To get ready for tomorrow's Jets-Browns game Chris, the head man of SB Nation's Dawgs By Nature Cleveland Browns blog, was nice enough to answer five of my questions on his team.
1. About this time last year, a lot of people in Cleveland were ready to run Eric Mangini out of town. The mood is better now, but how much so? How much confidence do fans have that he is the answer?
Overall, I think Cleveland fans are now sold on Eric Mangini to the point where we are not interested in having another coach take over this team. The Browns' record stands at 3-5 right now, but Cleveland has had the lead or had a chance to win in the fourth quarter of every game. None of the players are complaining, showing that the roster Mangini and company have put together worked out and the decisions they've made -- such as removing players like Jamal Lewis and Braylon Edwards from the limelight, has only benefited this team. There were some issues with the offensive and defensive playcalling for the first couple of games that didn't allow our units to play to the strengths of the personnel we had (i.e. defensively, we trusted our secondary way too much in single coverage). The adjustments have been made, and now Cleveland has "played" like one of the best teams in football over the past two weeks. How can you not have a high opinion of your head coach after that?
2. The Browns have a ton of former Jets. Which one do you think will have the biggest impact on Sunday?
I'll go with Abram Elam, since he sees the field more often than any of the other players. This is Elam's second year with the team, and overall he has been a disappointment in the sense that he doesn't make any impact plays. With that said, during the team's two-game hot stretch, Elam has been hot as well. He broke up several passes against the Saints, and last week against New England, he stripped Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski for a fumble just before he got to the endzone as the first half was ending. Chansi Stuckey would have the next best chance of having a big impact since the Browns like to throw him the ball in third-and-short situations. If the Jets' top two corners have tight coverage, Stuckey might be the go-to-guy in those situations.
3. Tell me about an unheralded Brown who will have an impact on Sunday's game.
I can't use Peyton Hillis for this category anymore, eh? I will go with nose tackle Ahtyba Rubin. Even those he is our nose tackle, don't be surprised if you see this guy following LaDainian Tomlinson all the way toward the sideline before stopping him out of bounds for a short gain. Rubin never gives up on a play, and if a receiver catches a dump pass over the middle, you'll see Rubin race from behind and try to deliver a big chop on the football. You usually don't hear about Rubin unless you're playing the Browns, because when you see the names of our defensive line, it's probably assumed that Shaun Rogers is the only nose tackle who can make an impact.
4. You know the Browns as well as anybody. If you were Rex Ryan, what would your game plan look like going against them?
That's tough to answer, because even I don't know what the heck the Browns' defense will do when then line up the way they've been lining up the past two games. That is a steep contrast from the first six games of the year, when I could tell from a mile away that the Browns were going to do an all-out blitz, and it would be easy to chuck it deep for a touchdown. I am interested in seeing how our defense can react to receivers who catch the ball at the line of scrimmage and then sprint (i.e. a wide receiver screen). If Sanchez can deliver the ball to Santonio Holmes at the line and get some blocks in front of him, he could make something happen.
In terms of stopping the Browns on offense, the Jets need to run blitz. If you want to stop Hillis, you need to blow one of our offensive lineman back two yards with two guys coming at him. That could stop Hillis -- if you pick the correct direction to run blitz from -- and make it difficult for him to gain positive yardage. Your corners should be better at not biting for the playaction fake and just sticking with our receivers man-to-man than the coverages we've faced the past two weeks.
5. Complete this statement. The Jets will win Sunday if...
...they can jump out to an early two possession lead. The Browns are a very tough team, but I don't know how our offense would be able to rally and score quickly. Sure, we "should" still try to run it with Hillis if we're down and it's still early, but I don't know if our offensive coordinator would have that much patience. I think our gameplan is built on having the lead early, playing bend-but-don't-break defense, and then draining clock. If the first step gets disrupted, we've done nothing to show that we can come back.
Many thanks to Chris, and be sure to head over to Dawgs By Nature where I answer five of his Jets questions.