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10 things to watch in the Browns’ Week 7 match-up and the NFL

We look at the tardiness of some Browns receivers, Gregg Williams talking about Pro Football Focus, the Peyton Manning rumors, and more.

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NFL: Cleveland Browns-OTA Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to Week 7 of the NFL! This weekly column includes a lot of loose ends leading up to Sunday’s game.

Pokorny’s 10 Things to Watch in Week 7 - Browns and the NFL

1. Britt & Coleman Missed Curfew Last Week: Saturday afternoon, a news story broke from multiple sources that wide receivers Kenny Britt and Corey Coleman missed curfew last Saturday, and therefore were not allowed to go with the team to the stadium on Sunday. Neither player was scheduled to play due to injury, but ESPN is saying that there appeared to be a mix-up due to how other injured players were handled:

The NFL Network reported that Hue Jackson would not lower his curfew standards for Britt and Coleman. ... A source told Schefter that in previous weeks, injured Browns players who were going to be inactive for games had not been required to adhere to curfew. [Britt and Coleman] returned to the team hotel in Houston at 1:15 a.m. local time last Saturday night, well after the team's 11 p.m. curfew, the source told Schefter.

It doesn’t sound like either player was fined, though, and the NFL Network reported that both players apologized to their coaches. Schefter reports that, despite the mix-up last week, Britt is expected to return to action Sunday against the Titans.

2. PFF Ranks All 32 Defenses: We know the Browns are ranked 8th in the NFL defensively when you look at yards allowed, but they’ve also yielded the 27th most points in the league as a team. How do those balance out when you look at Pro Football Focus ranking all 32 defenses in the league? Cleveland came in at 26th overall:

BEST-GRADED STARTER: Jason McCourty, CB, 92.0 | WORST-GRADED: Jamie Collins, LB, 34.6 - Myles Garrett back in the lineup should vault the Browns up this list in the coming weeks, but without him they have been completely unable to generate pressure, and while they have been capable run defenders, the back end has been porous enough that they can’t keep teams running the football.

Surprisingly, the Titans were ranked 31st. When you zero in on their defensive statistics, although they are middle-of-the-road in yards allowed, they have generated few sacks, have been bad in the red zone, and also allow a lot of points.

3. Gregg Williams Touts the PFF Numbers: Someone asked defensive coordinator Gregg Williams a question on Friday about how well CB Jason McCourty is playing. Williams immediately cited the fact that “someone told him” that PFF had him as the No. 1 graded cornerback in the NFL. After that, he decided to spew a bunch of other positive rankings:

“I don’t know a whole lot about how this is ranked or whatever, but someone brought it to my attention a couple nights ago that in the Pro Football Focus stat he is the No. 1 corner in the National Football League. I didn’t know that. He is playing pretty well for us. The No. 2 defensive end playing the run in the league is (DE) Emmanuel Ogbah. No. 2 defensive tackle playing the run in the league is (DL) Jamie Meder. No. 4 defensive tackle playing the run in the league is (DL) Danny Shelton. Blessed to have a chance to help those guys here. They are playing well in certain areas, and we have to get away from some of the play or two that get away from us.”

It’s too bad that no one asked him how he thought about the rankings of S Jabrill Peppers and OLB Jamie Collins. He did talk about PFF and analytics a little more when asked about it:

On if he places stock into Pro Football Focus: “I don’t because I don’t understand it. If I understood it more, it was just somebody came by and said it. If I understood it more, maybe that might be one of my projects this offseason. Last year, it is funny – I don’t know if I told you this before, but back in the spring in the offseason I worked the guys to death in the offseason. Last year, we had 174 projects in the offseason before they ever got a chance to go home on vacation, getting a new staff acclimated and all that kind of stuff, but that might be on my list of projects to better understand it. I have some people that do. My son (linebackers coach Blake Williams) is unbelievable. He was in the analytics department in the league office, and he is off the charts with all of that stuff. The people in this building have been stunned that somebody is that well-versed with all of those things.”

On analytics could help evaluate players: “I’m always looking for that. Seriously, I have a goal every single day that I don’t walk off the field without learning something new. I have a goal in life that I don’t lay my head on my pillow at night if there is one other thing that I can do to be productive. I am always looking for different ways, and if we don’t adapt… The game has changed so much. They are bringing some of the things that are running rampant in college and high school football into the league, and it is not real effective unless you don’t know what to do then it is. Some of the owners don’t like paying quarterbacks that get injured doing some of the things they do in college and in high school because everybody can play at this level. I have to stay on top of all of those things. I have to be able to change. I have to be able to understand if there is something else that can help us, yes.”

4. Some Love for BBC: Someone who didn’t get mentioned by Gregg Williams and probably should have is CB Briean Boddy-Calhoun, who could start this week if McCourty’s ankle injury suffered on Thursday keeps him out. The stat highlighted for Boddy-Calhoun is “fewest yards allowed per cover snap.”

Says PFF:

He has been sticky in coverage and has the 12th ranked coverage grade of 85.6 to show for it. Quarterbacks almost appear to be avoiding him, as he’s only been targeted on seven of his 144 cover snaps, two numbers that have helped him produce the fewest yards allowed per covers snap mark of 0.17.

