Cleveland Browns Defense Can’t Afford to Underestimate Carson Wentz

New York Jets v Philadelphia Eagles
Mitchell Leff-Getty Images

Not a down of football was played this past weekend, yet there was still a significant development regarding the Cleveland Browns. Particularly, it involved their Week 1 opponent.

The Philadelphia Eagles, who host Cleveland in six days, made a blockbuster trade on Saturday, dealing starting quarterback Sam Bradford to the Minnesota Vikings. The move helped Philly get back into the first round of the 2017 draft after its original pick was traded to the Browns back in April.

As a result, the player the Eagles drafted after trading up with Cleveland is now expected to start this Sunday. Quarterback Carson Wentz will be officially handed the reins, kicking off his pro career against the team many thought would select him.

Personally, I find the whole ordeal a bit strange. Just a couple weeks ago, Wentz was reportedly destined to be a scout-teamer this year. The consensus was he wasn’t ready to start, and needed to be red-shirted in order to develop appropriately.

In his lone preseason appearance, he looked inconsistent, completing 50% of his passes for just 89 yards and throwing a pick. Any hopes of getting him more exhibition looks were dashed when broken ribs sidelined him for the next three weeks.

So, if you ask me, this is a questionable turn of events. If it was determined Wentz needed a year to develop a few weeks ago, and broken ribs have held him back from getting significant practice in, why is he all the sudden ready to start now?

Personally, I think this move gives Cleveland a leg-up on the upcoming match-up with the Eagles. However, I can think that all I want. I’m not playing this weekend. The Browns, on the other hand, can’t afford to be even the slightest bit cocky now that a raw quarterback is going up against them in the season opener.

Yes, it certainly seems like Wentz isn’t ready for Week 1. Unfortunately, if you watched any of Cleveland’s preseason, you know the same can be said about its defense.

The shining moments for the Browns’ defensive unit were few and far between. There was difficulty generating consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks, receivers had little trouble getting open and rushing lanes could be found often.

In the annual preseason dress rehearsal, Cleveland’s starters got torched by Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston, allowing him to throw for 259 yards and two touchdowns in just one half. The next week, the Browns elected to start their first-teamers against the Chicago Bears’ backups. As a result, old friend Brian Hoyer put together an efficient half of football, going 12-for-16 with 112 passing yards.

So, while I’m sure the defense is salivating at the idea of going up against a still-raw Wentz, there’s hardly reason get overly-confident. Cleveland’s defenders haven’t looked particularly good against any quarterback they’ve faced this year, why should one of the highest-rated players from the recent draft be any different?

The fact is the Browns defense is littered with young, albeit inexperienced talent. These undeveloped players, just like Wentz, are learning on the fly, getting thrown in the deep end right away in order to get them ready as fast as possible. Knowing this, Cleveland can’t afford to think of itself as the clear favorite this week just because of who Philly is starting at QB.

This isn’t to say Cleveland can’t take advantage of facing a rookie starter. Wentz will be undergoing one heck of an adjustment and enduring a trial by fire. As a result, the Browns’ coaches can develop a game-plan that focuses on getting after him often in hopes of shaking him up early.

The learning curve will be a steep one for Wentz once he takes the field Sunday. As it stands, the same can be said for the majority of Cleveland’s starting defense. Here’s hoping they plan accordingly and don’t ease up under the assumption Wentz is going to fold just because he may not be ready.


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