to take time out of their practice schedule to prepare.

Two seasons ago when Pettine was a defensive coordinator with the New York Jets, the San Francisco 49ers used Colin Kaepernick in various ways and the quarterback rushed five times for 50 yards, including a 30-yard scamper for a touchdown. San Francisco won the game 34-0. The sour defeat had a lasting impact on Cleveland's head coach. From a defensive standpoint, Pettine sees the advantage Manziel gives the Browns – almost like a knuckleball pitcher from the bullpen.

Manziel may not have exactly been Kaepernick during his first-ever NFL snaps against the Saints, but that doesn't mean he's not a dynamic athlete eager to show off his talents. Defensive coordinators will have to allot a small portion of practice during the week teaching defenders their specific roles for how to limit Manziel from running free. The time spent preparing for Cleveland's rookie quarterback cuts into other focuses. And the trickledown effect could impact the way the Ravens play.

Chris, you raise a good point: why not allow Manziel to let-it-rip with his strong arm? Others have raised another: why not let the rookie get an entire series instead of two plays here and there? Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan has repeatedly said, Manziel is not a "Wildcat" player. He's a quarterback. If that's the case, no other player coming out of the draft threw the deep ball as accurate as Manziel did at Texas A&M. Play calls should be drawn up for him to help the Browns win. If that means throwing a deep bomb to Travis Benjamin, that play call should be at the quarterback's disposal. Pettine has admitted the team is still perfecting the right method in how to properly unleash Manziel.

With all of that being said, on Monday I showered with praise for how he's played in 2014 – even suggesting the quarterback might have a long term future in Cleveland. Most around the league wrote off the Browns offense possessing a combination of too many "has-beens" and unproven rookies. Instead the Browns have found ways to not only move the football, but put way more points on the scoreboard than what was expected of them. How many NFL quarterback's could've taken an offense the length of the field against the Saints defense on the four-yard line? A small handful. Hoyer's confidence is contagious, and for the foreseeable future, playing him as many times as possible under center seems like the best overall formula on offense.

David Hawkins: Where does our OL rank in terms of QB protection and run production this year?

Kevin Jones: The Browns have only given up four sacks in two games, tying the franchise for 13th in the NFL. In terms of running the football, Cleveland ranks seventh in the NFL, averaging 152.5 yards per contest.

All along we've said the Browns' offensive line can showcase to the rest of the league they are a dominant unit. So far, the Browns have not exactly been untouchable upfront, but they've been stout enough, especially in the run. The fact that two rookie running backs (Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell) can seamlessly come in the lineup and rip off chunk yardage runs against respectable defenses like the Steelers and Saints is a testament of how big the holes left tackle Joe Thomas and his unit are creating.

The Ravens may not have the star-power they once championed, but as a unit they play more physically than Pittsburgh and New Orleans. This Sunday will arguably be the offensive line's biggest test, but so far, they've passed with flying colors.

Deborah Battle: What is the plan to get the defense out of ranking number 31?

Kevin Jones: Deborah, you're right: the defense isn't playing up to its lofty expectations.

But when you look at defensive statistics, don't always key in on total yards allowed. Time and time again, the Browns have proven they can allow a big play on defense, yet either force a field goal or even get the ball back via a turnover.

Would the Browns like to trim down the amount offenses are gaining? Of course. But there are other areas of defense where they will pride themselves upon.

Sacks – The Browns boast five of them (two from linebacker Paul Kruger) tying the team for 10th in the NFL.

Third-down conversions – offenses are 11/25 against Cleveland tying the Browns for 20th in the NFL.

Turnover margin – the Browns are 3

The Ravens don't have the explosive weaponry that the Steelers and Saints boasted. Expect a sharper performance yielding fewer yards from Joe Haden and the defense on Sunday. And remember, that number 31 ranking can be skewed.

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