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. Jets 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.
- It might have been lost in how bad Cleveland's defense was last week, but PFF saw some encouraging signs from the Browns' offensive line. They credited C Cameron Erving with having the best game of his career before leaving to an illness. John Greco, Austin Pasztor, and Joe Thomas all played pretty well. Even though Spencer Drango (knee) graded negatively in pass protection, he did pretty well as a run blocker. Hopefully Drango is good-to-go today so that continuity can continue.
- The Jets don’t give a ton of reps to NT Steve McLendon, but he’s one of the reasons their run defense is so good. Here is what PFF had to say this week about McLendon vs. the Browns:
NT Steve McLendon has an 11.0 run-stop percentage, seventh-best among defensive/nose tackles. While McLendon hasn’t found the same success stopping the run as former Jets nose tackle Damon Harrison, he has still been a helpful addition to the Jets’ front-seven. One of the best parts of the Browns’ offense this season has been the running of Isaiah Crowell. McLendon should be able to get the best of center Cameron Erving, and from there it will be his job to improve on his run-stop percentage by bringing down Crowell.
- The best one-on-one match-up highlighted by PFF this week is LT Joe Thomas (8th ranked OT) vs. DE/OLB Sheldon Richardson (12th ranked OLB).
Both Joe Thomas and Sheldon Richardson have been popular names lately in trade deadline discussions. Through seven weeks, Thomas hasn’t played quite up the level of years past, and is still a top-eight OT in the league, proving just how ridiculously high he has set the bar throughout his career.
- Who are the Top 5 quarterbacks under pressure this season? No. 1 is Tom Brady. No. 3 is Sam Bradford. No. 4 is Derek Carr. No. 5 is Russell Wilson. Can you guess who No. 2 was? If you said Aaron Rodgers, you’d be wrong. It’s Cody Kessler. Click here to find out why.
- It was another rough game for SS Ibraheim Campbell last week, who graded out as the worst safety of the week:
Campbell saw just one target as the primary coverage man and allowed it to be caught for a first down. But most of his damage came in the run game where he failed to make a single stop, missing the tackle both times he had the chance.
2. Practice Squad Shuffling: The Browns made several practice squad moves during the week, which we didn’t have time to report on at the time. First, let’s get to who is gone: The Browns said goodbye to OL Michael Liedtke, who had been being looked at as a center candidate. They also said goodbye to RB Terrell Watson, a preseason favorite for some fans.
There were three spots open on the practice squad, which were filled by RB Terrence Magee, DL Gabe Wright, and DB Darius Hillary. Wright has gone back-and-forth between the main roster and the practice squad, and Hillary just did the same. The new addition is Magee (5-9, 200 lbs). He was originally signed by the Ravens in 2015 as an undrafted free agent. He had 2 carries for 5 yards in 4 games with Baltimore last year. He was on the Seahawks' roster in Week 3 this year and received 3 carries for 12 yards.
3. Browns’ Week 8 Rooting Guide: I didn’t have time to put together a Week 8 rooting guide this week, with respect to the Browns’ draft picks. I will go through a condensed version in The Sunday Five, though, using my Week 8 picks as a guide. One thing already went against us, as the Titans beat the Jaguars on Thursday. The Browns own the Titans’ second-round pick in 2017, and right now they are right in the thick of their division race.
Three one-win teams remain in the NFC: San Francisco, Chicago, and Carolina. San Francisco is on the bye this week. The best-case scenario for Cleveland would be if the other two teams won this week. I picked the Panthers to come out of the bye week with a mini-upset over the Cardinals. However, I think it’d be the upset of the year if Chicago beat Minnesota.
I think Cleveland has a legitimate chance at beating the Jets. Because San Francisco is on the bye and would have fewer losses, Cleveland would temporarily still be ahead of them for the No. 1 overall pick. They’d have a weaker strength of schedule than Chicago too, so they’d stay in front of them too.
Winning obviously hurts Cleveland’s margin for error in terms of securing the No. 1 overall pick. It also increases the Jets’ odds of slipping in front, where giving the Jets a win puts three games between the two clubs.
The final game to watch is the Sunday Night Football match-up between Philadelphia and Dallas. Any loss by the Eagles is good for Cleveland, and Dallas is another formidable foe for Carson Wentz. This Eagles club beat the Vikings last week, though, so we can’t view anything as automatic.
4. Quotes from the Browns’ Coordinators: Here are some quotes from the Browns’ coordinators this week:
Defensive Coordinator Ray Horton:
On improving upon opponents’ success on opening drives:
“Fundamental football to me. Not to be flippant, I’m not trying to be at all. It really is. When you watch – I think this would be indicative of no matter who you are – somewhere there is going to be a play where, whether you are offense or defense, to continue the drive or stop the drive, and it is probably going to come down to blocking, tackling, catching the ball or knocking the ball down. I don’t want to overcomplicate things and say it is the scheme or these guys are doing this and the sun is up at certain times. It is just fundamental football, blocking and tackling and getting off the field.”
On the Browns’ defensive struggles against the Bengals:
“Two things – one is obviously missed tackles. We had two missed tackles on the long run, and then we have to produce more big plays. As you look around the league, no matter how you look at it, whether it is ESPN, on the Red Zone or the highlights Sunday night, however they show those highlights it is always big plays, meaning big plays for somebody, whether it is a defensive big play or an offensive big play. We just need to settle down and produce more big plays and really just play fundamentally sound football. It is no secret to what you are doing and nothing has changed for years. It is just basic fundamental football and then producing big plays.”
