Tackling, secondary big concerns -- sound familiar?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Two snippets I found interesting from Detroit News football writer John Niyo's column today:

Special teams is an area of emphasis with the new coaching staff. But that was hardly apparent Saturday.

Josh Cribbs is arguably the NFL's best return man, but he made it look way too easy in the first quarter against the Lions, who are missing a couple of key coverage men in Cody Spencer (injured reserve) and Casey FitzSimmons (ankle). Cribbs' 95-yard touchdown return of the opening kickoff was called back because of a late holding penalty. But there were no flags on his 84-yard punt return for a score, just lots of missed tackles.

"There's no reason to start the game the way we did on special teams," Schwartz said. "It's a work in progress, but were going to find out who can tackle and who can't. That's going to be a major criteria for making this team."

Stan Kwan's return unit wasn't much better, averaging 18.6 yards on kickoffs. And that's a growing concern, with Aveion Cason perhaps getting too many reps and neither rookie Derrick Williams nor Aaron Brown distinguishing himself. When you have too many returners, Schwartz noted the other day, that means you don't have any.

A lot of us have been scratching our heads about why Cason is getting so much time as a returner. Maybe that's a reflection of the coaching staff's lack of confidence in Derrick Williams or Aaron Brown in that department. And that ain't good. Hey, let a rookie take kicks out to the 18 yard line rather than a veteran, I say. At least there's a potential for upside with the rooks.

While the defensive front seven's inability to get consistent pressure on the QBs or stop big running plays is already looking problematic, Niyo notes that the secondary may be the team's weakest link.

Five Browns wide receivers had catches of 20 yards or more Saturday night. Two came on the opening drive against starting cornerbacks Phillip Buchanon and Anthony Henry, but the depth behind them is a real worry, especially with Keith Smith (groin) still on the sideline.

"Our corners need to get up and challenge guys," Schwartz said. "We need to find out who will have the confidence to get up and challenge rather than playing cautious."

They also need to find another safety who can stop the run alongside rookie Louis Delmas. Kalvin Pearson had trouble again in run support Saturday, and LaMarcus Hicks didn't fare any better replacing him. It was the same against Atlanta in the exhibition opener. Marquand Manuel, who has a calf injury, should get a shot to start when he's healthy.

Noticing a theme to Schwartz's comments? Get up there and tackle. Challenge. Don't play tentative. Be decisive and make plays.

I refuse to get visions in my head of Bobby Ross saying "I don't coach that!" or Rod Marinelli saying "Put it on me."

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