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10 things to watch in the Browns’ Week 2 match-up and the NFL

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We look at the pre-camp roster odds fans had been asking us about, Gregg Williams’ praise for Joe Schobert, Isaiah Crowell not thinking he missed holes last week, and more.

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Pittsburgh Steelers v Cleveland Browns Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

Welcome to Week 2 of the NFL! I enjoyed how the format of this column went over last week, allowing me to incorporate a lot of loose ends leading up to Sunday’s game.

Pokorny’s 10 Things to Watch in Week 2 - Browns and the NFL

1. Pre-Camp Roster Odds: During training camp, we had a request on whether we could go back to all of the “roster odds percentages” I had done during the offseason and reflect on they actually turned out. It’s not something I’d ever done before, but it sounded like an interesting exercise. I took the time to compile and key-code the results in Microsoft Excel, and the next bullet point will cover some notes about the results.

OFFENSE
DEFENSE / SPECIAL TEAMS

2. Biggest Surprises During Camp: In the table, I decided to set two thresholds: a player with 70% roster odds or above would be a “surprise” cut/trade, while a player with 30% roster odds or below would be a “surprise” addition to the roster. Here are some notes to summarize how our percentages turned out:

  • The biggest surprise departures are all of the veterans: QB Brock Osweiler (80%), OL Cameron Erving (75%), OL John Greco (75%), DE Desmond Bryant (90%), CB Joe Haden (99%), and S Calvin Pryor (80%). Remember that these were pre-camp projections. Obviously, shortly after camp started, we knew that Pryor’s stock had dropped significantly (although he did actually make the roster before an in-house fight last week).
  • One thing I was pleased about is that everyone made the roster who I projected to have 100% odds (22 players). I skated by barely with the Haden one at 99%, but there’s a reason I left a 1% doubt.
  • Now for the surprise additions: OL Marcus Martin (10%), DL Trevon Coley (25%), LB James Burgess (5%), LB B.J. Bello (5%), and S Kai Nacua (30%).

3. The Utilization of Duke Johnson: I think it’s great that the Browns want to utilize RB Duke Johnson as a slot receiver for a fair amount of snaps, but there was probably a little too much of it in Week 1. Pro Football Focus pointed out that Johnson lined up at receiver 47 times in all of 2016, and he surpassed that amount in Week 1 of 2017 alone (48 times). As much as the coaches may like Matthew Dayes, I think he took on too much of a role in Week 1. The Browns were perfectly fine in their utilization of a two-back system last year.

The big question is if we’re reducing Johnson’s work in the slot, then who makes up for it? We can’t just point to Kasen Williams and Sammie Coates, as they are both outside receivers. I still like what I see from Ricardo Louis, and he’s done enough work in the slot to earn some more reps there. I guess there’s a chance that Rashard Higgins’ promotion on Saturday could be a late sign that they are going to give him some slot reps this week, but I just don’t think he’s shown enough of an ability to create mismatches.

4. Pass Protection Needs to Step Up: We’ve already beaten a dead horse that QB DeShone Kizer needs to get the ball out faster, which is easier said than done against a Ravens secondary and defense that notched four interceptions a week ago. But there is some concern that the offensive line could face more breakdowns this week before getting back on track when they begin an easier stretch of games over the following four weeks.

In our game preview, we noted how good Ravens defensive tackles Brandon Williams and Michael Pierce are at stopping the run. But what we didn’t talk about is how many pressures (six) they generated last week.

Center J.C. Tretter faces the biggest test, because for the second week in a row, he matches up against a player similar to the one he struggled against in Week 1:

And while we’re all set to celebrate left tackle Joe Thomas reaching 10,000 snaps, PFF reminds us that when Thomas squared off against Terrell Suggs in Week 10 last season, he allowed 4 pressures and 1 sack.

5. Gregg Williams Talking Up Joe Schobert: We have spent a lot of time praising MLB Joe Schobert, and during his Friday press conference, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams tied the bow on the story. He addressed the fact that other places he’s coached, he used five defensive backs all the time because he didn’t have enough linebackers to warrant being on the field. He believes he does with Jamie Collins, Christian Kirksey, and Joe Schobert, which is a sign that Schobert will remain a regular contributor:

On LBs Jamie Collins Sr., Christian Kirksey and Joe Schobert playing nearly every snap against Pittsburgh:

“What it says is those three cats are good. I smile, and that is a very good question that you are asking, is why would I pull either one of those three guys off? There have been a lot of times when I have had to play at other places with five DBs of six DBs. Didn’t have any linebackers so you are going to play the next man up, the next best player. Those three cats can play now so that is not very smart for me to get them off the field very many times and the times that we do, sometimes it is for rest.

