To tidy up the shambles of '81, the Browns began with defense. Gone are Defensive End Lyle Alzado, defensive backs Thorn Darden and Autrey Beamon and linebackers Robert L. Jackson and Don Goode. Newly arrived are linebackers Tom Cousineau, from Canada via Buffalo, and Chip Banks. Art Modell convinced his fellow owners that free agency could be a painful prospect when he shelled out a reported $3.5 million and a few draft choices, including a first-rounder, to obtain Cousineau's services for five years. Banks arrived as the third pick in the entire draft, and so terrified was Rutigliano that someone would trade upward to get Banks ahead of him that he told everyone who would listen that Fullback Gerald Riggs was definitely Cleveland's main man in the draft.
What there is of a pass rush will come from the linebackers. Banks was immediately installed in Goode's spot on the left side, and on passing downs he'll line up as an end. Cousineau got Jackson's inside spot. The safety-men have been juggled: Clarence Scott moves to free and Clinton Burrell to strong.
They say Banks looked great in camp. Ditto Cousineau. Ditto Sipe, who's now on the same page with Hackett. But his line has to protect him and the defense has to get its sacks before there will be a significant turnaround.
Kenny (The Snake) Stabler opened a new nightclub in Houston. None of the Oilers' front-office staff was invited to the opening. When last heard from, Dan Pastorini was at a West Coast TV studio playing Spartacus—and losing, two sets to one. What remains are the men with the brooms, to sweep away the remnants of the Great Quarterback Trade of 1980.
The war in the sky will now be in the hands of 27-year-old Gifford Nielsen, whose five years in the NFL have produced four starts, and second-round draft choice Oliver Luck, whose four years at West Virginia resulted in a 3.96 grade-point average (a B in freshman calculus cost him his perfecto).
And now, for an evaluation of the Oilers' passing game, we turn to Tight End Dave Casper. Dave, tell us what the Houston attack is like.
"It's not what you'd call refined. It's like drawing pictures with numbers...or connecting the dots."
Cut! Rewind the tape. O.K., let's forget about passing. Anyway, passing in Houston is just something the Oilers do to let Earl Campbell catch his breath. And besides, Wide Receiver Ken Burrough is recovering from a broken fibula. Let's examine Campbell, who has averaged more carries per game (22.7) than any runner in NFL history. Last year's attack was going to be diversified—Campbell and Rob Carpenter. No more one-man stuff. That lasted through the fourth game, after which Carpenter was traded to the Giants. Earl was still a dominating force, but his body was beginning to show signs of wear. For the first time in his career he didn't lead the entire NFL in rushing. For the first time his per-carry average dropped below four yards. And he fumbled more than ever before. Looks like Campbell's only human, fellas.
The offense shows three significant changes—the additions of ex-Packer Tackle Mark Koncar and No. 1 draft pick Mike Munchak, green but mean and probably the starter at left guard; and the shift of Tim Wilson, Campbell's personal escort in the backfield, to a blocking tight-end spot.