5. Some Film Work on the Titans: Let’s take a look at some of the things Tennessee could be doing on Sunday.

  • The Titans will want to do three things to get their passing game to work: establish the run, keep Mariota in the pocket (due to his hamstring), and then take advantage of the Browns’ linebackers getting caught up. Here’s an example of it against the Colts last week:
  • Tennessee will test the Browns’ discipline in run defense, as they have the most exotic/effective rushing offense that Cleveland will have faced this season.

6. More Film Breakdown on the Browns: Thanks to Jake Burns again on Twitter, we have some more film review plays to look through from the Browns’ loss to the Texans last week.

  • Could the Browns be asking Joe Schobert to do too much? Here’s an example of him dropping way back into coverage. Keep in mind that Schobert was not used in this type of role last year, and heading into training camp, Tank Carder was the starter. We thought the MLB would be used on 33% of the snaps at most.
  • Here’s a play of OLB Jamie Collins leaving a void in coverage of of simple motion. If you recall, there was a play I broke down last week in which both Collins and Christian Kirksey followed the motion receiver (along with the cornerback), helping leave a big hole open on the other side for a run play.
  • What can Duke Johnson do for you? I’m an advocate for Isaiah Crowell, but there’s no doubt that you wish Johnson could get more touches when you see special plays like this:
  • Burns makes a point to call out Gregg Williams on this play:

7. The Peyton Manning Rumors: Last week, WKYC said that Peyton Manning was in town recently. It ended up being for other reasons, but the fun speculation for a few days was that he could be part of the Browns’ future, especially with the Pro Football Talk report that the organization is looking for football executives.

I’d be all-in for Manning coming to Cleveland, but until we hear a slightly more substantiated rumor, I’m not going to get invested in the thought. If you are interested in reading more into it, Tony Grossi of ESPN Cleveland recently talked out the possibility in-depth.

8. Get Ready to Turn Myles Garrett Loose: I was worried that the Browns would be dealing with a hobbled Myles Garrett all season. But last week, he was up to 50% of the snaps and looked effective from start to finish. It sounds like the restraints are completely being taken off this week, per Gregg Williams:

On DL Myles Garrett’s performance in his second game: “Played well. He played dominant in a lot of phases. You are going to see him play more this week. It was the next step. I was holding my breath that it wasn’t going to set him back. It hasn’t set him back. He has had a very good week of practice. We are turning him loose.”

On if the team looks at a matchup like Garrett will face against Titans T Taylor Lewan: “Sure, we look at all of the matchups. It could be guard, center, tackle and all of those things, but that is why Myles is here, about those kinds of matchups. Myles has a pretty good matchup every day in practice in (OL) Joe Thomas. To his credit, if you go research and talk to him, ask Myles if he is afraid – Myles wants to be better than any of us in this room want him to be. It is more important to him than it is to me, you or anybody else. I look forward to that battle. I really do for the next step. He has come and has shared a couple of questions to me this week where he has asked some things to me about that matchup, and I just kind of shook my head inside thinking, ‘He asked me two questions that we out there that a veteran possibly would not have figured out by then.’ That is how smart the young man is and how much he studies the game and studies the matchups and stuff himself. It is one thing to have a pretty good coach in (defensive line coach) Clyde Simmons, who has been pretty successful with 125 sacks of his own in the league, but Myles has spent a lot of time on his own, too. I’m anxious to see if Myles will beat (Rams DT) Aaron Donald in personal study. I had Aaron Donald and he drove us all bananas because he would mess with all of our computers at our desk and all of our video things because if you stepped away from your desk or stepped away from your station, he was on it studying himself. At night, he would be there later than coaches studying it himself. If Myles gets to be that way, look out.”

9. NFL Week 7 Picks: Last week, I went 6-8 again, making my record 51-41 on the year (2-4 in Browns games). Here are my Week 7 picks, along with a few notes.

  • I have seven road teams winning this week, which feels like a lot. The Panthers’ defense should limit Chicago’s ability to score, and I think the Packers fall apart against an opportunistic Saints defense as of late without Aaron Rodgers.
  • In the other road games, the 49ers stay winless, the Giants’ one week of glory fades quickly against Seattle’s defense, and the Broncos end the Chargers’ mini-run.
  • The Bills are coming off of a bye and looking to stay pace in the AFC East. But the biggest “huh?” after this Sunday could be the Dolphins, who with a victory would be 4-2 despite the ugly play from Jay Cutler.
  • The Ravens should take the cake as the worst 3-3 team in the NFL. Joe Flacco wouldn’t be starting any more if they had any other quarterback on their roster. Elsewhere in the AFC North, I love the Bengals vs. Steelers match-up, with Cincy coming off the bye.
  • The Patriots vs. Falcons in a Super Bowl match-up will be a sight to see. The Monday nighter between the Redskins and Eagles is a great one too. After that fantastic Thursday night affair between KC and Oakland, this is the best prime time week of football yet.

10. Predicting the Browns’ Week 7 Inactives: I predict the following players will be inactive for Sunday’s game against the Tennessee Titans:

Projected Inactives: QB Kevin Hogan, WR Sammie Coates, OL Zach Banner, OL Marcus Martin, OLB James Burgess, DL T.Y. McGill, and CB Jason McCourty.

This week, I think we see two swaps: Hogan out and Cody Kessler in as the No. 2 quarterback, and Coates out and Kenny Britt in as a contributing receiver. My gut feeling tells me that McCourty will be out with his ankle injury suffered during practice. That’s the type of thing where you can’t just have a guy play a few snaps: it’s either all or nothing.