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NFL Week 1: Cleveland Browns Ready For Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland's Pat Shurmur may be one of the new coaches in the league, but Marvin Lewis' Cincinnati squad isn't lacking in new faces either.

Shurmur will make his head coaching debut this Sunday at Cleveland Browns Stadium against the new-look Bengals in a battle of Ohio.

Following a pair of 5-11 seasons, the Browns parted ways with Eric Mangini prior to naming former Rams offensive coordinator Shurmur their 13th full- coach in team history. He is tasked with turning around a franchise that has made the playoffs just once and posted only two winning seasons since returning to the NFL in 1999.

The biggest change on offense for Cleveland will be a switch to a West Coast system and Shurmur's playbook comes with some pedigree after he helped guide St. Louis quarterback Sam Bradford to Rookie of the Year honors last season.

The defense, under new coach Dick Jauron, will also make the move from a 3-4 to 4-3 scheme, giving the Browns an entire new look for the season. It also has them looking forward to the possibilities of a new season.

"Trust me, we're geared up. I've been trying to do a good job of controlling my emotions," Shurmur said. "A few times during the games, I'll let it go a little bit. That's really not for effect, that's real. I'm looking forward to it and I think it will be an exciting time. Again, when we opened camp I said it, practicing, playing and coaching, that's what we do as coaches and players. It's going to be fun to take this unit into a regular season game."

The Browns will look to get off on the right foot against a Bengals team that won the division in 2009 before slipping to a 4-12 mark last year. The disappointments didn't end after Week 17 either, with franchise quarterback Carson Palmer opting to retire rather than return to the club after his trade request was denied.

Diva wide outs Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens are also gone -- with the former traded to the Patriots and the latter still without a team -- but the defense was rocked a bit by the free agent departure of cornerback Johnathan Joseph.

That left Cincinnati with a lot of rebuilding to do following the lockout, but the draft ultimately became the source of two replacements with quarterback Andy Dalton and wide receiver A.J. Green both set to start on Sunday. The Bengals also added a load of new faces on defense, including linebackers Manny Lawson and Thomas Howard as well as cornerback Nate Clements.

"I know we'll be a better football team than a 4-12 team," Lewis said. "There's not the star-power on paper that maybe we possessed last year, but when it comes down to it, I think we'll all be all-in, and they'll be all in together. And that's the biggest statement we can make heading into the regular season."

Dalton will also be looking to make a statement as he succeeds Palmer under center. The second-round pick racked up a lot of wins at TCU, but did struggle a bit in the preseason. Lewis will still expect him to step right in and be a leader in 2011, but he won't have to do it alone.

"It depends on the guys you have around you. We have a lot of great guys here and they've made my job a whole lot easier," Dalton said. "I feel confident with everyone, that I can step in the huddle and take control, and that guys are responding. As time goes and the more experience that I get, that will come easier. It can be tough being a rookie, but you can't let that affect you."

Dalton will have running back Cedric Benson behind him after the 28-year-old served five days in jail stemming from a 2010 assault case before being released on Saturday.  


Photographs by spatulated, Triple Tri, and chrischappelear used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.