Right now, the Cleveland Browns have a lot going for them as they head into the bye week. They're coming off of what will be their best win of the year against the perennial Super Bowl-contending Saints, which was their second win of the season.
They, unfortunately, can't have their cake and eat it too. That victory was nice, but the team's record still isn't. I would not expect another huge upset over upcoming opponents such as New England or New York, but if the Browns make a few key adjustments this bye week, they stand better changes of getting more victories.
1. Get Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace healthy.
I'm thrilled with the way Colt McCoy has played against Pittsburgh and New Orleans, but I don't think the Browns are ready to give him the keys to the car just yet. He went 32 of 49 with 355 yards, and a touchdown with an all-together quarterback rating of 76.5. Not too shabby for a guy who was supposed to get hammered by the Steelers' defensive front seven, and have to play catch-up vs. the Saints. But Seneca Wallace has the best touchdown to interception ratio at four to two, and the best rating at 88.5. Is he the undoubted starter? Absolutely not, but given his playing time, he has performed the best.
2. Figure out what in the world is wrong with Eric Wright.
Not only did he struggle against Terrell Owens in the Bengals game, but he also struggled in the Saints game covering Marques Colston. The Saints' veteran receiver grabbed ten passes for 112 yards and a score against the Browns' Wright. Credit that most of those receptions came when the Saints were down, and we're going to get back in the game somehow, but Wright has really underachieved. He beat out rookie defensive back Joe Haden for the starting spot in training camp, but I see no evidence of it; at all. Perhaps it is time for the Browns to let their first round pick of 2010 shine to his full potential.
3. Get Joe Thomas back to where he needs to be.
If Joe Thomas can perform well, then the Browns may have a very legitimate running attack. Yes, Peyton Hillis' pure muscle has helped him after the first hit, but if he gets the run blocking he should be getting from an All-Pro tackle, Hillis could be a 100-yard threat every game. Newly acquired half back Mike Bell will need good blocking no doubt, as his game is to first get into the secondary, and explode with juke moves to the second level. Seeing that the Browns probably won't have an aerial anything close to that of their AFC North rivals, running the ball is a must.
4. Do whatever it takes to make Shaun Rogers happy again.
When he is in a good mood, let alone on the field, he is a difference maker. Blocking PATs, stuffing running backs, and giving opposing interior offensive linemen problems at the line of scrimmage is how this guy makes his living. He is bar none the best defensive player on the Browns team. They have not mentioned trading away the ex-Pro Bowler, but he certainly isn't getting significant time on the field, and the Browns defense is suffering due to it.
5. Say your prayers for Josh Cribbs and Mohamed Massaquoi.
Once Cribbs returns, the Browns will no longer need to go with Chansi Stuckey as their ace special team's returnee. Once he gets back in the huddle, it will open up the playbook for man calling the plays. This keeps the defense guessing. Any time you can keep an opponent on its toes, you've got something going for you. That's largely how Rob Ryan was so successful against the Saints; he mixed things up.
Needless to say, the Brown's defensive performance stunned even the most optimistic of fans and probably was their best job in Eric Mangini's tenure. Even during the broadcast of the game, the camera was on Mangini with his eyebrows raised. If they can bring the same kind of consistency and execution week in and week out, the Browns may have made a case for themselves to break the hearts of more football fans around the nation. They've shown they can stop Drew Brees, now the challenge for them will be if they can stop other offensive superstars such as Tom Brady, LaDanian Tomlinson and Brandon Marshall in the upcoming weeks.