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. Ravens game at FirstEnergy Stadium.
The Sunday Five
1. PFF Notes of the Week: Each week, we’re going to try to start The Sunday Five off with some bullet points provided by Pro Football Focus.
- After one week, DL Carl Nassib is their 4th best contender for Rookie of the Year, and the highest rookie defender on the list. Speaking about Nassib’s performance, they said, “The Penn State product paced the Browns’ defense with four pressures, including a sack and a hit. He also added three stops in the run game for an all-around solid first outing.”
- Ravens CB Sheerice Wright had a fantastic Week 1, and PFF expects him to be matched up against WR Terrelle Pryor:
Ravens CB Shareece Wright recorded eight stops last weekend; no other cornerback had more than four. That was a stat line you won’t see out of an NFL cornerback every day. Wright allowed all four passes thrown his way to be caught, but for a total of only 13 yards. He had an additional stop away from his coverage in the passing game, as well as three against the run. The most impressive skill player for the Browns’ offense in Week 1 was Terrelle Pryor, so stopping the former-QB-turned-WR should be a top priority. Wright will be one of the players tasked with shutting Pryor down.
- Two of the Browns' top-rated defenders last week were ILB Christian Kirksey and ILB Demario Davis, saying “They were both aggressive attacking the line of scrimmage, nullifying any potential yardage after contact. The pair finished with four stops apiece, limiting the Eagles’ run game considerably.”
- PFF really praised LG Joel Bitonio’s work in Week 1, saying he looked like he was back to his rookie form, “not allowing a single pressure on 34 pass block snaps while also grading well as a run blocker.” The same praise can’t be given to RT Austin Pasztor, though. They say that Pasztor allowed 1 sack and 6 hurries, and "graded worse than [former RT] Mitchell Schwartz had in over a year and a half."
- NT Danny Shelton was labeled as a disrupting force in Week 1, and a big reason why C Jason Kelce was the Eagles’ worst-graded offensive player. Considering Kelce is a former Pro Bowler and former All-Pro, that’s some high praise for Shelton. Even though we thought OLB Emmanuel Ogbah had a decent debut, PFF disagreed, saying he played poorly as a run defender and didn’t generate any hurries in 30 pass-rushing attempts.
- Lastly, CB Joe Haden’s Week 1 performance was praised, despite giving up a touchdown. “Haden was active in pass coverage breaking up a pass and just 1 reception every 13.3 cover snaps, a rate that would have ranked in the top 10 of all CBs in 2015.”
2. Notes from the Assistant Coaches: Here are a few special teams notes from Chris Tabor this week:
On if he will continue his tradition of taking kickers down to the stadium during the week to practice:
“We haven’t done it yet. We have talked about it, but with the way things are right now, he (K Patrick Murray) feels very comfortable in the stadium. It kind of goes case by case with who the player is and where he is in his career and those type of things. He feels very comfortable. We have gotten a lot of kicks down there already. We should be in good shape there.”
On WR Ricardo Louis making an impact on special teams:
“He got better as the game went along. He is a guy that is continuing to develop. We have to keep developing him. I would say that his arrow is up and looking forward for more improved things from him this week. You could see it early on in the game. The first punt, he didn’t get down there. The next punt, he is starting to get down there. Then the third one, he gets down there and he has an opportunity to tackle. We didn’t finish it that time, but you could see the steps of a young player. He was going through it. Excited about him. He has worked hard and he is preparing himself like a pro. Real proud of him in all those areas. I hope that will be reflected this weekend.”
On DB Tramon Williams as the PR and if WR/PR Corey Coleman is not ready to take on that role:
“No, they are both ready. Corey is ready. I have great confidence in him. We are going to use both guys. Tramon is a player that catches the ball very cleanly, and Corey has been catching the ball very cleanly, too. Very windy day down there and Tramon, kind of field position sometimes dictates where we play him. I remember when Tramon was in Green Bay. I wrote him up many a time as the returner. He is a very capable returner. Don’t lose sight because he has been in the league a while and hasn’t done it for a while that he can’t do it. He can do it. I’m excited for Corey to get his opportunities also because he is a dynamic player when the ball is in his hands.”
Here is run game coordinator Kirby Wilson:
On FB Malcolm Johnson:
“He is doing a good job. Malcolm understands that a fullback in our system has to change our offense when he steps on the football field. He has to come in the game with a fullback demeanor that he is aggressive, he plays with aggression, and that he is the first one to strike people. I need a dirty truck driver out there. I do not need a guy who wants to catch a lot of passes and who wants to touch the football. Although he has to do some of those things, we need a guy who has an appetite for destruction, and that is his role. He knows it, and when he gets his opportunity he has to be willing to go mix it up.”
On why the running game could not get into a rhythm Week 1:
“Well, when you play behind the chains, it kind of will affect the play caller and how he wants to call things. We had some foolish penalties early in the ball game, and we kind of got unsettled a little bit. When we did attempt to run, we did not exactly blow them off the ball and we did not exactly put the ball in the right spot as runners, and so therefore you have to go to another plan or you go to your second thought because it is not as efficient as you would like it to be.”
Lastly, here is what defensive coordinator Ray Horton had to say about a couple of things:
On DL Carl Nassib’s production and fiery personality:
“He has been that way since he has been here. You learn their personalities as they go along. Very reserved at first when he first came in. Now, his dry, witty sense of humor is starting to come out. He is starting to talk to me more, and that is how you learn their personalities because I am not in the meeting room with them full time. He is totally different on the field than he is in the room. We like what he brings – passion and energy. We are going to start showcasing him. He will probably start commanding double teams and start watching him. They will all start seeing what he can do and how he plays all out all the time. I was very encouraged by him and obviously, very encouraged that he is going to get more playing time and more snaps. That is what we are looking for. We are trying to develop some young guys and see what they can do. It will be dictated by how well they play on the field, obviously. He has earned more playing time and he will get more playing time.”
