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Giants at Browns: When Cleveland has the ball

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This looks like a mismatch on paper, but what about on the field?

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Some writers are penciling the New York Giants in for a virtual bye week this week as they face the Cleveland Browns. Looking at the numbers, the 0-11 Browns should be a cake walk, or perhaps a pie walk or even a turkey trot considering the season.

The Giants, however, can’t afford to let their guards down on defense. As Ed mentioned about the Browns’ defense, their offense has some talented players as well. Players like wide receivers Terrelle Pryor and Corey Coleman, running backs Isiah Crowell and Duke Johnson, and the Giants always need to be wary of tight ends.

But is the Browns’ offense greater than or equal to the sum of its parts? Let’s find out

Stats At A Glance

Cleveland Offense

Rushing Yards - 93.0 (25th)
Passing Yards - 218.1 (27th)
Total Yards - 311.1 (29th)
Points - 16.7 (31st)

New York Defense

Rushing Yards - 92.2 (8th)
Passing Yards - 262.7 (20th)
Total Yards - 354.9 (16th)
Points - 20.0 (11th)

ATTACK!

It all starts up front for the Giants, and that’s where it ended against the Pittsburgh Steelers for the Browns. Whatever the Browns do well, protecting their quarterback is not one of those things. They have given up a league-leading 38 sacks, including eight against the Steelers, who had just 14 in their prior nine games.

The Browns have used four different starting quarterbacks this year, and have cycled back around to Josh McCown. McCown has thrown five touchdowns and six interceptions in four games this year, throwing two each against the Ravens (two in two games) and the New York Jets.

Despite the presence of perennial All-Pro Joe Thomas at left tackle the Browns have hemorrhaged pressure into their backfield, even against teams without much of a pass rush. As it so happens, the Giants have recently re-discovered their pass rush, getting multiple sacks in each of their last five games, including four against the Chicago Bears.

McCown can turn the ball over, and pressure will only make that more likely, so the Giants need to attack up front.

Watch The Skill Positions

Given the time to get the ball out (accurately) the Browns do have some dangerous weapons that the Giants need to be aware of. Chief among them is former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who is thriving after converting to wide receiver (56 receptions, 724 yards, 4 TDs), is the Browns best weapon on offense, with terrific athleticism to go with his 6-4, 225 pound frame. Complimenting Pryor is speedster Corey Coleman, a rookie out of Baylor. Coleman has only played in five games, missing time due to a broken hand, but he has the ability to blow the top off an unwary defense and averages 15.9 yards per reception. He hasn’t performed well since coming back from his injury, but a player with his athletic ability should be respected.

The combination of Pryor and Coleman creates a potentially difficult mismatch in skill sets for the Giants’ secondary. Free safety Andrew Adams will need to be on his game if the pass rush is unable to get home, and the Giants could certainly use Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie back healthy.

Crowell and Johnson are dangerous out of the backfield, and Gary Barnidge is a capable tight end. The Giants have, at times, struggled to deal with both of those positions. The Browns may have targeted Coleman 12 times against the Steelers (completing four passes), but if the Giants are able to get pressure early, Hue Jackson might opt to target the running backs and tight end in the quick passing game, and that’s something for which the Giants’ defense needs to be ready.

Final Thoughts

The Browns have talent, but not enough of it. They have a nice collection of pieces, but don’t seem to have the “mortar” players to bind them all together. Their offensive line is banged up and they can’t seem to find a quarterback (or keep one healthy).

All that being said, the Giants defense needs to respect the Browns. They can’t sleep-walk through the first half of the game again or look ahead to Pittsburgh. The Giants’ best players — Jason Pierre-Paul, Olivier Vernon, Janoris Jenkins, Landon Collins — need to show up and the defense needs to be in the habit of imposing their will on opposing offenses from the first whistle through the echo of the final whistle.