Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Are the Browns going soft?
By James Walker
There are a lot of things you can criticize about the inconsistent play of the Cleveland Browns (5-9) this year. Yet, one thing that has been consistent is the team's toughness.
But as the Browns wrap up the final month of the season, is their physicality starting to fade?
Cedric Benson racked up a lot of carries (31) and rushing yards (150) against Cleveland Sunday.
The Browns were manhandled in the trenches of back-to-back losses against the lowly Buffalo Bills (4-10) and Cincinnati Bengals (3-11), and now whispers of the infamous "S" word are starting to permeate in Cleveland.
Is it possible the Browns are going "soft" down the stretch?
Former two-time Pro Bowler and Cleveland radio personality LeCharles Bentley believes that's the case. On ESPN's WKNR 850AM Monday Bentley, a former offensive lineman for Cleveland and the New Orleans Saints, didn't hold back when he described the Browns as "green-sticker nice guys" and not nearly as tough as they thought they were.
A few weeks ago toughness was never a question. Despite their lack of talent, the Browns were willing to bang heads with anyone for four quarters offensively and defensively, which made for competitive games. Only two of Cleveland's nine losses this year have come by more than a touchdown.
But lately the Browns have looked uninterested while getting pummeled by inferior opponents. Buffalo and Cincinnati outgained Cleveland in rushing by an astounding 380-164 margin. Bengals tailback Cedric Benson and Buffalo's Fred Jackson -- not necessarily household names -- combined for 262 rushing yards.
Whether it's a two-week anomaly for Cleveland remains to seen. But the Browns' toughness certainly will be tested down the stretch against two of the NFL's biggest bullies: the Baltimore Ravens (10-4) and Pittsburgh Steelers (10-4).
Will the Browns rediscover their physicality to end the season or continue to get pushed around?