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Browns vs. Chargers - The Saturday Five

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NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

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. Chargers game in San Diego.

The Sunday Saturday 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.

While rookie Joey Bosa has received much of the ink among San Diego’s defenders this season (and rightfully so), the development of edge rusher Melvin Ingram should not be overlooked. Through Week 15, Ingram has recorded 59 QB pressures (seven sacks, 10 hits, 42 hurries), fourth-most among 3-4 OLBs.

2016 overall grade: 74.2 - Kessler has been what we thought he was coming out of USC. He’s a safe passer, ranking sixth in avoiding turnover-worthy plays, but he’s also not going to make plays down the field as he has the fourth-lowest percentage of big-time throws in the league. Kessler generally does a good job of avoiding negative plays, but the question now lies in how much that is worth going forward.

Edge defender: Jamie Collins, Cleveland Browns, 37.1 - Collins looked disinterested at times in this game, frequently finding himself losing his contain on outside run plays. He was also targeted five times in the passing game, surrendering five catches for 71 yards.

  • I hate doing this, but here is the credit that PFF gave C Cameron Erving last week:

C Cam Erving has been the center for much criticism the past two years and with good reason considering he graded as one of the worst guards in the NFL as a rookie and has graded as the worst center this season. However, Erving put forth his best game of his season and career against the Bills with a game grade of 80.9. He allowed just 1 hurry, was strong as a run blocker, and didn't commit a single penalty. While one game doesn't change a season, his play the second half of the season is markedly better than through the first 8 weeks.

  • When it comes to DL Carl Nassib’s pass rushing productivity, the results have been terrible:

Over the past 6 games, rookie DE Carl Nassib has recorded just 2 hurries on 121 pass rush snaps resulting in a PRP of just 1.2. Nassib has graded well as a run defender over that span but his pass rush grade obviously has been one of the worst in the NFL ranking 103rd out of 107 eligible edge defenders.

2. Hartline Throws Daggers at Pryor: The criticism keeps on coming for Browns WR Terrelle Pryor. This time, he was targeted by former Browns receiver Brian Hartline. The two were teammates both in Cleveland and at Ohio State. The quotes came via a radio interview, which Pro Football Talk transcribed below:

“If I’m building a team, what is [Pryor]?” Hartline said, via “Is he my No. 1? God, I hope not because let’s put it this way: For me, I want a guy day in and day out I know what I’m getting. You don’t know what you’re going to get. You don’t know who’s going to show up. You don’t know if he’s going to get in trouble. You don’t know if he’s going to smart off. I need stability. That’s so more important to me. I need a guy that runs routes. I need stability. I need constant production. Is he a No. 2? OK, yeah. I mean maybe. He kind of disappeared the last couple weeks. So I’m very apprehensive as a Cleveland Browns guy to give out a contract. Listen, you had one year. You’re a flash in the pan. You’re trying to tell me with a guy that had suspect personality characteristics, I’m going to go ahead and hand you a bunch of money but you’re going to work harder? Uh, I think I’m going to bet against that if I’m a betting man.

At no point is he being dominant. I’m not paying a guy off of one year. I’m wishing him well, and I’m going to go ahead and go build something else because I’m not sure Terrelle Pryor is a building block.”

Internally, I'm sure Hartline has to be a little irked by the fact that he had two 1,000+ yard seasons, didn't get rewarded with a big contract, and is now out of the NFL. Meanwhile, Pryor has had one pretty good season statistically, and everyone (including me) has been fawning over him, with speculation that he’s going to command top dollar on the wide receiver market.

3. More on Garoppolo: We’re going to have fun discussing Jimmy Garoppolo for about two months after the season ends, aren’t we? The speculation has already been hard-hitting that Cleveland could go after him, and that he’ll be available at the right price. However, in Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen’s notebook from Friday, they said New England is more so looking to hold on to him long-term:

Just last week, one person close to the Patriots said he would be "stunned" if New England traded Garoppolo. The interest from other teams will be there, but so will the interest to retain him to try to ensure a successful transition from Brady to Garoppolo.

Check out the rest of their notebook, as it also talks about the remarkable Pro Bowl success of LT Joe Thomas, and Cleveland being 1-24 in their last 25 outings.

4. Quotes from the Browns’ Coordinators: Here are some quotes from the Browns’ coordinators this week:

Defensive Coordinator Ray Horton:

On covering the Chargers TEs:

“We understand they have a future (Pro Football) Hall of Famer in (Chargers TE) Antonio Gates, and (Chargers TE) Hunter Henry looks like an excellent replacement whenever that happens. We just have to play better against the tight ends that we face. Against Buffalo, we just had an error in coverage where (Bills TE Charles) Clay was open, but it has been an issue, going back to New England and Dallas. I just go back to saying the same thing – I know you guys do not want to hear the same thing always over and over – but we just have to play better. It just comes down to going into the week understanding who they have. They have a future Hall of Famer and an excellent replacement for that future Hall of Famer. They will not surprise us in that. They have viable, good, dynamic tight ends. It just comes down to really sometimes they are going to be one-on-one or two-on-one, and we have to eliminate those guys at that point.”

