1. How can we create production in the running game?
Look, we all knew the Browns were going to have a hole in the run game when they traded Trent Richardson to the Colts. That said, asking QB Brian Hoyer to throw the ball 55+ times per game while limiting turnovers is not a long term solution in my opinion. Especially in the second half (the Browns have been winning at halftime in all three games so far this season), having the ability to consistently eat up field and clock is invaluable. I’m not saying it has to be a single back, but they Browns need to find a way to get some production out of their backfield. Whether its alternating between the three runners (McGahee, Ogbonnaya, Rainey) to keep frseh legs, or whether they can find someone else to push the ball, the Browns simply cannot expect to throw the ball 60 times and not deal with a mess of turnovers.
2. Is Barkevious Mingo capable of playing every down?
With Groves and Sheard both likely out or limited Sunday, rookie linebacker Barkevious Mingo is going to be expected to play every down. This is going to either solidify his status as a rising star, or expose a vital weakness. Because of his slender build, it has been questioned whether or not Mingo can run stop on every down. He is an explosively quick pass rusher, and is sure to become a specialist at getting to the quarterback. However, because of his size, it remains to be seen whether he can handle the grind of a consistent running attack.
3. Can the right side of the offensive line hold?
Shawn Lauvao hasn’t been cleared to play just yet, but if he returns to the field on Sunday in place on Oniel Cousins, it could go a long way to providing some extra time in the pocket for QB Brian Hoyer. Cousins has been absolutely dominated by just about every defensive lineman he’s faced off against this season. He has allowed more sacks and tackles for loss than any two other offensive lineman, and he’s accounted for half the offensive penalties incurred so far. I think a lot of Mitchell Schwartz’ struggles next to him have come from having no ability to trust Cousins to hold firm next to him. If Lauvao is back, it remains to be seen whether he is at 100% or if he will have any rust from lack of playing time thus far this season. If Lauvao is out, pressure is guarenteed to come from the right side, so Hoyer will have to make quick releases yet again.
4. Can the Browns offense score in the second half?
So far this season the Browns have a total of 40 first half points, against a mere 7 in the second half. The Browns scored their first second half points of the season in last Sunday’s thrilling win over the Vikings. The Browns are going to have to find a way to deal with defensive adjustments and keep the pressure on during the second half. It can’t keep falling to the defense to be flawless in the second half, especially with the offense pulling so many three and out. This is where is a productive running game would be so useful.
5. Is Brian Hoyer the Brown’s best option?
Don’t take this question the wrong way. I really like a lot of what I saw out of Brian Hoyer. Some of the turnovers and mistakes however make him far from a sure thing. While I love his story, and I thought he played a good game against Minnesota, we need to let it play out for a few more weeks to get a real idea of his true ceiling. That being said I am perfectly fine with him starting over Brandon Weeden for the rest of the season. We know with 100 percent certainty what Brandon Weeden is. Brian Hoyer at this point is still an unknown quantity, so seeing him in a more full spectrum of game situations will give us a better indication of his long term viability. The Bengals defense is considerably better than Minnesota’s, and will likely test Brian Hoyer far more frequently. Even after this week, we will still need to see Hoyer a couple of more times before we can reach a definitive conclusions about his abilities. That being said, the Bengals defense will certainly give a good idea of what we have with him.