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. Patriots 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.
- PFF labels the key one-on-one matchup for this week's Patriots vs. Browns game as WR Julian Edelman (No. 52-ranked receiver) vs. CB Joe Haden (No. 9-ranked cornerback). They feel Edelman’s stock will increase with the return of QB Tom Brady:
Tom Brady returns to the field on Sunday having served his four-game suspension, and his favorite WR target will hope to regain the form that saw him earn an 84.5 overall grade last season. This year, Julian Edelman is yet to haul in a touchdown reception, a feat he and Brady accomplished seven times in 2015.
- They praised the elusiveness ratings for RB Duke Johnson and RB Isaiah Crowell, saying they are the highest in the entire NFL:
Browns RB Duke Johnson owns a position-high elusive rating of 116.1. Isaiah Crowell is second at 100.9. ... Both players have been making defenders miss, but the Patriots have had one of the best run defenses this year. Despite their big plays, though, New England defenders have been missing seven tackles a game. If the Browns are going to upset Tom Brady’s return, they’ll need Crowell and Johnson to make the Pats miss even more.
- Click here for a detailed article by PFF on how WR Terrelle Pryor has become the team’s No. 1 receiver. It includes a table breakdown of all of the routes he’s run so far with Cleveland, and how many have led to receptions.
- PFF released offensive line rankings for all 32 teams in the NFL. Guess where the Browns rank? They have the 11th best line in the NFL. Remember, this team isn’t running the ball so well by dumb luck.
- RB Isaiah Crowell was rated the best player at his position last week. Browns running backs averaged only 2.6 yards outside the tackles, but gained 8.2 yards on average inside the tackles. On the flip side, ILB Demario Davis was given the worst grade among inside linebackers last week:
Davis had trouble in both the run game and the pass game for the Browns’ defense. He made just one run stop, while missing a tackle, as well. In coverage, he allowed all four targets he saw to be completed for 46 yards and a touchdown.
- I had some criticism for OLB Emmanuel Ogbah this week. Here’s what PFF had to say about his performance last week and on the season to date:
DE/OLB Emmanuel Ogbah struggled to make an impact as LT Trent Williams held the rookie in check for the entire game. Ogbah recorded 1 hurry and 2 run stops but he beat TEs Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis for the stops and G Brandon Scherff for the pressure. Through 4 games, Ogbah has notched just 6 pressures on 114 pass rush snaps for a pass rushing productivity of 3.9 that ranks 43rd of 50 qualifying 3-4 OLBs.
2. Waiver Claim Interests: As the only winless team in the NFL, the Browns currently hold the highest waiver claim priority, something that could come into play on Monday due to some surprising transactions by other teams on Friday and Saturday. First, let’s start with CB Bene Benwikere of the Carolina Panthers.
A fifth-round pick in 2014, he had started 14 games in three seasons, including all four this year. More pressure was placed on him after the Panthers rid themselves of CB Josh Norman in the offseason, and Benwikere’s release came after he allowed a 300-yard performance to WR Julio Jones of the Atlanta Falcons. The 6-0, 200-pound cornerback is only 25 years old and has some experience at the nickelback spot, where he’d have the long-term upside over CB Tramon Williams. With CB Marcus Burley never seeing the field, it could even just be a simple roster swap so the coaches can evaluate his potential for a few weeks before making a decision.
The other player of interest is OG Jonathan Cooper. He was the 7th overall pick of the 2013 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals. He missed his entire rookie year with a broken leg and was a part-time starter the next two years before being traded to the Patriots this offseason. New England released him on Saturday after he was finally ready to return from an ankle injury. Before Arizona traded him, they toyed with moving him to center. Cooper has been a bust given his draft position, but maybe Hue Jackson will give him a look. We’ll see if the Browns try to claim either Benwikere or Cooper.
3. Closing the Book on the Duke Johnson Fumble: I’ll try to make this the last time I specifically dedicate more than a quick mention to the officiating error on the Duke Johnson fumble from last week. During Inside the NFL on Showtime, an alternate camera angle emerged of the fumble. CBS Sports pointed to the screenshot below, where Johnson is clearly the first person to have the football. From his position, you can see that there is nobody near him that he really could have ripped the ball away from.
Here is the video clip of it. It moves quick, but if you watch it enough times, you can see that the ball falls right into Johnson’s arms with nobody else having had a chance to secure it.
During the week, NFL Senior Vice President of Officiating Dean Blandino said that there was no clear evidence to overturn the call. He emphasized that the officials are told to make a quick ruling so that players don’t keep fighting each other for the ball, and that once a ruling on the recovery is made, that’s what the other officials have to go with.
I understand the bind that Blandino is in: he doesn’t want to throw an official under the bus. However, this became a bigger story than necessary because he didn’t acknowledge the incorrect ruling after the fact. It falls squarely on the shoulders of Sarah Thomas, and not the other officials in that game. She is the one who made the call, so the other officials who ran in have to take her word for it that she saw somebody else make a recovery. None of this is about picking on Thomas because she’s a female: I am criticizing an NFL official for one of the worst phantom calls I’ve ever seen in an NFL game.
