There are a lot of terrific football writers on the SB Nation Network who I rarely get the opportunity to interact with. Chris Pokorny of SB Nation's Cleveland Browns web site, 'Dawgs By Nature,' is one of those. With the Giants hosting the Browns this week I swapped some questions with Chris about Sunday's game.
Below, 'Five questions with Dawgs By Nature.'
Big Blue View: Your impressions of Brandon Weeden thus far? Despite being 0-4 and averaging just 18 points per game are you seeing signs that he could be the long-term answer at quarterback?
Dawgs By Nature: I'm not sure what the perception of Brandon Weeden is outside of Cleveland, but he has grown on most Browns fans quickly. The first game of the season against the Eagles, he was awful. No one is going to defend that four-interception disaster. My concerns with him in the preseason had to do with the fact that he did not seem comfortable stepping up in the pocket, and that all hope was lost any time he tried to roll out of the pocket. We are only four weeks into the season, and he has already exceeded my expectations on both issues. He steps into his throws well, has a cannon for an arm, and has the confidence to not let an interception or a dropped pass bother him. The big reason the Browns aren't scoring a lot of points is that they are still starting games very slow (only six points in the first quarter this year), and the receivers have dropped too many passes that would be "gimmies" for your average NFL team. Weeden is the long term answer at quarterback.
BBV: The Browns are 0-4 and the SB Nation Power Rankings have them as the worst team in the league. Are things that bad, or is there reason to be optimistic that things could turn around this season?
Dawgs: I get that there are no moral victories when you look at the win-loss column. With that said, the fact that the Browns have been within a field goal of four pretty decent teams (Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Buffalo, and Baltimore) heading into the fourth quarter of games is encouraging. I would rather see the Browns be competitive and on the cusp of winning than see them just look downright pathetic in several losses (i.e. Tennessee, Jacksonville, Oakland, Kansas City). There is a reason to be optimistic, though. It's not like Cleveland have a veteran team that is underachieving; they have the youngest team in the league, with potential stars like Brandon Weeden and Trent Richardson who are hungry to make an impact each and every week. The Browns won't turn things around to make any form of a playoff run, but they will be the best losing-record team in the league by the end of the season.
BBV: When you look at matching up with the Giants, what scares you the most? Is there, conversely, an area where you think Cleveland has an advantage?
Dawgs: Normally, I would say the Giants' front four. However, Cleveland has already been exposed to some pretty tough guys up front in Philadelphia and Buffalo, so they should at least be somewhat prepared for what the Giants are going to throw at them. With Joe Haden serving the final game of his four-game suspension, I'm worried about Eli Manning torching Cleveland's secondary. The secondary has really struggled to stop opposing quarterbacks, ones who are ten times inferior to Eli, from completing a high percentage of passes and letting their team jump out to an early lead. I know the Giants are a bit banged up at receiver, but Victor Cruz and Martellus Bennett will be tough matchups just by themselves.
BBV: Tell me about some players on the Cleveland roster we might not know about, but that we should keep an eye on Sunday?
Dawgs: I'll give you three young players. The first is second-year tight end Jordan Cameron. He is only seeing about 30 percent of the snaps on offense, but he was this year's 'training camp star' for his ability to catch the ball, and he has been getting a few more looks the past two weeks. On defense, sixth-round draft pick Billy Winn has been filling in at defensive tackle for last year's first-round pick, Phil Taylor, who is recovering from a pectoral injury. Winn has been getting a great push at the line of scrimmage to help disrupt both pass and run plays. The final guy is linebacker Craig Robertson, who was on the Browns' practice squad at the end of the 2011 season. Robertson has been the team's nickel linebacker this year and is third on the team in tackles to go along with two interceptions.
BBV: If you could take one player off the Giants' roster and put him in Cleveland's starting lineup, who would it be? Why?
Dawgs: I'd love to pick someone off that talented defense, but without question I'd have to go with a [healthy] Hakeem Nicks. If the Browns had a legit No. 1 receiver like Nicks right now, we probably wouldn't be 0-4.
Be sure to stop by DBN for my answers to Chris's questions.