Ray's Replies: A super early Week 1 preview
How do you see the opener in Cleveland playing out? I think the Eagles' defense will get a healthy dose of Trent Richardson, especially if Brandon Weeden is playing his first pro game. Jason Babin is awful against the run. DeMeco Ryans will be put to the test. I’d love your thoughts on this tone-setting game.-- James HennellyA.
It is a little hard – actually, it is a little crazy – to try breaking down an NFL game two months before it is played. The Eagles and Browns both have to go through an entire pre-season and who knows what disasters may befall them? If LeSean McCoy goes down in a heap at Lehigh, 2012 becomes a whole different proposition for the Eagles.
But the fans can’t wait for the regular season to roll around so, OK, we will give it a try.
Let’s assume for the sake of our discussion that the Eagles and Browns both survive the pre-season reasonably healthy. Let’s assume the two teams go into the Sept. 9 opener at Cleveland with their current depth charts intact. It is unlikely, but let’s go with that for now.
If that’s the case, the Eagles should win handily. The Browns aren’t very good, especially on offense. In the last four seasons, the Browns ranked 30th, 31st, 32nd and 30th in scoring. Last season, they averaged a pitiful 13 points per game. They scored more than 20 points once and that was against the woeful Indianapolis Colts. They won 27-19.
As James points out, the Browns will have a new look in 2012. They traded up to acquire running back Trent Richardson, so you would assume the former Alabama star will be the focal point of the offense. Brandon Weeden probably will start at quarterback. At age 28, there is no sense wasting time. The Browns might as well put him on the field and let him play. The offense can’t be any worse.
So let’s recap. The Browns have a rookie quarterback, a rookie running back, a group of receivers that led the NFL in drops last season and an offensive line that, aside from left tackle Joe Thomas, doesn’t block very well. Considering Weeden and Richardson will be making their pro debuts against the Eagles and still learning the A-B-Cs of the offense, it shouldn’t be too hard for Juan Castillo to get a handle on what they are going to do.
In other words, if the Eagles don’t give it away with turnovers and sheer sloppiness, this looks like an easy W to start the season. Put it this way: they better win it because the next seven games – on paper at least – look very challenging. The Eagles have a tough schedule this season. They can’t afford to let games like the one in Cleveland get away.
A footnote: the Browns are loaded with ex-Eagles, including Tom Heckert (general manager), Pat Shurmur (head coach), Brad Childress (offensive coordinator), Dick Jauron (defensive coordinator) and Ray Rhodes (defensive assistant). On defense, they have end Juqua Parker, cornerbacks Sheldon Brown and Dimitri Patterson and linebacker Chris Gocong.E-mail Ray Didinger at email@example.com