4. Quotes from the Browns’ Coordinators: Here are some quotes from the Browns’ coordinators this week:
Defensive Coordinator Ray Horton:
On how much DL Carl Nassib will be able to contribute on defense, given he would play with a cast on:
“Many players have played with a cast on. He is going to come out and give us great [effort]. We know that. For now, how much will that affect him? He will have to get used to playing with how they prepare him medically to play, but it won’t affect his ability to make plays for us. Now, will it affect his ability to grab a jersey? I’m sure it will to some extent, but he can still create havoc out there, we hope.”
On if Nassib has gained anything as a result of being more behind the scenes the past few weeks:
“My first answer would be no because he is not on the field, but maybe psychologically he gets a new appreciation for the love of the game and how precious it is to miss games. That would be the only positive out of it. To me, there is nothing good about not being on the field, not practicing and not playing in the actual game time. Other than, I hope, ‘Man, when I come back, I’m going to treat the game with more respect and appreciate the rare opportunity I do have to play NFL football.’”
On the Patriots comeback victory over the Browns in 2013 and if he has talked about that game with the team:
“No, I don’t know how many guys were here for that. As you go, it doesn’t matter who it is; it doesn’t matter the past. Whether you won 10 in a row or lost 10 in a row to an opponent, no matter what the sport or competition, statistically, it has no bearing on the next one other than it probably gives somebody a level of confidence as you go, but each event is its own separate thing. For me, I have won some against him. I have lost some as always. I am excited, and no, we didn’t go back and talk about this and talk about that. Most of our guys never played New England so what do they care what happened in the past. They are just worried about now. I know what happened. No, we just are preparing for New England. Part of the unknown is you don’t know what they are going to do because Tom has not played so you don’t have video evidence to go back and go, ‘Wow, they like to do this,’ other than I have used my knowledge of them over the years of playing them and just knowing that you have to expect the unexpected because you don’t know how they see you. We have prepared our guys to just play our football. Really, your rules take care of everything no matter what they do, whether they come out and want to go empty the whole game or whether they want to go heavy personnel the whole game. They will tell us when they line up, and we will just use our rules and play fast.”
Special Teams Coordinator Chris Tabor:
On if the Patriots mostly use a high and short kickoff:
“They mix it up. They are leading the league in opponent drive start against them. I think teams are getting it out to like the 21.5 yard line right now on them. By far, they are first in the league. (Patriots K Stephen) Gostkowski is a guy that can bang touchbacks. He can move the ball right and left and hang it up there with extremely high hang. You are talking about maybe 4.3 (second) hang. They have some speed on the unit to get down there. We have our hands full. If they elect to do that, we need to respond to the challenge and set our offense up with good field position.”
On P Britton Colquitt’s performance:
“He is really good. He is the strength of our punt team. He can move the football. He works very efficiently. When you watch him, I say that he is very quiet. What I mean by that is when he catches the ball, there is not a lot of wasted movement. He is probably one of the smoothest punters I have ever been around. Personality wise, he is a pro’s pro, also, takes a lot of ownership in his craft and is doing a really nice job for us being able to move the ball and give our guys an opportunity to get down there and cover guys. You saw him last week, he is putting the ball right next to the sidelines or out of bounds. We need to have him play at a high level this week, and I think he will.”
On if it is significant if a P is left footed:
“No, obviously, the spin will be different as it comes off. That can be tougher for returners because you are not used to it a lot. With the (P Michael) Palardy kid being here on the practice squad a few weeks ago for a couple weeks, we got a lot of left-footed spins, so to speak, catches. Also, our jugs machine is able to simulate that, also, so I feel pretty good in that department.”
Associate Head Coach Pep Hamilton:
On positives from Kessler’s play on third down situations:
“The fact that we have been fairly efficient on third down. You can attribute that to the offensive line doing a good job of protecting the quarterback and receivers making plays, as well as of course Cody standing in there and delivering accurate passes. It is a collective effort, and it is something that we have to continue to do well if we are going to have success moving forward.”
On perception that the Browns are not throwing the ball down the field as much now that Kessler is starting at QB:
“No, I think a lot of times our play call, as well as what the defense is taking away, would dictate where he throws the football. We do whatever we have to do to get first downs and to try and score touchdowns.”
On WR Ricardo Louis’ performance the past few weeks:
“He has made progress. Each week, you will look at the stat sheet after the game and he will have a couple few catches. We feel like he is a big play threat. We just have to give him an opportunity to make those big plays, but he is making progress and you can’t teach experience. As he continues to play, we will hope that he will continue to grow and make more plays.”
5. Predicting the Browns’ Week 5 Inactives: I predict the following players will be inactive for today’s game against the New England Patriots:
Projected Inactives: QB Josh McCown, WR Corey Coleman, TE Seth DeValve, TE Randahll Telfer, C Cameron Erving, C Austin Reiter, OT Shon Coleman
This is getting to be a recurring thing where most of the projected inactives are already ruled out. This week, six of the players are already out, and I’m making Coleman the seventh player. The three questionable players are DE Carl Nassib, S Ibraheim Campbell, and CB Tramon Williams. Williams is the least likely to suit up today, but I think he’ll be available in case someone else gets injured.
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.