On LB Joe Schobert receiving fewer snaps last week and how he can earn more snaps:
“We are going to continue to play guys that make plays and produce big plays. This is really a production business. The more you produce, the more you will play. We are going to play – I think we have and I don’t have the direct count here – but a lot of guys that have played for us. (LB) Emmanuel (Ogbah) last week had two sacks so obviously, he will get more playing time. (DB) Briean (Boddy-Calhoun) has had a pick-six and that kind of thing. When you get a hot hand, you are going to play. Nothing is given and nothing is entitled here. You earn what you get. We want him to play better for us, and he will. He is working his butt off. He did play better on special teams last week so I am sure he will garner more playing time. Sometimes, it is good to take a little step back and go, ‘Whew, let me catch my breath,’ and how precious this game is to play. You just don’t get to play all the time. You have to earn your keep. Joe is working hard to get better and better.”
On DL Carl Nassib’s performance after recovering from the hand injury:
“He is very excited with his hand. Every week, every day he gets better and better and more mobility and being able to grasp and do what he does. Now, he will be able to function for us and play multiple positions for us. He is another guy that we want to build our defense around these good young players. We have to continue to push him to grow and take steps to become better and better. They are now what we call veterans. They have played, for the most part, half of a season. We need to continue to get them to ascend to being very good players for us.”
On if Nassib’s injury has delayed his growth, even though it is a hand injury:
“It is easy to say, ‘It is just a hand,’ but when you miss time for a young kid that is also learning the NFL game in a different position for him from college, yeah, it does because the more time you get on the grass, the better you are going to be, whether it is taking on double teams, seeing things, the speed of the game, the feel and what a double team feels like. Anybody that doesn’t get on the field, I think it is retarding their growth.”
Special Teams Coordinator Chris Tabor:
On if Parkey kicked at FirstEnergy Stadium yesterday or will before Sunday:
“No, we didn’t. He feels pretty good about it. I will be honest with you, I was more concerned with the first time when we were down in the New England game because he hadn’t been down there. Being the pro that he is, he goes, ‘Coach, I am good. I almost would treat it like a road game. There are plenty of stadiums I haven’t been in that we will go kick at.’ He kicked well that day. We actually probably have more wind down at practice because there is not anything blocking it. He has been kicking well in that. I feel confident that we are getting the wind work that we need. With where he is, how he is striking the ball and where he is mentally, I feel we are in a good spot.”
On looking forward to WR Corey Coleman returning to play soon:
“Yeah, it is always good when you see guys that have been injured and are working to get back. He is a step closer. We will be super excited when he is all the way back.”
Running Game Coordinator Kirby Wilson:
On the Jets run defense and challenges it presents:
“They are so good at times it appears they are playing with 15 players. After watching film on Monday, I went home depressed. How are we going to block and get yards versus this defense? Really, it is a compliment to them and their staff. They have done a great job of collecting big people that run and little people that hit. It is an awesome opportunity for us to come out and compete against a unit that is so highly thought of and so well prepared. It is going to be a good challenge. Our guys have had a good week of practice, and they are up for it.”
On which Jets players stand out in run defense:
“Employee No. 91 (Jets DL Sheldon Richardson). Employee No. 96 (Jets DL Muhammad Wilkerson). Employee No. 99 (Jets DL Steve McLendon). Employee No. 52 (David Harris). Immediately, they jump off the film at you. Then there is another couple guys that will show up, as well, in every frame.”
On how hard to create chemistry in the run game with continued changes on the OL:
“It is not a lot of fun planning for a defense like that with different parts than you are used to playing with. It has been a challenge for us, but we have faced that adversity all year and this week is no different. You always like to have that continuity. You always like to have the guy next to you from the previous week because now you know his run calls, pass calls, how he pass sets, how he steps in a certain gap, when they are double teaming so those things absent when you plug a new part into the machine. It does affect you, but you have to keep going because that is part of life and the National Football League and football in general. You just go on and do the best you can and you see what happens.”
On releasing FB Malcolm Johnson and expectations of FB Danny Vitale:
“That is more of a question for a head coach to answer, but from my standpoint as an assistant, you coach who shows up to work. That is never going to change, and so we have a young man that we would like to give an opportunity to see how he plays. He is excited for it, as well. Sunday at one o’clock, a new era at fullback. Let’s see what happens.”
5. Predicting the Browns’ Week 8 Inactives: I predict the following players will be inactive for today’s game against the New York Jets
Projected Inactives: QB Cody Kessler, QB Joe Callahan, WR Corey Coleman, TE Seth DeValve, OL Gabe Ikard, OLB Corey Lemonier, and CB Marcus Burley.
This week, just two players are officially ruled out: Kessler and Coleman. DeValve is ready to come back, but with three other tight ends on the roster, I don’t think they’ll activate him just yet. Callahan won’t be needed as a third quarterback. Ikard got here this week off waivers, so I don’t think he’ll be on the active roster either. Lemonier was inactive last week, and Burley is on the back end of the depth chart at cornerback.
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.