Tale Of The Tape: Buffalo Bills At Cleveland Browns
- QuarterbackE.J. Manuel is going through the typical growing pains that nearly all rookie quarterbacks go through. He has the size, strength, vision and release to become an effective quarterback, and he also brings the competitiveness needed to come through in the fourth quarter if the Bills are involved in a close game.Brian Hoyer has taken over at quarterback quite nicely for the Browns, engineering a Week Three road win over the Vikings and following up with a solid performance against the Bengals. Hoyer has average physical assets, but he is playing without pressure and he has the ability to find the open receiver.
- OffenseThe Bills are going to try to establish their running game with C.J. Spiller (ankle) in an effort to take the pressure off of their rookie quarterback. Stevie Johnson is their big-play receiver, but consistency has been an issue for him. Wideout Robert Woods looked like a breakout star in the Week Four win over the Ravens as he torched Baltimore with four catches for 80 yards and two touchdowns.The loss of Trent Richardson in the trade to the Colts means that it is going to be difficult for the Browns to establish a consistent running game unless Willis McGahee can turn back the clock. Jordan Cameron is a terrific red zone weapon with four touchdowns in two weeks. Travis Benjamin has the speed to get open downfield and make big plays.
- DefenseThe Bills are aggressive and hard hitting, but the most important aspect of their defense is the pass-rush ability of Mario Williams. When he is healthy and productive, he is a wrecking crew. When he is not, the Bills are ordinary. Linebacker Kiko Alonso is a reliable tackler with the speed to go sideline to sideline to make plays.The Browns know that they have to play consistently on defense because the offense is in transition without Richardson and injured quarterback Brandon Weeden. Inside linebacker Craig Robertson is starting to become a force for the Browns, while defensive end Ahtyba Rubin can shut down the run with his girth and strength.
- Special TeamsThe Bills do a solid job in kick and punt coverage, but they are most likely not going to threaten to break any long returns unless opponents falter in coverage. Placekicker Dan Carpenter is slightly better than average, but he is not a star.The Browns used to have a big advantage on special teams with Phil Dawson, but he has moved on and Cleveland is no longer effective in that area. Billy Cundiff is the kind of kicker teams turn to when they can’t find anyone else who is decent. Cundiff will eventually break the Browns’ hearts.
The Bills have most of the edges, but they are all narrow ones. The Browns have the homefield advantage and that could be enough, especially if they can force Manuel into a few turnovers. -Steve Silverman, CBS Local Sports contributor