Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker
A quarter way into the season, the Cleveland Browns (1-3) and Cincinnati Bengals (0-4) have dug themselves a deep hole to get back to respectability. So the AFC North edition of the Blog Network wants to help to prevent 2008 from being a very long season.
First, let's look at four things the Browns could do to improve:
1. Gain composure
We put this up first, because it's the foundation of everything it's going to take to improve. The Browns are not a mentally strong team right now. Even in victory we see careless mistakes. We notice arguing on the sideline. There's a lack of focus that's getting in the way of consistently playing winning football. This group need to tighten up over the bye week and really hone in on the task at hand.
2. Stick to the running game
The Browns improved to 5-0 on Sunday when Jamal Lewis gets 25 carries or more. Hang this stat up in the locker room and on the door of offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski's office. Give Lewis a chance. Sure, he's battling ankle and hamstring ailments, but Lewis is one of the few players who can be counted on every week. Backup Jerome Harrison can be used more as well.
3. Continue pressuring the quarterback
Something happened with Carson Palmer's injury last week. It suddenly gave the Browns the confidence to bring the wolves on backup Ryan Fitzpatrick and they registered three sacks. Learn from that and don't just do it against backups. Even the really good signal callers don't enjoy being hit in the mouth. The constant pressure even helped young cornerbacks Eric Wright and Brandon McDonald play more aggressively, knowing the pressure was on.
4. Get healthy
We're not too fond of the injury excuse here at the AFC North version of the Blog Network. It's the NFL and every team has them, so we'll keep this brief. The Browns need key players like receiver Donte' Stallworth (quad), guard Ryan Tucker (hip), safety Sean Jones (knee) and possibly Joe Jurevicius (knee) back in the lineup.
Up next: Four ways to improve the Cincinnati Bengals.