On DL Danny Shelton’s performance in Philadelphia:
“He was impressive. He had a good start to what we want him to become. Like I said last week, we are continuing to show our players Pro Bowl players on other teams. I think that’s how you get good. You grade yourself against and you set your standard on other players that are good in the league. We are continuing to show him what All-Pro NTs look like. He had a good start. He can do that. We expect him to do that. He was getting pressured on the line of scrimmage and also making plays down the line of scrimmage is what we want. I think it is part of his maturation process and as he learns how to become a Pro Bowl NT, he will become that I think.”
On if he did not blitz Eagles rookie QB Carson Wentz in Week 1 as much as he would have liked to because of how young the Browns defense is:
“Well, just because I was not sure what he [Wentz] was going to do I did not want them to throw a bunch of what we call alley screens and boots and to get the kid out and give him easy throws. So we did not pressure him much because we did not have a lot of tape on him. I did not want to say anything last week about what we were going to do, but he kind of did that. He kind of threw short passes and he just took a shot every once in a while, which teams will do. So no, we did not pressure as much as I have but it is not because of our youth. It was just more of I did not want their quarterback to have short easy throws or throw alley screens while we are blitzing them.”
3. The Optimistic Week 2 Take: When I do my preview every week for the game, I often look for reasons why the Browns can win because of every potential mismatch. I fell into the same trap last week against the Eagles, predicting a Browns road win, only to see us with the largest deficit in defeat on Sunday.
This week’s preview, I tried to remain more objective and remind myself that this team is going to have a lot of downfalls. But, if I were to take that optimistic approach regarding why the Browns will win, here it is: Josh McCown.
Last week, much of the Browns’ early pitfalls were on two dropped passes by TE Gary Barnidge and a silly option run by QB Robert Griffin III on third down. Do you expect Barnidge to continue dropping passes? No. And, we’ll see less quarterback-driven gimmicky plays by Hue Jackson now.
When I factor in the rest of the game, Griffin failed to see an underneath linebacker and was picked off when Cleveland had momentum in the second quarter. McCown is a couple of inches taller than Griffin and has a better release, so maybe he gets that over the linebacker on what was a wide open lane for WR Corey Coleman. (Speaking of which, OL Joel Bitonio made a great tackle on that interception).
In the third quarter, Griffin also missed several would-be touchdown passes that forced Cleveland to settle for a field goal. These are all big momentum-shifting plays. Also, Cleveland’s defense played...fair in my estimation, but QB Carson Wentz had himself a heck of a day. I don’t know if we’ll see a better individual game from a quarterback the rest of this season. Cleveland has won their past two home openers also. Last year, they were beaten 31-10 on the road in Week 1, only to come back and win 28-14 at home in Week 2.
4. Predicting the Browns’ Week 2 Inactives: I predict the following players will be inactive for today’s game against the Baltimore Ravens:
Projected Inactives: WR Jordan Payton, OL Shon Coleman, DE Tyrone Holmes, ILB Scooby Wright, OLB Corey Lemonier, CB Tracy Howard, CB Briean Boddy-Calhoun.
Compared to last week, one obvious change is that QB Cody Kessler has to be active. He just takes the No. 2 quarterback role, so there is no net change since QB Robert Griffin III is on injured reserve. At cornerback, I have the Browns activating a now-healthy Marcus Burley and inactivating the rookie Howard. Howard mainly played a special teams role last week, but I think the Browns could be interested in getting Burley, who had some experience with the Seahawks, a few defensive snaps.
The other change I have is inactivating Lemonier and activating the newly-promoted DL Gabe Wright. It might seem excessive to have seven defensive linemen active, but I think the Browns had to of promoted him for a reason other than RGIII’s roster spot becoming available, right? By large part, DL Xavier Cooper has been a letdown. If we see Wright activated, here is what DBN’s Tim Miller says about him, based on some preseason tape review:
Watched some Gabe Wright PS tape. 5-tech that can 1-gap & 2-gap effectively, very aware of where ball is & not overrunning play. #Browns— Tim A. Miller (@Bumblyjack) September 13, 2016
Biggest knock on Gabe Wright is very limited pass rush ability. Doesn't know what to do once initial move is stopped. #Browns— Tim A. Miller (@Bumblyjack) September 13, 2016
5. Results of Predicting the First: Last week, we asked everybody to predict the Browns' first offensive play, defensive tackle, and touchdown of the regular season. Here is what the correct prediction would have been:
First Offensive Play: QB RG III throws an incomplete pass to TE Gary Barnidge
First Defensive Tackle: FS Jordan Poyer
First Touchdown: RB Isaiah Crowell 2-yard rushing TD to the left
Unfortunately, almost everybody was way off with their predictions this year. For the first category (first offensive play), the closest person to predict it was Matt Wood, as he thought Griffin would throw an incomplete pass off of a playaction pass (which is what happened). The only person who said Barnidge would be targeted was JustPlainBrowns, although he thought it’d be a completion.
The only person to predict that Poyer would make the opening tackle was crazyL80. For the touchdown, two people predicted a Crowell touchdown. daboirell predicted he’d score from 22 yards out, but Steve n NC was closer, calling for a 1-yard score.
Honorary mention goes out to Rik Smits, who predicted the first offensive play to be "Cameron Erving's high snap creates a safety for Philly." The timing was wrong, but it indeed happened.
Our game thread on Dawgs By Nature will go live at 11:30 AM ET on Sunday, which is an hour and a half and a half before kickoff.