On Schobert being a ‘surprise’ among proven LBs like Kirksey and Collins:

“That is a good recognition of how well he has played. Here is another thing, I have always taken and we should as coaches take great pride on affecting change anywhere you have a chance to move into to help people win. Affecting change means that you make an average player play good, a good player play great and if you have the opportunity to coach a great one – very few of us do – then he has to play great on your watch.

Schobs was playing in somewhat of a mis-position last year, but that was the way that he had to be able to play in that style of defense. One of the things that I liked a lot about him coming out and I was attracted to him in the draft when he was coming out was he was an all-state basketball player. Those movements are rare when you talk about a football player with toughness and still being able to play tough. The next thing is how smart he is and then sometimes when you have a smart player, they want to think too much, become a robot and be too robotic in their decision making so all of that put together was ask him to lose weight.

You can tease him about that. He lost weight. Not only did I ask him, I told him, you better lose weight, otherwise you will have periods of practice with me helping you lose weight. Then you all of the sudden see those movement skills and then getting him to believe in himself that anywhere we go and what we do, the middle linebacker is the person in charge on game day. Sometimes that is daunting. Sometimes that is intimidating. You have to kind of go through that trial and error. That is why the spring is so important and the training camp is so important to go through those trial and error things and then he has somebody like me support him saying, ‘I don’t care what he calls. You better do what he tells you to do.’ I am going to coach him to tell you right, but whatever he says, be right. Now with all of that being said and done, he is playing pretty good and playing sideline to sideline.

The one play he would love to have back, two plays he would love to have back in this last ball game is I thought he was going to catch the ball he deflected. Him being that deep is rare for him to recognize and be that close to making the play and then the play where they scored the touchdown. He knows that. The thing that was refreshing to me about that was that he was onto the next play. Sometimes when you make a mistake like that, it disturbs me on the sideline how I have to try to get their confidence back or get their attention back. He immediately put it in the back burner, got onto the next play and it didn’t result in multiple mistakes. That is positive for him. He played very well.”

6. Ogunjobi Against the Run: One of the things we didn’t have much time to discuss last week in our film review sessions was how well rookie defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi did against the run. Fortunately, we can reflect now, thanks to a couple of clips by Jordan Zirm, the first of which shows Ogunjobi making quick work of center Maurkice Pouncey on 3rd-and-1 to help stop running back Le’Veon Bell from getting a first down.

On this next clip, Ogunjobi lines up over the right guard, tosses him aside, and disrupts the play for no gain. The Ravens don’t feature as good of an offensive line as Pittsburgh, and Baltimore is nothing more than average at the left guard, center, and right tackle spots. Ogunjobi will have more opportunities to disrupt a Ravens team that ran the ball 40 times a week ago.

7. The Fantasy Wishlist With Gordon & Garrett: We’re already optimistic about what this season could bring for the Browns, but the clock starts ticking next week (September 21) on another storyline to follow: when Josh Gordon gets out of rehab and seems to believe he’ll be given a shot to return to the league by the NFL. My assumption is that by being in rehab, he’s able to pass however many tests the league has been giving him. I think there’d be some concern as to whether or not he can stay clean once he’s out of rehab, but you know, I have no freaking idea what the league thinks any more when it comes to Gordon.

But that fantasy exists: what if in a couple of weeks, Gordon is re-instated, and right around the same time, Myles Garrett’s ankle is all healed up? You’re talking about adding two blue-chip players, one on each side of the ball. The difference between them, if Gordon is accepted by the team, is that Garrett would be an everydown player, while you’d have to ease Gordon along fairly slowly to (1) get him in shape, (2) get him to know the offense and built chemistry, and (3) not be disrespectful to the rest of the locker room who have worked their tails off to be where they are at.

