Browns-Jags provides a not-so-marquee matchup
CLEVELAND – As marquee matchups go, today’s game between the Browns and Jacksonville Jaguars at First Energy Stadium isn’t among them.
There was no thought among CBS officials to move kick off to 4 p.m., nor did the NFL ponder flexing the game to Sunday night on NBC.
It’s a game between one team that never got started this season (the 2-9 Jaguars) and another (the 4-7 Browns) that had its motor running for a few weeks before missing on every cylinder.
Instead of talk about key matchups this week, most conversations centered on how the coaches can keep the players motivated. The Browns did the media a favor by signing backup quarterback Alex Tanney, who was immediately peppered with questions about his “You Tube” video in which he performed a variety of trick passes.
The trick for the Browns today will be to end a streak that has seen them lose two straight and five of the last six. During that time, the Browns went from being 3-2 and in first place in the AFC North Division to losing grasp of an opportunity to land the second wild card playoff spot.
Yes, the Browns are still very much alive for the second wild card (either the Denver Broncos or Kansas City Chiefs will land the other spot).
The way parity has played out in the AFC, it’s possible an 8-8 record could get that final spot.
Considering the way the Browns have been playing, finishing 8-8 would be a dream. Coach Rob Chudzinski’s task becomes more demanding now that he’s dealing with another change at quarterback as Brandon Weeden replaces the injured Jason Campbell.
“It’s not easy and it’s not ideal,” Chudzinski said. “It’s what it is right now, and as you look at it, it’s impressive and says a lot about the character of our guys that they’ve been able to adjust and rally, re-rally and do it again behind guys. I don’t expect anything different in this case as well.”
There’s been a little bit of tension in the locker room due to comments made by safety T. J. Ward in recent weeks. Ward was angry after consecutive losses to the Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers, saying there’s no way they should have laid eggs in both games.
Ward made sure to include the defense in his post-Steelers comments, but it came across as if he was criticizing the offense.
You couldn’t blame Ward for coming down hard on the offense. Inconsistent play at quarterback since Brian Hoyer was injured has been the main issue, but there’s been no help from a ground game that’s 28th in the NFL, with an average of 81 yards per game.
There’s a chance for things to improve on the ground today. The Jaguars are 29th in the NFL in allowing 133.5 rushing yards a game.
“There are some things you can do to design, but the emphasis has been on those guys and everyone producing when they have the opportunities,” Chudzinski said. “We’ll continue to emphasize that, and as things come up in the game, we have to be ready to make those plays.”
Weeden steps in because of a concussion Campbell suffered against the Steelers. Chudzinski’s task has been dealing with Weeden’s confidence level, which easily could have taken a hit after he was booed repeatedly last week.
“That can change quickly,” Chudzinski said. “It’s a matter of performance. The most important thing is I know he has the backing of his teammates. They want to win, and everybody realizes that Brandon needs to play well, as everyone does.”