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. Cowboys 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.
- The Browns’ offensive line was credited for the overall job (aside from Cam Erving) against the Jets in pass coverage:
The Browns OL continues to show vast improvement over last year and the beginning of this season as the unit allowed just 8 total pressures (1 sack, 1 hit, 6 hurries) on 55 pass plays. This marks 5 straight games allowing fewer than 10 pressures. While McCown was under pressure on 19 of his dropbacks, 3 of those were on the QB drifting in the pocket or holding on to the ball too long while 3 others were charged to the HBs.
- Despite the Jets burning the Browns on draw run plays last week, DL Danny Shelton and DL Jamie Meder were both praised for their work against the run.
Meder (80.5) had arguably the best game of his career as he consistently got push in the run game recording 4 stops while also notching 2 hurries in pass rush. Meder has 11 run stops on the season with a 8.5 run stop %, a mark that is almost double his 2015 numbers where he had 5 run stops and a 4.7 run stop percentage.
Shelton (77.9) continues a very strong sophomore campaign notching an an additional 2 run stops taking his league leading total to 26. His play has dropped off a bit in recent weeks as his run stop % is at 13.3, down from 15.1 after 6 games. Shelton hasn't posted a negative game in pass rushing in 4 straight games and added his 2nd career sack. Through 8 games, he has more total pressures in 2016 than he did as a rookie.
- Similar to when the Browns faced Jets NT Steve McLendon last week, the Cowboys feature DT Terrell McClain, who PFF says “owns a run-stop percentage of 17.0, highest among NFL defensive tackles.”
McClain is in his sixth NFL season, and is having his best year yet as a rotational defensive tackle. In 88 run snaps, he has 15 run stops. One of the best parts of the Browns’ offense this season is Isaiah Crowell’s running, where he averages 4.9 yards per carry. The Cowboys will expect McClain, among others, to stop Crowell and bring Dallas another victory.
- While McClain has the best run-stop percentage, Browns NT Danny Shelton has the highest number of run stops, as mentioned earlier:
Shelton has 26 run stops, the most for defensive tackles. While McClain has been the best at stopping the run on a per-play basis, Shelton has had the biggest cumulative impact in stopping the run. In his sophomore season, Shelton has showed up each week, and has had at least two stops in every game. The Browns will need him at his best as he faces Dallas’ Travis Frederick, the best run-blocking center in football. This meeting will likely be one of the best one-on-one matchups of strength versus strength in the run game this season.
- Entering Week 9, PFF ranks the Browns as having the 13th best backfield in the NFL. The Cowboys are 5th. Here’s what they said about Cleveland:
Cleveland’s running back situation is similar to that of Cincinnati’s, albeit less-proven. Isaiah Crowell takes the bulk of the carries, while Duke Johnson gets change-of-pace work and passing situations. So far this season, they’ve fieled one of the most formidable rushing attacks in the NFL. Both are in the top-15 league-wide for elusive rating.
- The best one-on-one match-up highlighted by PFF this week is CB Brandon Carr (32nd ranked CB) vs. WR Terrelle Pryor (22nd ranked WR).
This one-on-one matchup features one of the year’s biggest surprises in Browns wide receiver Terrelle Pryor, and a key member of a Cowboys secondary that has outperformed expectations in Brandon Carr. Dallas’ overall coverage grade currently ranks second in the NFL.
- Despite allowing a big play last week, CB Jamar Taylor was the second-highest graded cornerback in the NFL:
Taylor (87.9) was covering Jets’ speedster Robby Anderson for most of the game this week, and he held him to just two catches for 22 yards on five targets. Overall he surrendered 79 yards, but he also broke up every incompletion that came his way (four pass defenses), and almost all of the yardage came on one big gain by Quincy Enunwa.
- On the flip side of things, C Cameron Erving graded out as the worst center in the NFL last week.
The Browns struggled when rushing the ball on Sunday, gaining only 58 yards on 15 carries. Erving (38.7) was a big reason for that, as he consistently lost battles in the middle and failed to open up holes for his running backs. In the passing game, he allowed a sack, a hit, and three hurries.
2. Could the Erving Experiment Shift to RT? On Friday, head coach Hue Jackson seemed to give some unsolicited hints that C Cameron Erving could move to right tackle at some point if his struggles at center persist.
On if OL Cameron Erving will be available to play Sunday:
“I still think he is. That will be something that I will determine, too, as we continue to move forward. I have to make sure I take a great look at everything so that we feel comfortable as we go through the years we move forward that we have the right pieces in the right places. Cam is a very important part of our future. He is playing center now, and hopefully, that is where he will stay, but if that is not the right place for him, then we will make that decision, too, because it is important as we move forward that it is very important that we get some things in concrete that this is where guys play and this is how we do it. That is what I think is going to be important.”