8. Crowell’s Quote of Note: On Friday, one of the players who was interviewed was RB Isaiah Crowell. When asked whether he felt he missed any opportunities or holes in Week 1, here is what he had to say:

“When I went back and watched the film, I didn’t see any because I know what I can do. I’m confident in myself, and if I did miss some, then I would own up to it. That is not how I feel about it.”

That might perturb Browns fans who felt otherwise, especially for a guy who is in a contract year. But I don’t disagree with what Crowell said. I believe that getting the handoff out of Shotgun doesn’t play to his strengths as much, but I didn’t see plays that made me think, “Man, if Crowell would have done this, that’s a much bigger gain.”

However, Isaiah Crowell’s work as a pass protector does have to be a lot better, and it’s something I’d imagine the club has worked on extensively this week:

9. NFL Week 2 Picks: I opened the season at 10-6. Here are my Week 2 picks, along with a few notes.

  • The Bills can feel good all they want about beating the Jets in Week 1, but they almost let the worst team in the AFC take them down. The Panthers played a style of football more akin to what I expect of them, and they’ll get a sizable win this week.
  • Starting Jacoby Brissett is the right move for the Colts, and it could get them a win against a shaky Cardinals team that just lost their best offensive player in David Johnson. But overall, I feel the holes in Indy are too extreme to pick them until I see them prove otherwise.
  • The Jaguars’ 10-sack game last week was very impressive, but I’m still high on Marcus Mariota and the Titans. If Jacksonville pulls this off, though, then all of a sudden you’re looking at them as the early favorites in the AFC South because of how bad the division is.
  • The Chiefs were the most exciting team in football for Week 1. It sucks they’re without Eric Berry, but I expect them to continue setting a standard in the AFC.
  • I have no idea why a team would sign Adrian Peterson and then not really utilize him. That’s not to say he still has the “IT” factor, but he’s going to become a distraction if he’s not more of a focal point. I expect the Patriots to go all-out to make amends for their Week 1 loss.
  • I couldn’t believe how good the Vikings’ offense played to open the season. The Steelers’ offense was pretty bad aside from Antonio Bryant, and he faces a tough cornerback in Xavier Rhodes this week. Minnesota also plays the run well. But I’ve still got Pittsburgh because I don’t expect the Vikings’ offense to move the ball like they did against New Orleans.
  • The Buccaneers play their first game this week against a Bears team that was surprisingly competitive last week. Maybe Mike Glennon can keep them in some games, but overall, the team talent just doesn’t stack up.
  • Raiders over Jets is the lock of the week.
  • The Chargers are still as unpredictable as ever regarding how they’ll play. Remember, they were the only team to lose to us last year. Jay Cutler in Miami is intriguing, but I see their offense running into some hiccups to begin the year.
  • The Cowboys vs. Broncos match-up is a tough one to predict, but Dallas’ running game should remain tough to handle.
  • The Redskins were uninspiring on offense last week, and it was disappointing to see Terrelle Pryor drop a touchdown in the end zone. The Rams’ offensive and defensive prowess intrigued me, so I’m giving them some respect this week.
  • The Seahawks’ offense will get back on track for an easy home win as Kyle Shanahan and Brian Hoyer get off to another rocky start.
  • Sunday Night Football features the game of the week: Packers vs. Falcons. Can’t wait!
  • The Giants are a bad offensive team without Odell Beckham. It’d be like the Steelers last week without Antonio Brown.

10. Predicting the Browns’ Week 2 Inactives: I predict the following players will be inactive for Sunday’s game against the Baltimore Ravens:

Projected Inactives: QB Cody Kessler, WR Reggie Davis, OL Zach Banner, OL Marcus Martin, DE Myles Garrett, DT Caleb Brantley, and DT T.Y. McGill.

At first, I thought for sure that I’d be listing WR Rashard Higgins here despite being promoted on Saturday. However, when I came up with my list, I found that I didn’t need to make him inactive. We know that Kessler is the third QB again, so he’s out. Garrett and McGill are out with injuries. Banner and Martin were both inactive last week, so I don’t so why that changes week-to-week.

I think Davis will be inactive again, so then it comes down to Higgins or Brantley in the final spot. The team just got rid of Tyrone Holmes, so one might think that Cleveland will have an extra defensive lineman up. But Brantley is a tackle, which Cleveland has plenty of already. Maybe Higgins will see some work in the slot after all (shrugs).