BEREA, Ohio - The Giants suffered a heartbreaking loss in Philadelphia last week and come into this week's match up at 2-2. But the G-Men will be without Hakeem Nicks, who has been bothered by an ankle injury. No worries, Giants quarterback Eli Manning has plenty of weapons to work after throwing for 309 yards and two touchdowns last week beginning with Victor Cruz.
Cruz burst onto the scene for the defending Super Bowl champs last season, putting up a team record 1,536 yards receiving and has picked up where he has left off, leading the NFL in receptions (32) for 388 yards and two touchdowns.
Head coach Pat Shurmur knows Cruz will be hard to stop completely on Sunday:
"I think he's extremely quick and fast. There are a lot of times where players are involved in tight coverage and make plays and he's kind of established himself as a playmaker for them. I think he's caught 32 balls already and he's kind of a go-to guy for them. They can play him outside, they play him in the slot, they move him around and they try to get him the football. You have a guy that has talent and he's got confidence and obviously Eli (Manning) believes in him because he throws to him quite a bit."
If the Browns are able to slow down Cruz, Manning has plenty more where that came from, including big, 6 foot 6 tight end Martellus Bennett, who the club picked up in the off season. The former Dallas Cowboy leads the team in touchdown receptions (3) and has become a favorite target down the middle for the Giants quarterback.
Eli has gotten off to a strong start for New Yor,k throwing for 1320 yards and seven touchdowns against four interceptions.
The Giants continue to struggle in the run game. Amhad Bradshaw has been in and out of the lineup with various injuries, and is expected to play this week. But they have also gotten production out of free agent running back Andre Brown and rookie David Wilson. The Giants have shown they are not afraid to put the ball in the air, if the run game is struggling.
On offense, the biggest challenge for the Browns up front will be the three-headed monster on the Giants defensive line: Jason Pierre, Paul, Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck. The three have combined for more then 150 career sacks and will have their disruptive sights set on Brandon Weeden. If the Browns offensive line can buy time for their rookie quarterback, the Giants can be picked apart in the secondary. The Giants defense is banged up and offer a small weak spot that can be exploited.
Weeden on Giants defense: "They are good. We're talking about the defending Super Bowl champions. They've got guys back there that can cover. They've got some injuries back there, they've got some guys that are a little banged up, but you've got (Corey) Webster who's been in the league for a while. (Prince) Amukamara is a first round guy that I played against in college. They've got very talented guys. You've got to be careful, you've got to pick your spots, but like you said up front they're really good. They've got guys that can really rush the passer. If we have time, I like my guys in match-ups. We're going to take shots and do things we've kind of been doing all year."
The Browns have health injuries on offense. Wide receivers Mohamed Massaquoi and Travis Benjamin are battling hamstring injuries and have not practiced this week. Josh Cribbs has returned to practice after being cleared from last week's vicious hit that had his family urging him to retire. Cribbs is questionable heading into Sunday's game.
The Browns will pound the football at the Giants defense that gave up 191 yards rushing last week to the Eagles. The Browns, however, have totaled 76 yards in the last two games, but expect to send a heavy dose of Trent Richardson who's rushed for 222 yards and three touchdowns.
Richardsongets stronger week by week:
"My mindset is confident. Week One was kind of all over the place for me. I was just trying to come back. I hadn't played in a NFL game, first game, first start. My mindset was, ‘Hey, I am going to go in and do whatever I can, do whatever I can to help the team,' but now I feel more comfortable. I know the flow of the game, the flow of the speed and I know what I can do between each level of the game."
If Richardson gets loose against the Giants and takes the pressure off of Weeden, the rookie quarterback may have enough time, even with a banged up receiving corps to take advantage of the Giants secondary.
Oh yeah, and then there is the x-factor. The Browns beat Super Bowl teams. The orange helmets did it to the Giants in 2007 and they did it to the Saints in 2010. The Browns are due and the Giants have been known to let down at home, will Sunday be one of those times?
"My mindset is confident. Week One was kind of all over the place for me. I was just trying to come back. I hadn't played in a NFL game, first game, first start. My mindset was, ‘Hey, I am going to go in and do whatever I can, do whatever I can to help the team,' but now
I feel more comfortable. I know the flow of the game, the flow of the speed and I know what I can do between each level of the game."