You have to give the Cleveland Browns credit because at least they’re consistent. Their defense ranks 23rd in the National Football League. Their rank against the pass is 22nd while their rank against the run is 24th. I guess if you’re offensive coordinator Todd Haley, you may have your choice of just how to attack the Browns’ defense then right?
Under normal circumstances that would probably be true, but Haley has to come up with a gameplan that will not just produce points but that will also find ways of helping his third string and starting quarterback Charlie Batch on Sunday.
If you were one of the many Steelers’ fans screaming for Batch last week even before Byron Leftwich was hurt, then this week you get your wish. What is scary about this is that the Steelers are but one hit away from seeing the Brian Hoyer era come to fruition. I’m sure Hoyer is a fine guy but I’m in no hurry to see him take the field in the black ‘n gold.
Haley is under immense pressure this week because his play-calling in last week’s loss to Baltimore was easily his worst since taking the job. He and the Steelers must go with Jonathan Dwyer and Rashard Mendenhall in the backfield and leave it to those guys with the rare exception of Chris Rainey. Too many chefs in the kitchen means a meal that isn’t so good so pick the hot hand and go with it.
The passing game that Haley felt was so necessary last week might actually be the way to go this week as the Browns have injury problems in the secondary. Out are corner Dmitri Patterson and safety Raymond Ventrone. Two other corners will likely play, but have injury issues themselves.
Charlie Batch does not possess the arm strength of either Ben Roethlisberger or Byron Leftwich, but he may be better suited to the Haley ‘dink and dunk’ offense than Leftwich if the routes are those of the crossing, dump or choice variety. Haley cannot expect Batch to throw deep or wide too often. It’s just not what Batch is suited for so the passing game must rely on the short stuff.
Haley cannot abandon the running game and must change things up on first down as often as possible. Spreading the Browns out in three-wide and running the football would be nice to see rather than ‘going big’ all the time. If Mike Adams can handle his man better than he has in recent weeks, that could once again get Heath Miller involved in the passing game as well.
While the outcome of the game is of major importance so to is it for Haley to bounce back with a better gameplan and significantly better play-calling. Lack of man-power cannot be an excuse for a team whose mantra is ‘the standard is the standard.’ It’s up to Haley to get the players into the right match-ups.