Good morning, check out our game preview and prediction for the Browns' Week 4 matchup today against the . In this week's edition of "The Sunday Five," I take a look at the return of general manager Ray Farmer on Monday, some personnel moves the Browns will be considering, the possibility of a "Johnny Package," and more.fans, and welcome to gameday! Be sure to
1. Get Ready for Some Moves: Win or lose on Sunday, get ready for the Browns to start making a couple of roster moves in the next week or so as general manager Ray Farmer's suspension will be over on Monday. Farmer was once viewed as an up-and-coming general manager, but now he is perceived as being at the bottom of the barrel.
The primary move I would expect is for the team to either cut RB Shaun Draughn or place him on injured reserve. RB Robert Turbin started practicing this past week and could be ready to play in Week 5, which eliminates the need for a guy like Draughn. It also gives Cleveland an opportunity to give kickoff reps to either CB Justin Gilbert or RB Duke Johnson. Knowing how the Browns have handled the kickoff position over the past two years, though, don't be surprised if WR Marlon Moore ends up back there.
Eliminating Draughn opens up a roster spot, and the most likely move would be for the team to call up ILB Hayes Pullard from the practice squad until ILB Craig Robertson returns from injury. Even if Pullard doesn't play defensive snaps ahead of ILB Tank Carder, he can take on some of Robertson's special teams duties. I think we could also see TE Rob Housler waived with TE E.J. Bibbs getting playing time at some point. The other wildcard question will be if something happens to WR Dwayne Bowe, or if Farmer gives a call to WR Terrelle Pryor again, but I'm expecting the receiver position to remain steady for now.
2. Personnel Changes to Consider: We might not see many changes this week, but if the Browns continue to struggle, head coach Mike Pettine will have no choice but to shake up the lineup over the next couple of weeks on both sides of the ball. The one change we could see this week is with RB Duke Johnson surpassing RB Isaiah Crowell as the lead back. If that doesn't happen, then it could in a week or two when RB Robert Turbin is added to the mix.
The other positions Cleveland should evaluate are offensive guard, outside linebacker, and strong safety. OG Cameron Erving is sitting on the bench, but how can you justify that when the offensive line has been disappointing against the run? LG Joel Bitonio is the player struggling the most, but he won't be replaced. RG John Greco would get the shaft, but it's not like a change at the position should create some catastrophe. If it works, it works. If it doesn't, the Browns can also make another change. My view is that if Greco isn't playing at an elite level, you can attempt the change and see how it goes.
At outside linebacker, OLB Scott Solomon will be back soon from his Week 1 ankle injury. The Browns need him back so OLB Paul Kruger can return to the more exclusive pass-rushing role he had a year ago, and then the rest of the outside linebackers can be used in more appropriate sub-packages. Lastly, at strong safety, it comes down to whether SS Donte Whitner will be replaced or not. The film doesn't lie: he's been largely responsible for opposing teams' big plays to begin the year. Fourth-round pick Ibraheim Campbell is on the bench. Because of the "leader" that Whitner is viewed as, it'll take a lot more for the coaches to have to pull Whitner, but Browns fans are losing their patience.
3. The Johnny Package: A reporter asked offensive coordinator John DeFilippo about the possibility of a "Johnny Package" this week, and DeFilippo didn't shoot it down:
"Sure. That is always a possibility. That is always a possibility. To say that we don’t have plays ready for Johnny Manziel against the San Diego Chargers, I would be lying to you. I would be lying to you. You never know. We may use him. We may not. That is the competitive advantage of showing up and playing an opponent on Sunday. We don’t know what they are going to do, and they don’t know what we are going to do."
It could be as insignificant as what the Browns did in Week 1 with WR Terrelle Pryor and the Jets -- in the end, they really had no real plans of using him. Although DeFilippo was being a bit coy about utilizing QB Johnny Manziel, I think there could be some substance to it.
They key is that you don't want to use the package to give your team a "spark," which is why it would've made zero sense in the context of last week's game. You'd also rather not have two quarterbacks in the game at the same time. Here is how you make it work, though: if it's a close game or if you are up by a score, give the Chargers a look with two receivers: WR Travis Benjamin and either WR Taylor Gabriel or TE Gary Barnidge. The first time you run do the play, it's a run play. The next time, later in the game, it's a playaction fake with Benjamin on a deep post route and the other receiver either running a shallow crosser or an in-and-back-out underneath it. It can work, but the Browns have to have the right game situation to deploy it.
4. Browns Catching Some Breaks: The Browns did not take advantage to their "soft schedule" to begin the year, going 1-2 instead of what I had set as the minimum (2-1). However, the Jets and Raiders appear to be much better teams than we anticipated. By the fortunate nature of the parity of the NFL, Cleveland has been given a two-game extension, so-to-speak, on their "soft schedule" by virtue of injuries. This week, it's the Chargers being without three or four of their starting offensive linemen. Next week, it's the Ravens (likely) being without WR Steve Smith Sr. due to either an injured back or broken ribs. Both games will still be tough on the road, but Cleveland's been given second life to get back on track and they have to capitalize.
5. Projecting the Inactives for the Browns vs. Chargers: It's time to predict the inactives on gameday, as the team can only dress 46 players. The players we know for sure will be inactive this week are RB Robert Turbin, ILB Craig Robertson, OLB Scott Solomon, and CB K'Waun Williams. The other three inactives I'm projecting are QB Austin Davis, RB Shaun Draughn, and TE E.J. Bibbs. This might be the easiest projection of the year.