Playing in their first game without suspended cornerback Joe Haden, the Cleveland Browns' inexperienced secondary struggled mightily to pick up the slack on Sunday afternoon in a seven-point loss to Cincinnati.
Along with yielding 318 passing yards to Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, the lack of Haden's presence, coupled with an injury that rendered corner Sheldon Brown ineffective, made for a tough day on Cleveland's stable of young defensive backs. And as SB Nation's Browns blog Dawgs By Nature points out, next week's game against Buffalo becomes another question mark after such a middling Week 2 performance:
The secondary was unbearable for Cleveland. I originally thought they would only be without Joe Haden, but it turned out that Sheldon Brown did not play either (if he did, he was very limited). The result was a comfortable day throwing the ball for Andy Dalton filled with missed tackles, soft coverage, and big plays for Cincinnati.
Do things go up or down next week against Buffalo? As long as this team has some offense, I think fans will be a bit more optimistic. And, to make some people feel better, the Browns will still be only one game out of a first-place tie for the division lead heading into Week 3.
To make matters worse, reserve cornerback Eric Hagg also left Sunday's game in the first half with an eye injury and will likely be another name added to the injury report next week. Despite a decent effort considering the circumstances, the starting duo of Buster Skrine and Dimitri Patterson simply didn't force Cincinnati receivers to work hard enough for their catches in Sunday's loss.
And with Haden suspended for three more games and Brown's status for next week uncertain, Cleveland's batch of youngsters will certainly need to mature in a hurry in order for Pat Shurmur's defense to turn things around.
Head over to Dawgs By Nature for more Browns coverage, and check out Cincy Jungle for more on the Bengals. Also be sure to visit SB Nation's NFL hub for more news and analysis from around the league.