Each week during the regular season, I take a look at five general bullet points about the Browns, either about this past week, today’s game, or fan-related news. Here is what we have for you heading into today’s Browns vs. Titans game in Cleveland.
The Sunday Five
1. PFF Notes of the Week: Each week, we’re going to start The Sunday Five off with some bullet points provided by Pro Football Focus.
- I broke down some film last week of the Browns’ defense, with a big part of it focusing on the poor coverage of SS Ibraheim Campbell. PFF did not list Campbell as their worst-graded safety of the week, which surprised me. I reached out to them to see how they graded Campbell:
You're right, he was poor. He had a 46.0 overall grade, 84.0 in run defense but 33.8 in pass coverage. Targeted 5 times, allowed 3 catches for 82 yards and 1 TD, passer rating of 143.8 and also had a missed tackle in coverage. [Jordan] Poyer (50.6 overall) wasn't much better in coverage (44.4) either (3-3, 55 yards with a missed tackle).
- Last week, the Browns’ offensive line was panned for their poor run blocking...
A week after not having a single offensive lineman grade negatively in run blocking, every player graded negatively with C John Greco faring the best. The biggest issues came from the right side as RG Alvin Bailey recorded a league worst 31.2 run block grade and RT Austin Pasztor (31.9) coming in in the bottom five of all offensive tackles in run blocking. The left side didn't perform much better as LT Joe Thomas (35.7) and LG Joel Bitonio (44.1) suffered through their worst games of the season.
- ...but praised for their pass protection overall.
On the positive side of things, the offensive line had a good day in pass protection for the second straight week allowing just 9 total pressures on 40 pass plays for a PBE of 82.5. C John Greco allowed a sack, 1 hit, and 1 hurry while the rest of the line gave up just 6 hurries in total. In the past two games, the unit has allowed a total of 19 pressures, 20 fewer than the 39 they allowed in weeks 1 through 3.
- PFF is high on what OLB Joe Schobert has been doing, but down on the play of DE Xavier Cooper:
Schobert (74.4) had a strong game in run defense (71.5). He hasn't been utilized heavily as a pass rusher so far this season as he has rushed the passer just 49 times this season despite ranking 5th among all rookie 3-4 OLBs in pass rush productivity at 6.5.
Cooper (40.6) was the biggest disappointment on the defense for the Browns last week as he was continually pushed off his spot in the run game (45.9) and recorded just 1 hurry on the quarterback. On the season, Cooper grades as the 107th of 115 eligible interior defenders with a season grade of 40.6. He has just 2 defensive stops, 2 hits and 2 hurries on 207 snaps.
- PFF says the best one-on-one matchup this week in the Browns vs. Titans game is between LT Joe Thomas and OLB Brian Orakpo. Thomas is currently the 6th-best OT, and Orakpo the 11th-best OLB.
Arguably the best left tackle of the past decade, Cleveland’s Joe Thomas has again impressed this season. His one-on-one battle with Titans OLB Brian Orakpo will be a matchup to watch on Sunday, with the Tennessee outside linebacker already recording 21 quarterback pressures this year (fifth-most among 3-4 OLBs).
- The best pass-rushing productivity marks among rookie 3-4 outside linebackers are loaded with Browns: OLB Joe Schobert is first, DE Carl Nassib is second, and OLB Emmanuel Ogbah is fourth.
- He’s only seen the field for 2.25 games, but here is what PFF says about rookie QB Cody Kessler:
Thrown into the fire much earlier than expected, Cody Kessler has been exactly what we thought he would be to this point in his young career. He would be the league leader in adjusted completion percentage if he had enough snaps to qualify (81.4 percent), but that numbers is aided by a league-low 6.4-yard average target depth. Kessler owns the lowest percentage of big-time throws out of 38 qualifying quarterbacks, though much like he did at USC, he has a low percentage of negatively-graded throws, ranking fifth-best in that department.
2. A Tale of Former First Round Picks: For now, the Steelers are still having CB Justin Gilbert focus on special teams drills, much like the Patriots have OLB Barkevious Mingo doing. A recent article by ESPN highlights some of the differences Gilbert discussed between Cleveland and Pittsburgh. One thing remains steady, though: the fact that he is trying to address his sleeping problem.
Gilbert's "clock" app shows 10 wake-up calls, the first at 5:45 a.m. Gilbert allows himself a snooze -- don't we all? -- but the next alarm hits at 6 a.m., followed by 6:07. The other seven are solely to satisfy his paranoia about sleeping too long. He never hears them, he says. "Once 6 hits, bam-bam-bam -- I've got to get up," said Gilbert, who readies for 8:20 special teams meetings Wednesday through Friday.
There was fear that Gilbert tore his ACL in practice last week after he was writhing on the ground in pain. It turned out that he only hyper-extended his knee, and his teammates playfully gave him grief over it. Gilbert says that type of playful banter didn’t happen to him in Cleveland:
"This reminds me a little bit like Oklahoma State, the relationship I had with the guys," Gilbert said. "I didn’t really joke around with nobody in Cleveland. I didn’t really hang out with none of them."
After getting rid of two former first-round picks (Mingo and Gilbert) this offseason, the Browns actually took on someone else’s first round pick this week in OG Jonathan Cooper, and it couldn’t have come at a better time with the news about OG Joel Bitonio leaving. Cooper is in the final year of his rookie deal, but he’s a player the club should give serious playing time to (instead of Alvin Bailey) when he’s ready. If Cooper can improve his craft and starts playing at a stable level, the Browns might be able to extend him for cheap.
