Good morning, Cleveland Browns fans, and welcome to gameday! Be sure to check out our game preview and prediction for the Browns' Week 7 contest today against the Green Bay Packers. In this week's edition of "The Sunday Five," I talk about the rain that could impact the game, the Browns getting ready to make adjustments to their third down defense, half-time adjustments, and more.
I was so focused on the Green Bay Packers' injuries this week that I overlooked the weather forecast for the game: we could be in store for a lot of rain.
That was from The Weather Channel on Friday. As of Saturday night, the forecast was calling for 50% chance of rain at 4 PM, 70% chance of rain at 5 PM, 80% chance of rain at 6 PM, and 90% chance of rain at 7 PM. Keep in mind that the Browns play their first afternoon game of the season, with a start time of 4:25 PM. The game won't end until around 7:30 PM, so chances are, rain will impact the game at some point.
The Browns rank 29th (44.09%) in the NFL on third down defense. For all the good they do on first and second downs, it's frustrating that they can't make the opposing team pay in those situations, especially when our team is supposed to thrive under the pass rushers that were added. Every week, it seems to be something different that hurts the Browns -- we've alternated between the cornerbacks and the linebackers being picked on. The struggles on third down really contrast with Ray Horton's success on third downs with the Arizona Cardinals in 2012, when they ranked 2nd in the NFL (32.88%).
One good thing is that the Browns are supposedly prepared to change things up on third down. On Wednesday, head coach Rob Chudzinski actually addressed the problem in depth, which I have highlighted below:
On the third-down defense results: "We sat down and we did a big study with that the last couple of days. We sat down with (defensive coordinator) Ray (Horton), and we went through every third down that we’ve had so far. We also really incorporated with Green Bay and talking through some of the things that they do on third down and what we need to do. Just like anything else, it’s a combination of things, but we have a plan of getting better."
On what he can do to improve on third-down defense: "It’s a combination of us from a schematic standpoint, meaning the field adjustments. Then from a playing standpoint, we have improved if you look at the season. The previous two games we played well on third downs. Then this game, we reverted or regressed back. That’s the ups and downs of the season. ... There’s going to be some ups and downs still, but we have a plan for third down, and we have a plan for some other things that we need to improve on, as well."
One thing that should help on third downs? The return of starting OLB Jabaal Sheard.
Speaking of quotes, one of the things that Chudzinski also commented heavily on this week was halftime adjustments. One of the things that Chudzinski said he would incorporate into practice was a simulated "half time break." Here's everything he said about that matter:
On how to improve in the second half: "A few things, I’ve taken a hard look at it. Obviously, there’s a lot of different things that come up and ideas and reasons from a coach and player standpoint, and it starts with me. We need to get better in coming out and playing in the second half. We’re looking at tape and studied all the tape, and ‘What are we doing from a scheme standpoint? Offensively? Defensively? Special teams? Are there some adjustments and things that we can do differently there?’ We feel like there are some things, and we have a plan for that from a procedural standpoint at halftime of what we can do. The thing that I feel strongly about is it’s not a matter of emotions or energy coming out the in the second half because that’s there. It’s a matter of being able to jump back into the game at the same speed that you left it. We’ve been stressing that with our players, as well as just some things procedurally being able to get them going again physically, as well as what we’re going to do and some organizational things in making sure that they’re clear with on what we need to happen in the second half, as well."
On how much he gets done during halftime in the locker room with players and coaches: "There’s not a lot of time when you really break it down because the coaches get together for a little bit of time to discuss going forward. A lot of those things are ongoing anyhow. As the first half is going on, you’re talking about things that you need to do, the adjustments you’re making. A lot of times, we’re already making adjustments as the games going on. Halftime kind of just gives you time to reset. Then players have a few minutes. A lot of times they’re in there getting re-taped, doing all those type of things, changing and whatever they need to do from that standpoint so you really only have a couple of minutes with them to talk and then it’s back out on the field. There’s not a lot of time that you actually have. By the time the coaches get down, have talked things over and they have to leave to get back to the (press) box and so forth, there’s not a lot of time, less than you’d expect."
On if he talks to the team about what they’re going to do differently in the second half when games are going well: "When things are going well, you’ve already made maybe some of the adjustments in the first half already. It’s a matter of what we’re doing coming out in the second half. Maybe it’s not a matter of adjustments as it is just making sure that everybody knows where we’re going from here. Then sometimes, if you’re not playing well in the first half, maybe it’s more major, the adjustments are more major. There’s examples of us having to do some of that, not just offense, not just defense, but on special teams, as well. Personnel and adjustments, you have to make when somebody gets hurt in the first half. We’ve had a number of those type of things. It can be a lot that you’re doing at halftime; it can be not a lot based on how the game is going; but whatever it is, we’re going to do the best we can and continue to improve coming out in the second half."
It's time to predict the inactives for today's game. Here are my guesses for the Browns' gameday inactives against the Packers (there are seven inactives required): TE Keavon Milton, OL Patrick Lewis, OT Martin Wallace, OG Garrett Gilkey, DE Billy Winn, DE Armonty Bryant, and DB Julian Posey.
I went with some bolder predictions this week. With OLB Jabaal Sheard back, I think the Browns can use some more unique fronts, which would reduce the need for Bryant. Instead of Posey taking Josh Aubrey's spot on special teams, I actually think Tori Gurley will fill that role; if you recall, Gurley was a big special teams contributor in the preseason.