On if any of the Browns trouble covering TEs is related to LB Jamie Collins Sr. getting accustomed to the defensive scheme:

“No, I would not put that on him at all. I don’t ask him to get deep in the right corner of the end zone. Jamie has come in, and I have said it I think from the second week that he was here, how intelligent he is. He is an extremely intelligent football player and extremely savvy. He has a great feel for the game. He understands what he is looking at. There is no question he gets NFL football very well.”

On can cause miscommunication on defense:

“There is a little nuance. Here is the difference to me on defense: On offense, there is only one guy making a check. The center may point out the MIKE, but the tackle does not call a play, the receiver does not call a play and the running back does not call a play; the quarterback calls the play. He is one guy making one check that everybody hears. On defense, one guy may make it, but he is talking to everybody. He may be even talking on the other side of the field. That is just how it is. No excuse, but that is how the game works where I am playing Cover 4, Quarters, Cover 2, Tampa 2, Fire Zones. Everybody has to be on the same page versus just the quarterback making a ‘Rita/Linda’ check and everybody hears and goes, ‘OK, Rita/Linda,’ versus making a check that has to go all the way across. Every team does it so it is not like, ‘Well, what happened?’ It is not an issue with the communication that is being made. It is just everybody being on the same page.”

Special Teams Coordinator Chris Tabor:

On WR Mario Alford’s performance as a returner in his first game with the Browns:

“I was really pleased with him. Just like we talked about last week, we were trying to handle field position. We did a much better job in that area. He gave us a little spark there. We talk about getting the first first-down, and he averaged a little over 11 yards. The first one, it was a short punt, the ball bounced and there was a gunner right in front of his face and he takes a chance to field it. I am always for the risk taker, the smart risk taker. That was a good play by him because had he just let the ball roll, that gunner is going to be there and probably wait for it to stop about the 3-yard line. He picks it up and goes around the corner and we start the drive at the 31 or 32-yard line. That was a good play by him. He did some nice things for us in the kick return game when he had the chances there and getting it past the 30. Hopefully, we can continue that. Real pleased with where he was in the first game and excited to see what he can do in this next one.”

On if Alford had an extensive background as a returner entering the NFL:

“I remember him coming out of West Virginia, and I wrote him up more so as really a kick returner than a punter returner. I always knew about his speed and his quickness. There was some history there.”

On how much he misses Benjamin as a person, who he worked with for several years:

“Travis is one of my favorites and I have a lot of respect for him. That is really why – I have said it before – I got into coaching because my dad was a very successful high school coach, and that is who I wanted to be. I wanted to be my dad. I wanted to be a guy who coaches players and then developed relationships with players. As they came back to see my dad, I always admired that about him. My relationship with Travis was one of those. I have a lot of respect for him and his work ethic and coming back from the knee injury and playing for us. It is a new chapter for him. It will be nice to visit with him before the game. At the same time, we are focused on us, getting better and giving ourselves a chance to win this game.”

On why the Chargers are not using Benjamin more as a returner:

“I don’t know all of the intel behind it. I know he is playing really well for them at wide receiver – probably that has a lot to do with it – and then they picked up McCluster, who obviously is a dynamic guy. He was put on injured reserve and this guy that they have right now, Burse, has been very solid. He catches the ball cleanly. I don’t know exactly what it was with Travis, but if Travis goes back there, obviously we are well aware of him. He can still run.”

Run Game Coordinator Kirby Wilson:

On QB Robert Griffin III opening up the running game for the RBs through the zone read:

“He is doing a good job. He enjoys that aspect and that part of his gameplan. He knows that (Head) Coach (Hue Jackson) is going to have something prepared for him, each and every week that will add to our offense. He is thriving in that role. He understands that it is important to the success in our offense. He is doing a good job of it.”

On RB Isaiah Crowell having eight carries last week:

“Week in and week out, it flows. It depends a lot of third down conversions. You have to convert on third down to get more downs to add to your run totals. We haven’t been as successful as we would like on offense on third downs. That is something we try to emphasize every week to get better at. When we are successful there, those are the games where is numbers have been up. Of course, the score of the game always dictates the amount of run opportunities you have. It is not where any of us would like it to be, but it is just part of football. You try to do what is best for your football team to win games.”

5. Predicting the Browns’ Week 16 Inactives: I predict the following players will be inactive for today’s game against the San Diego Chargers:

Projected Inactives: QB Josh McCown, QB Kevin Hogan, RB Darius Jackson, TE Randall Telfer, OL Gabe Ikard, DE Tyrone Holmes, and CB Marcus Burley.

There isn’t much to point out this week. The Browns promoted rookie draft pick CB Trey Caldwell from the practice squad, so I assume he’ll be active over Burley. We could see Holmes active in favor of someone like DT Gabe Wright; that goes week-by-week depending on what match-ups Cleveland likes.

Game Thread

Our game thread on Dawgs By Nature will go live at 11:30 AM ET on Saturday, which is an hour and a half before kickoff.