3. A City of Champions: One of the common things I’ve been asked by opposing blogs this year is whether fans are upset about the start to Hue Jackson’s reign as head coach. My answer has remained consistent: no. And although I’d like to think I bought in to the team’s rebuilding/analytical approach, I firmly believe that one of the best crutches Jackson and the organization have been given is the timeliness of other sporting success in the city.
The Cleveland Cavaliers won an NBA Championship, ending the city’s long-running drought. The Cleveland Indians won their division, swept the ALDS, and are now up 2-0 in the ALCS. Heck, we’re even champions of the AHL and the UFC...all in 2016. There has been so much to focus on other than the Browns, that it’s made it easy to say, “Alright, Browns, go do your thing and we’ll check back whenever you get your shit together.”
I don’t speak for all Browns fans; I’m sure there are many of you who only care about the Browns and are just disgusted by the team’s 0-5 start after so much losing since 1999. Personally, the biggest side effect for me is not with my focus on the Browns (I need to know every minute detail about them as this site’s managing editor), but with some of the other teams in the NFL. Yes, I’m still following stats and box scores, but I don’t think I’ve watched one prime time game from start to finish this year. I’ve been taking a quarter or more off here and there to catch up on some other things. To compare, there were stretches in the past couple of years where I wouldn’t miss a single play of any of those games.
Have things felt the same for you?
4. Quotes from the Browns’ Coordinators: Here are some quotes from the Browns’ coordinators this week:
Defensive Coordinator Ray Horton:
On how the Browns can limit opposing TEs’ production and Titans TE Delanie Walker as a player:
“He is an awesome competitor. He falls right in line with every tight end that we have played this year. (Redskins TE) Jordan Reed, I think had 65-70 yards in catching but he had two touchdowns. Last week against New England, that was on us. Is Delanie that same caliber of tight end? Yes, he is. Their offensive weapons have our respect. How do you limit them? There are four other guys who can potentially catch passes. You cannot double everybody. We just have to step up and play better, and that is part of the production thing that I have been talking about. It is on us. It is not really who you play. Everybody is going to have a tight end on the field or two if they want to. It is just a matter of what we do, how we stop them and how we limit people.”
Special Teams Coordinator Chris Tabor:
On RB Duke Johnson Jr.’s performance at punt return and if he will receive more opportunities:
“Yeah, he will get more opportunities. He is averaging 12.7 yards. The last time we discussed punt return, we have gone up statistically the last couple of games. We are making strides there. Obviously, not where I want it to be or it is not at the level that the Cleveland Browns’ return unit should be, but my glass is not half empty. It is half full, so to speak. Duke is doing a nice job for us fielding the ball cleanly, and I expect that area to improve.”
Running Backs Coach/Run Game Coordinator Kirby Wilson:
On the main struggle with the run game last week:
“Two things: No. 1 we lacked a lot of execution. We left some things out there that we could have done better, and that is each unit to a man. We think we could have done some things differently from a scheme standpoint, as well. You are always learning, and the game of football, as we all know, is a game of adjustments. You have to take it one at a time and adjust quickly. The next factor was they did a great job of game planning us and executing their defensive assignments. Our hats off to them. They won that one. We learned some things about ourselves, and we are moving forward to this week’s game.”
On how RB Isaiah Crowell responded after last week and his mindset going into Tennessee:
“He was upset, and he was upset during the course of the game that things weren’t going the way that he wanted them to go. He is such a competitor. He couldn’t wait to get back to work to find out what exactly went wrong. When you calm down and you look at the film, you grade it and evaluate and then you move forward. He couldn’t wait to get back to work to prove that he is better and we are better at what we do. I’m looking forward to watching him perform on Sunday.”
On the Browns losing OL Joel Bitonio to injury and if that hurts the run game to lose a talented player:
“We are going to miss Joel, but the next man has to perform at a high level for us to be successful. It doesn’t matter who that person is. Our expectations is there is no difference. There should be no drop off. Let’s go.”
On if he’s concerned that New England might have given the rest of the league a snap shot of what it takes to stop the Browns run game or if things change week to week:
“That is a good observation, as well, because usually, it is a copycat league. When someone sees that something was successful on either side of the ball, you want to try to build that into what you do so I’m sure we will see some form of that. If we don’t, then that is OK, too, because Tennessee has an outstanding defense and a legendary defensive coordinator (Titans assistant head coach/defense Dick LeBeau) who know what he’s doing. We expect to see his best.”
5. Predicting the Browns’ Week 6 Inactives: I predict the following players will be inactive for today’s game against the Tennessee Titans:
Projected Inactives: QB Josh McCown, WR Corey Coleman, WR Jordan Payton, TE Seth DeValve, TE Randall Telfer, OG Jonathan Cooper, DL Xavier Cooper.
Only four players are ruled out this week: McCown, Coleman, DeValve, and Telfer. That means I need three more inactives. To date, Payton has either been inactive, or active with very few (or zero) snaps on offense and no special teams reps. He won’t be up. Cooper is coming off of an injury and his first week in a new system, so I imagine the club will have rookies Spencer Drango and Shon Coleman as the backups. Lastly, I have Cooper inactive because he did not practice all week due to injury.
Our game thread on Dawgs By Nature will go live at 11:30 AM ET on Sunday, which is an hour and a half before kickoff.