Good morning, Cleveland Browns fans, and welcome to gameday! Be sure to check out our game preview and prediction for the Browns' Week 3 matchup today against the Baltimore Ravens. In this week's edition of "The Sunday Five," I take a look at the Ravens' success at defending in the red zone, the Browns losing WR Charles Johnson to the Minnesota Vikings, and more.
Heading into this week's game, one thing that Browns offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan has to be aware of is the success that the Ravens' defense has had in the red zone. In four red zone attempts, Baltimore's defense has held strong and forced field goals each time. That's one of the reasons they're only allowing 14.5 points per game through two weeks. These are all incredibly small sample sizes, but it's all we have to work with. The Ravens also defend third downs pretty well, only allowing teams to convert 38.46% of the time (to compare, the Browns allow teams to convert 44% of the time). For those strengths, though, the Ravens aren't generating a lot of pressure despite having the likes of Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil.
Through two weeks, the Browns already have 6 touchdowns -- 5 on offense and 1 on defense, with both games led by QB Brian Hoyer. During the first two games of 2013, when QB Brandon Weeden was leading the offense, the Browns had 1 touchdown total. In the following two weeks of 2013, the Browns scored 6 touchdowns, all on offense. Both of those games were led by Hoyer. Basically, in his last four starts (throwing out that Buffalo game), Hoyer has helped direct 11 touchdown drives. He's not turning the ball over, and nobody has put the ball on the ground yet as Cleveland is +3 in the turnover battle this year. That's how we'll win games -- not by trying to light it up every week, but by being efficient.
The Browns lost WR Charles Johnson on Saturday, as the receiver was signed off Cleveland's practice squad by the Minnesota Vikings. This is the second offensive player that Norv Turner has brought to Minnesota from Cleveland, with the other being TE MarQueis Gray. Gray was inactive in Week 1 for the Vikings, but he played 8 snaps in Week 2's blowout loss to the Patriots. The craziness in all of this is guess whose roster spot Johnson is taking? The spot that formerly belonged to RB Adrian Peterson.
I know Johnson had a cult following of sorts, but I'm not heartbroken to see him leave. He didn't showcase anything that jumped out in camp or during the preseason, and the Browns will be getting WR Josh Gordon back in Week 12. The other receivers on the roster have been doing an adequate job, and Gordon will probably take the spot of WR LaRon Byrd when he comes back, if Byrd's even still on the team by then.
Vic Carucci has returned to the Buffalo Bills, his original "home," departing the team he's covered for the past three years. This wasn't about the Browns removing Carucci from his post or anything like that -- in fact, the Browns haven't even had time to fill his shoes yet. His last day as co-host of Cleveland Browns Daily was back on September 12. According to the News-Herald, auditions will be held for Carucci's replacement:
The Browns/WKNR aren’t expected to name a permanent host for a while, sources say. The "auditions" are designed to find the right fit with co-host Nathan Zegura, who has become a fixture on the popular show.
It's time to predict the inactives for today's game. Here are my guesses for the Browns' gameday inactives against the Ravens (there are seven inactives required): RB Ben Tate, WR LaRon Byrd, TE Gerrell Robinson, OL Vinston Painter, DL Ishmaa'ily Kitchen, OLB Eric Martin, and CB Pierre Desir.
Last week, I got 5/7 of the inactives correct. This week, I'm putting CB Pierre Desir back on the inactive list -- the team must feel he's still a bit raw, based on what he showed in camp and then having missed so much time to injury. This week, I'm rolling the dice and projecting both Cameron and Mingo to play despite being limited participants in practice. This is a big divisional game, and if they can play, I don't see Pettine wanting to hold any of his key contributors out as a precaution.