Is Optimism on Browns Warranted?

After the Cleveland Browns actually won their home opener for the first time since 2004, fans of the team went crazy, and as usual most of them got carried away.

A week earlier, particularly after the first half of the game against the Steelers, there was a feeling of “here we go again”, and many people felt once again like they were duped by Jimmy Haslam’s team.

That’s the way it is in Cleveland concerning the Browns.

Is the optimism from the victory over the Saints merited, or are fans simply setting themselves up for another season of disappointment?

We will certainly find out on Sunday afternoon when the Ravens visit First Energy Stadium.

There are definitely things to be excited about.  For one, their seems to be a connection between the front office and the coaching staff.  Over the past few seasons, it has appeared that the head coach has been on a different page than the front office.

For example, dealing the team’s best running back and leaving the ground game in the hands of Willis McGahee, or basically punting an entire draft and then firing the coach because he didn’t win.

This year, it looks like Mike Pettine has a direction for this team and GM Ray Farmer agrees with that vision and gets players who fit what the head coach wants to do.

That’s a reason to be encouraged.

On the field, it is basic football to say you need to be able to run the ball and be able to stop the run defensively.

For the first time in a long time, it appears the Cleveland Browns have a legitimate ground game.  Yes, they’ve had success here and there throughout the years, like when Jamal Lewis had his big season in 2007 and Peyton Hillis’ 2010 campaign in which he gained over 1,000 yards.

For some reason, this season feels differently with Ben Tate, now injured, Terrence West, and Isaiah Crowell.  Perhaps it is because of reputation which preceded Kyle Shanahan’s offense, which has had a history of running successfully with the zone blocking scheme.

After two games, it looks like opponents playing the Browns need to realize it will be a long day if they can’t stop the ground game.

Conversely, the defense has struggled stopping the run in both games.  The Steelers gashed the defense for big gains, and the Saints, normally a passing team, did a very good job running the football.

That may have been because New Orleans realized the Cleveland defense was geared to stopping the aerial attack and was looking for an alternative way to move the ball.  A better test will be this Sunday, because we know the Ravens want to run, and the question will be can the Browns’ stop it and make Baltimore one-dimensional.

We will also see if Brian Hoyer can continue his winning ways.  Hoyer is now 3-1 or 4-1, depending on how you count last year’s Buffalo game, as a starter.  True, that’s not great, but for a team that usually wins four or five games per season, it is reason for hope.

A win on Sunday has to make you think that no matter what the statistics say, Hoyer can put numbers in the victory column.

If the Browns win against the Ravens and start the season 2-1, the hope for the rest of the year will be off the chart.  Let us remind you of one thing.

Pat Shurmur started his tenure with the same record.  And we all know how that turned out.

JD

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