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Cowboys @ Browns: 5 Questions with Dawgs By Nature

Alright, another tradition here at BTB during the season is 5 Questions. Every week I try to get SB Nation’s blogger for our opponent to answer five questions about their team and the upcoming game. This week, ChrisPokorny at Dawgs By Nature, answered the challenge. I did the same for him here.

Blogging The Boys: Give us a rundown on the injury report; who looks to be in, who looks to be out and how will this affect the team on Sunday?

Dawgs By Nature: I like working in list form when talking about injuries, so here we go:

-QB Derek Anderson: Starting; he's a full-go after his concussion.
-RB Jamal Lewis: After assuming Lewis would be fine, he's been limited all week in practice and is a game-time decision. I think the team is just being cautious with him though, and I am expecting him to start. If he is out, Jerome Harrison will start. Fans have been very excited about seeing his speed in a regular season game for several years now, but he is known as a horrible, and I mean horrible blocker.
-WR Braylon Edwards: Starting; with the stitches removed, his foot is fine.
-WR Joshua Cribbs: He is officially a game-time decision with an ankle injury. It doesn't look too good for him this week though. If he doesn't play, Syndric Steptoe will replace him. Steptoe has shown some upside in the preseason, but Cribbs can single handedly change a game. Literally after a Cowboys touchdown, you can imagine him running one back 50 yards with ease (good field position then).
-LB Antwan Peek: Done for the year with a torn patella tendon. Rookie LB Alex Hall will take his place in the rotation with veteran Willie McGinest.
-S Brodney Pool: He went from limited action to not even practicing (recovering from concussion). He is also a game-time decision, but it looks worse for him than anyone else. Pool is known as a hard hitter, so the dropoff in terms of coverage with backup Mike Adams in the game shouldn't be too significant.

Everybody else of concern is reportedly in great shape and ready to compete this Sunday.

BTB: The Browns were getting a lot of love from the media this offseason but some of that coverage changed in tone during their preseason schedule. How do you think the Browns played in preseason?

DBN: I'd be a fool to say we played well in the preseason. We played like crap, were embarrassed on national television by the Giants, and went 0-4. Understanding the circumstances of the preseason though, I like to look back at the little things. In basically the only series that the duo was on the field together all preseason, Derek Anderson and Braylon Edwards hooked up for a touchdown. Whenever Shaun Rogers played during the preseason, opposing teams couldn't run the ball for more than two yards a carry. Brady Quinn also received some much needed reps in case anything comes up during the regular season with Anderson.

Overall, it was one of the worst and most boring preseasons I've ever seen as a Browns fan. I don't see that being anything of a detriment to our confidence heading into the regular season though. People in the national media are already back on the bandwagon -- I believe Peter King restored his faith in the Browns this past week, and Jeremy Green just pegged the Browns to take down the Cowboys this Sunday.

BTB: Cleveland's offense is a loaded weapon but the defense has been cause for concern. What's your take on the defense, is there going to be a big improvement?

DBN: The big improvement is going to involve stopping the run. Think about this: we were starting Simon Fraser, Ethan Kelley, and Robaire Smith at times last season. Fraser and Kelley should be third-string backups at best. This year, they have been replaced by two potential Pro Bowlers in Corey Williams and Shaun Rogers. I'm not saying the Browns will suddenly become the No. 1 run-stopping defense in the league, but we may finally creep our way into the top 15. By virtue of the defensive line being better, the idea is for the linebackers to have more freedom than they've ever had in the past too. In comparison to the elite NFL defenses, the Browns are not going to look an overly impressive defensive team. However, if we reach the point of just being average, then at least we, as Browns fans, will know that the improvements were astronomical.

You have to be patient against our defense, plain and simple. Too many fans of opposing teams come to Cleveland and say "that secondary is weak, our receiver is going to blow right by them for 80-yard touchdowns". That's not how it works. The secondary is young, but the scheme involves keeping everything in front of them. If the Cowboys are patient enough, they can run quick comeback routes all day to Terrell Owens and Patrick Crayton, along with some intermediate plays over the middle. Then, they can see if they can break a tackle for yards after the catch. Where Dallas will get into trouble is if they try to hit the home run too often -- our safeties will be deep, and our improved pass rush may cause an errant throw.

BTB: If you were the Cowboys, how would you attack the Browns offense. Where are the weaknesses and how does a team exploit them?

DBN: That's a tough one to answer, because we were very good on offense at home last season, but very bad on offense while playing on the road during the first half of games. Either way, Derek Anderson was the least sacked quarterback in football last season, and opposing teams rarely got a good hit on him. I know the Giants knocked him around during the preseason, but that was truly the lone exception. Last year, my biggest gripe with Anderson came when he threw passes right into a zone defense over the middle (about 10-15 yards down the field). I'm not sure if Cowboys fans watched our Week 16 game against the Bengals, but about two minutes before half time, we were losing 6-0. Within a span of those two minutes, Anderson threw two interceptions that were basically taken back the distance for a touchdown. We were down by 19 points at half time instead of just six, and the Browns eventually lost the game 19-14. Had we won that game, we would've clinched the playoffs. Keep in mind, though, that this issue with Anderson only happened with road games.

BTB: It's the first game of the season, do the Browns get a win at home? How do you see the game playing out?

DBN: While not a huge blow considering the Cowboys still have Anthony Henry and Adam Jones, the potential loss of Terence Newman has to hurt. I saw a lot of Cowboys fans confident in his ability to try and stop Braylon Edwards this week, though I still believe Edwards would've had his fair share of receptions against him. Edwards is the key to the Browns' offense: not only is he a playmaker, but he draws two-three times move coverage than any other player on our offense. That, in turn, opens up the field for everybody else on the offense.

The Cowboys were one of the best teams in the NFL last season, and they should be this season too. A win for the Browns would initiate us as contenders right off the bat; a close loss earns us some respect; and a sizable loss brings out the pretender discussion. We were 6-0 at home under Derek Anderson last season, so I definitely don't see us or have the nerve to predict that we'll get blown out. I'm literally 50/50 on a close win and a close loss, but I can't bring myself to type out a losing score here. Tied at 24 for most of the fourth quarter, the Browns have the ball last and are able to kick a game-winning field goal as time expires. Cleveland Browns 27, Dallas Cowboys 24.


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