On if Erving could ultimately move to OT since he also played the position in college:
“He has, but again, if you are saying if he cannot play center that is where we will try him at, there is no question. Right now, he is the center of this football team. There are some things that he has done good and there are some things he needs to improve at, but I am not down on Cam about this season. You just said it, this is his first opportunity at doing this at a high level week in and week out. If he shows that is not him, then we will find someplace else for him to play. Right now, I think what we have asked him to do he has done exactly what I anticipated, and can he improve, yes, and I think he will.”
3. Browns’ Week 9 Rooting Guide: Once again, I didn’t have time to cover this in a separate post, but let’s take an updated look at the Browns’ Week 9 rooting guide.
If the Ravens beat the Steelers and Cleveland upsets the Cowboys, then the Browns will be just three games out of a playoff spot! Ridiculous, right? But I’m just kidding about playoff talk. I thought I’d throw that in there as a bit of a joke (but also to point out how absurdly close things could still be on paper).
The real rooting guide relates to obtaining the No. 1 overall pick. The Panthers won last week to get to two wins, and with the Jets beating Cleveland, that’s one less team for the Browns to have to worry about. The Bears also somehow beat the Vikings, meaning the only one-team win left in the NFL is San Francisco. They are Cleveland’s main competition, and I said that if Cleveland played them 10 times, I think the Browns win 9 times out of 10. It’ll be tough for Cleveland to finish the year with a worse record than them.
- Root for the 49ers to beat the Saints. Any wins by San Francisco pulls them further away from the No. 1 pick.
- We want the Giants to beat the Eagles so that Cleveland’s first-round pick from Philly can end up being somewhere between the middle and upper half of the first round.
- We want the Chargers to beat the Titans. Tennessee has picked up four wins, and are chasing the division lead in a weak division, which would hurt our second-round pick from them.
- To add some more padding for teams contending for the No. 1 overall pick, we should root for Jacksonville to beat Kansas City and Carolina to beat Los Angeles.
4. Quotes from the Browns’ Coordinators: Here are some quotes from the Browns’ coordinators this week:
Defensive Coordinator Ray Horton:
On LB Jamie Collins Sr.:
“Jamie is very impressive in his football IQ. I would assume the hardest transition for a player like that is coming in and at New England, they were a hybrid 3-4/4-3 depending on what game they were playing, so he knows what we play and the position, but to come in the first day and learn a new language and to be able to flip it in his mind and look very smooth in doing it was very impressive. Very athletic, very smart, dynamic. It has been, on the outside, it appears to be an easy transition for him. We are going to ask a lot of him and obviously see what he can handle, but so far, I have been really impressed with his smarts and his savvy and athleticism on the field and really off the field, too, of just learning something and not hesitating to translate it in his mind.”
On if Collins will mostly play OLB, given the production of LBs Demario Davis and Christian Kirksey:
“He will play all over for us. He is a joy to watch move around on the football field and has. He gives you the ability to do a couple things and put different people on the field, different packages because you have to account for him to be different places. I would not say he is necessarily just going to be just an inside guy for us.”
On how much impact adding a Pro Bowl player like Collins can have on a defense:
“I hope a lot, and some of them may not show up in the statistic category. Some of it shows up on the practice field of this is how you prepare, this is how you play. Obviously, when you come from a Pro Bowl and from a known program, guys look and go, ‘Oh, OK, well let me see how he does things.’ It is a great comparison to ‘How do I, how do we do things? As you go and you are different places, you will bring somebody in, and I think it validates what you do and it is like, ‘Oh, yeah, all we do is work hard. We work hard and we do our job and we make plays.’ It does not matter what city you are in, it is just it is football. It is on the same dimensions always. You go in, it does not matter what it is – it is either indoors or outdoors – but it is always the same dimensions, and just how you make plays on the football field. I think sometimes, ‘Oh, well I thought it was this.’ No, man, it is football. Just go tackle the guy and get the guy with the ball and hit the quarterback.”
On Collins’ attitude after being traded from a possible Super Bowl contender:
“Outstanding. We talked to him on the phone before he got here and when he arrived, and since then, we have not said a word [about it] to him. When you watch him on the field, he is very intelligent, very bright. He understands, I think, what the NFL is, and we talk to our players all the time anyway. This is a business first, and then you after that you just do what you do. He is very happy to be here and he is looking forward to the game and he has moved on.”
