Eagles-Browns Wake-Up Call: Mary Kay Cabot Q&A

We talked to Browns beat writer Mary Kay Cabot to get a better sense of the Eagles' opponent.

Hue Jackson. (USA Today Sports)

Hue Jackson. (USA Today Sports)

In this week’s installment of opposition research, we talked to Cleveland.com Browns beat reporter Mary Kay Cabot. We discussed expectations for Robert Griffin III, what key matchup will determine the winner of the game and who will come out on top, among several other topics.

What are the Browns’ strengths?

“Right now, the strengths of the Browns would be the fact that they’re going to run the football a lot. That will take a lot of pressure off Robert Griffin III and it should take a lot of pressure off the defense. They’re going to be committed to running the football early and often. That’s one thing. The other thing is the downfield passing game. RGIII has a very strong arm and he’s got some weapons. He will launch the ball down the field and hit guys like Gary Barnidge, Terrelle Pryor and Corey Coleman deep.”

It seems like the zone-read will be one of those runs they’ll go to. What can we expect from RGIII?

“Yeah, it will be. They’re going to do a little bit of everything with RGIII, but they will incorporate the zone-read and do some of the things he did well in 2012. As I said before, expect to see RGIII going deep and trying to hit the long ball. They’re going to be very aggressive in that regard; not only to the receivers, but also to their tight ends like Gary Barnidge, especially Gary. I do think that’s one of the things you’ll see, as well as those designed runs. He will take off running. They will build that into the game plan. They’e going to let him do that. They’re not going to take away what he does well, but they will use the run to set up the pass. And then you’ll also see plenty of Duke Johnson catching passes out of the backfield. They do have some weapons on this offense, if they can protect RGIII and if he doesn’t take too long to operate the offense efficiently.”

What are the Browns’ weaknesses?

“They’re very, very young on defense. There are a lot of young guys on the defensive front. They’ve got two starting outside linebackers right now that are rookies, and then they’ve got three new starters in the defensive backfield. There will also be some rotation at free safety between Jordan Poyer and Derrick Kindred. Joe Haden is coming off ankle surgery, so the defense has a lot of issues. We haven’t really seen the defense play together much at all. It remains to be seen because they may have identified what they do well and they may look better than they did in preseason, but they really had a hard time covering and tackling in the preseason.”

What injuries or suspensions are the Browns battling that may have an impact on the game?

“There are two suspensions that will have an impact on this game — and a big one. One of their best pass-rushers in Armonty Bryant, he is suspended for the first four games of the season for performance-enhancing drugs and Josh Gordon is suspended for the first four games of the season for a substance abuse violation. That’s probably their best player on offense and one of their very best players on defense that will not be around for the first four games.”

What will be a key match-up that could decide the winner of the game?

“I think one of the key match-ups will be Fletcher Cox versus the interior of the Browns’ offensive line. They have a brand new center in Cam Erving, and Cam has only started five games at center — in college, not in the pros — so he’s a brand new center. He’s been struggling a little bit with the shotgun snap — working really hard on it after practice, but still struggling with that nonetheless — and I think that the Eagles will probably identify that on film as something that they can try to exploit and take a little bit of advantage of. So I would imagine you will see Fletcher Cox matching up, at times, on Cam Erving.”

What’s Hue Jackson like as a play-caller?

“You’ll see an aggressive offense. You’ll see a creative offense. You’ll see some trick plays. You’ll see Terrelle Pryor do some interesting things. You’ll see creative formations using offensive linemen and doing different things with them — splitting them out and having them go wide at times. He’s going to call his own plays. He’s a very creative play-caller, a very innovative play-caller. You’re going to see a lot of different things that we did not see in preseason, things you may have seen the Cincinnati Bengals do. Everyone here thinks the sky is falling; I think they’re at least going to attempt to put on a pretty interesting show.”

Who do you think will win and why?

“I’m grappling with that right now. It’s a really, really tough call to make. Like I said before, if RGIII has the time to run the offense the way I’ve sometimes seen him do this preseason, he’s going to hit that long ball and they’re going to score some touchdowns. That could be hard for a rookie quarterback to match that type of production. I’m not sure Carson Wentz is going to be able to do that, based on the fact that he hasn’t played at all. I think this is a winnable game for the Browns, but it’s all going to come down to the Eagles’ defensive front against RGIII and if they can neutralize him and make him as ineffective as they can. It’s a very, very tough one to call. I don’t know how this is going to go, but I think right now I’m going to say RGIII will prevail.”


Take a look at last night’s Open Thread of the NFL regular season opener.

See who we picked to win this week’s slate of games.

Before being selected by the Eagles and starring at North Dakota State, Carson Wentz starred in a trick shot video back in high school.

“I look at the dude and say, ‘OK, does this guy got it?’ He got it. He just has it.” What They’re Saying.

“Don’t tell everybody; show everybody what you can do in the film room, on the practice field [and] in the game.” Robert Griffin III gives some advice for the rookie starting quarterback.

“This position is generally considered to be a weakness on Philadelphia’s defense.” Taking a look at the defensive side of the football.


The Eagles released their hype video for the upcoming season:

Could his demeanor be the reason why Eric Rowe was traded to the Patriots? Jeff McLane of the Inquirer explores that question.

Rowe played safety for his first three seasons at Utah. He practiced there briefly last year, but [Jim] Schwartz said he thought he was a corner.

But was he Schwartz’s type of corner? The longtime defensive coach wants his defensive backs to play with a swagger.

“You can’t be soft,” cornerback Ron Brooks said. “You’ve got to be aggressive – like Jim. . . . He needs guys that he knows he can rely on out there at corner.”

Leodis McKelvin and Brooks followed Schwartz from the Bills and never lost the prominent roles – the former on the outside and the latter in the slot – they were given at the start of practices in the spring.

Jimmy Kempski of PhillyVoice lists some matchups he’s watching for on Sunday.

3) The Eagles’ special teams vs the Browns’ rookies

The Browns have a staggering number of rookies on their roster this season – 17, to be exact. That means that a minimum of 10 rookies will be active. They also have 11 players entering their second year in the league.

According to the depth charts at Ourlads.com, only two of the Browns’ rookies – WR Corey Coleman and DE Emmanuel Ogbah – are projected to start. That means that a whole slew of inexperienced players are going to be playing on special teams.

Over the last two years, the Eagles have arguably had the best special teams units in the NFL, and they should have a major advantage against the Browns.


Doug Pederson will address the media around 10:15 a.m.

Chris Jastrzembski contributed to this post.