Good morning, Cleveland Browns fans, and welcome to gameday! Be sure to check out our game preview and prediction for the Browns' Week 2 matchup today against the Tennessee Titans. In this week's edition of "The Sunday Five," I take a look at some future projections at the quarterback position, the quick return of Terrance West to Cleveland, and more.
1. Premature Thinking at QB: This is probably something we should wait until after the game to discuss, but what will head coach Mike Pettine do at quarterback if second-year man Johnny Manziel has a very impressive outing against the Titans, leading to a victory? My first instinct was to believe he would stick with veteran Josh McCown in Week 3 if he is cleared to practice, regardless of what Manziel does. Although I'm still leaning that way, I'm considering an alternative line-of-thinking that would also align with Pettine's demeanor and decision-making.
For as impressive as McCown might have looked in camp, ultimately, I think the defining factor Pettine is looking for is how well the players around the quarterback respond to his play. We already saw what happened last year against the Bengals, and we even saw a little bit of that in the opening week against the Jets. If the rest of the team is able to bypass that mental hurdle for Manziel, it could be just the thing that compels Pettine to stick with the youngster.
2. The Return of Terrance West: Just two weeks after being traded to the Titans, Terrance West returns to face the Browns in Cleveland, no less. Despite only being with the club for a couple of practices last week, he was tied with Bishop Sankey for the team-lead in snaps at running back at 39% each. Dexter McCluster trailed both of them with 24% of the snaps. West's best work should come in short-yardage situations, but if he gets a couple of series in other areas of the field, Cleveland's defense should be well aware of his propensity to bounce runs to the outside. The last thing Cleveland needs is for West to have a big day while their own backs continue to struggle.
3. Nearly a Year Removed from History: In Week 5 last season, the Browns pulled off the biggest road comeback in NFL history against the Titans. It was a tremendous comeback by the Browns, but Cleveland was also down 28-3 during the first half of play in that game. Much has changed for these two teams since then, including new quarterbacks under center (Marcus Mariota for the Titans, Johnny Manziel for the Browns), a completely re-tooled defensive line for Cleveland, and Dick LeBeau now being the assistant head coach to Ken Whisenhunt as he helps place his stamp on Ray Horton's defense. One might think that the Titans have last year's game burned in their memory and want revenge, but with the change under center and how many more games the Titans lost after that in 2014, I don't expect it to play a factor this week.
4. Looking at the Browns' Tryouts: This week, the Browns tried out OLB Jayson DiManche, OLB Cam Johnson, and DE Nordly Capi, according to the Houston Chronicle's Aaron Wilson. DiManche and Johnson have had limited experience in the NFL with the Bengals and Colts, respectively, at outside linebacker. Neither player was signed, as the team is content to role with returning OLB Nate Orchard to fill the void left by injured OLB Scott Solomon. Capi wasn't signed either, but he is a rookie undrafted free agent defensive end who was among the preseason league letters in quarterback pressures.
5. Projecting the Inactives for the Titans vs. Browns: 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 QB Josh McCown, RB Robert Turbin, and OLB Scott Solomon. Therefore, I need to project four inactive players, and I think using last week as a template will fit somewhat. I see TE E.J. Bibbs and CB Justin Gilbert both being inactive again, bringing the total to five players. It gets tougher after that, but the other two inactives I will project are DL Xavier Cooper and CB Pierre Desir.
Personally, if we're going to have to deactivate one defensive lineman, I'd go with DL Jamie Meder. Meder is good for depth, but on gameday, I think we can shift DE John Hughes over to the middle to spell NT Danny Shelton. We need a guy with Cooper's skillset on gameday for sub-packages; otherwise, why the hell was he drafted? And, it's not like he struggled in the preseason.
The other interesting decision I made comes to Desir. I'm banking on WR Dwayne Bowe being active this week, but would another receiver be inactive in favor for him? Last on the totem poll appears to be WR Taylor Gabriel, and I don't want to see him inactive. Desir played zero defensive snaps last week and only had three snaps on special teams. If one of the Browns' cornerbacks suffers an injury, CB Johnson Bademosi or S Jordan Poyer could step in to a more prominent role for the remainder of the game.