On Collins’ potential displeasure about being traded from a Super Bowl contender may be overplayed by people outside of the building:
“I think it is human nature to – sure, you want to win, you want to be successful – but he also understands the opportunity that he has in front of him here to be a huge difference maker, where at someplace else, you may be one of the guys. I think he is excited. I think he is genuine, Once you get to know him, it is easy to say something, but it is another to look a man in the eye and go ‘Yeah, he is excited,’ and he has been fantastic here. He really has been.”
On Collins fitting in with the Browns LB corps immediately:
“I think he fits in because what he does on the field first of all, and then how bright he is. Obviously, when you get a good player, you want to acquire talent. You can’t fool players. Players know talent when they see it. They see it across the field, they see it on the film and then now they see it in the huddle with him. Sure, we are going to embrace him because we are trying to get better players, more talented players and put a better product on the field. This is a great step in that direction.”
On if Collins’ presence can have a synergistic effect on the Browns defense and may cause players around him to rise to the occasion:
“I would hope so because I think he creates issues for the offense. He also has the ability to create dynamic plays for us so he affects us in what he can do on the field, and obviously, he is going to create some issues for the offense on what they do, how they look at us.”
On if the Jets made significant adjustments in the second half last week:
“I did not see a different play they ran. They did not run a flea-flicker. They did not run a reverse pass. They did not run a toss sweep. They executed a little better than we did. I don’t remember what the longest play was in the second half, but I don’t remember them making a – they did not change personnel. They kept their same four-wide and their three-wide. I did not see a play different from them. I heard (Jets Head) Coach (Todd) Bowles’ talk afterwards. He just said ‘We got our … kicked in the first half and then you have to come out like a man and play football.’ They kind of just came out and executed a little better, I thought.”
Special Teams Coordinator Chris Tabor:
On message to WR Ricardo Louis about his kick return last week when it appeared he hesitated:
“We want to keep that one in. Just a young mistake that I know he will learn from. I think he still has a positive upside. I see things in him – the size, the speed and the toughness – that he can develop into hopefully a really good kick returner. He is a guy that since Day 1 since he has been here he has progressed as a cover player. Obviously, when we had some injuries, he has played more wide receiver and has done well there. It is nice to see a young player developing offensively and still adding to his craft as a special teams player. I am still excited about where he is trending. Every moment is a learning moment, and I think he learned something there.”
On remaining patient for WR Corey Coleman to return punts, given Jackson said he probably will not serve as a punt returner this week:
“I can be patient. Just as I said, the tape will tell us as he is catching punts on the field how natural he looks. He hasn’t played since Week 2. Getting back to the ball reads and now it is windier, the weather is changing, when it is time and appropriate, we will put him in there. Still really pleased with what (RB) Duke (Johnson Jr.) is doing. He averaged 14 yards per return last week and is playing solid. We are trying to continue to eliminate the penalties in that area, and I see signs of guys blocking better. I am more encouraged about where we are going and the development of all of our players, and Corey is obviously one of those guys that we have to keep developing.”
Associate Head Coach Pep Hamilton:
On Coleman may be slightly rusty or if he can pick up where he started:
“He is fast. He is fast, and he was fast when he played against Baltimore, and I feel like he is even faster now. Over the past however long it was that he was not able to go out and play with his teammates, he has been working hard with (senior offensive assistant) Coach Al (Saunders) to stay on top of the playbook. He has prepared himself from week to week as if he was playing so that can only help him to be able to make that transition back to the playing field.”
On how Coleman is faster now than before the hand injury:
“I don’t know. We haven’t had him run a 40-yard dash. He just to the naked eye appears to be just as fast and even more explosive than he was the last time that we watched him play in practice.”
On further assessing Kessler to see if he could be the Browns’ franchise QB moving forward:
“Cody, he has a natural instinct and awareness in the pocket that gives him a chance to just make the – how can I put it without saying he is a good game manager – but just to stay on schedule and make the plays within the play call. That is something that is rare for young quarterbacks, just his poise, his toughness, his overall field vision, and then once again those instincts that he has in the pocket.”
5. Predicting the Browns’ Week 9 Inactives: I predict the following players will be inactive for today’s game against the Dallas Cowboys:
Projected Inactives: QB Kevin Hogan, QB Joe Callahan, WR Ricardo Louis, OL Gabe Ikard, OLB Corey Lemonier, ILB Tank Carder, and CB Marcus Burley.
Nobody is officially out this week, which complicates the inactives list more than usual. We don’t need three or four quarterbacks active, so Hogan and Callahan should be down unless Hue Jackson wants Hogan to run some more read-option (though I’d put Terrelle Pryor back in that role this week).
Louis came down with a hamstring injury late in the week, and I think it’ll keep him out. Carder is coming off of a concussion and might be out as well. Ikard is newer to the club, Burley is coming back from an injury, and Lemonier hasn’t seen much work lately.
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.