Tonight, the Cleveland Browns are on the road to take on the Denver Broncos. To help preview a few topics from the Broncos’ perspective, we reached out to Casey Barrett from Mile High Report and exchanged five questions with him. Enjoy!
Chris: “Case Keenum threw at least 1 interception in his first 8 games, but hasn’t thrown a single interception in his past 5 games. Has something improved for Keenum as of later, and how would you assess his overall play as a Bronco?”
Casey: “Well, I don’t believe Broncos quarterback Case Keenum has been the hope that Broncos Country was expecting. In the most recent weeks, he certainly has been smarter with the ball, even when running for his life. He has been much, MUCH better at getting rid of the ball in potential sack situations. He’s also moved himself out of danger on more than one occasion. This is something we didn’t see much of in the first half of the season. For unexplained reasons, every Broncos quarterback since Peyton Manning has had this behavior that if there is a hand on them, they take the sack.
It’s been infuriating. This was also something we saw from Keenum in the early stages of this year, but has shown large improvements recently. This has been a topic of conversation in multiple weeks; why does he look so much different this year than last year with Minnesota? Truth is, most of us don’t know. In training camp and in practice, he has a level of confidence and leadership that for me personally, I haven’t seen much of in game situations. There have been flashes, and they seem to be more apparent in the more recent games, but he still hasn’t reached that level that we saw last year with the Vikings. I’m not ready to give up on him yet, but he needs to find that comfortable, high confidence level of play.”
Chris: “Denver’s defense seems to excel where it matters: sacks, interceptions, and points allowed per game. But it seems like they are a bit banged up in the secondary -- could you tell us what to expect from that unit this week, specifically at cornerback?”
Casey: “Nope. I can’t tell you what to expect; I’m not sure any of us can know what to expect. It has been a very up and down season for the Broncos secondary. Losing Chris Harris Jr. was huge. Not just in coverage, but his mind and his leadership on the field is desperately missed. The amount of field that CHJ can cover is ridiculous, and it showed in a big way last week against the Chefs... cough... I mean the Chiefs (couldn’t help it). Bradley Roby is a question mark every game. There have been games where he has made some outstanding plays, and there have been games where he got burned... bad. Now with rookie Isaac Yiadom out as well, nine year vet Tramaine Brock, and second year player Brendan Langley will definitely have their work cut out for them.”
Chris: “How the heck did George Kittle have such a big first half last week? Was that an anomaly, or did it expose some issues that Denver has defensively?”
Casey: “It is absolutely an issue defensively. For some lost-on-me reason, the Broncos cannot cover a TE. What we saw last week was the Kansas City Chiefs and their coaching staff following suit of most teams this season. They just happened to exploit that weakness to its full effect, and found ways for not only for Kittle to get open, but to be able to maximize the yards after the catch. It has been frustrating watching TEs get that open. I’m hoping that Broncos Defensive Coordinator Joe Woods has a plan for slowing the bleeding when it comes to finding a way to cover them, but what will the Broncos defense have to sacrifice in order to make that happen? I guess we’ll find out this week when they have to cover David Njoku.”
Chris: “What is the strength and weakness of the Browns’ offensive line? [Editor’s note: I screwed up and put Browns in this question instead of Broncos]”
Casey: “I’m not going to pretend to be an expert on what the Browns do week in and week out, but from a layman’s perspective, they seem to be finding ways to work as a unit more consistently. What they did against the Texans two weeks ago was impressive. Even though they lost and turned the ball over - a lot - they kept Mayfield from taking any serious shots. They are completely capable of maintaining that level of play. That’s from what I have seen. Now, that being said, the Browns are guilty of a lot of offensive holding calls. This could pose to be problematic going against Von Miller and rookie Bradley Chubb. They have combined for 25.5 sacks and their speed off the end is hard to counter. While there was plenty of coverage regarding Miller’s offsides penalties from last week, he has also had his fair share of getting guys to jump early, especially in the Broncos Stadium at Mile High noise. I for one, am very curious to know how the Browns plan to block both ends, and equally as curious to see if the Broncos make any adjustments if the Browns are successful in their blocking scheme.”
Chris: “Tell us about one player on the Broncos who has played a nice role this year, but who Browns fans may not have heard of.”
Casey: “That’s a good question. The Broncos, like the Browns and a lot of teams this year, have had to deal with injuries in key positions and even their second string positions. With the Broncos, they have had consistent inconsistency. Rookie Josey Jewell has shown that he can be really good, but he has also shown that he is still a rookie and has things to learn. The same could be said for Su’a Cravens. He’s made some outstanding plays, showing his good athleticism, but again has shown that there are still things to learn.
I’ll try to give you two players to watch though. Safety Justin Simmons has filled in the leadership role with Chris Harris Jr currently out. He has made a couple of mistakes, but his vision on the field has improved a ton over the course of his young three year career. I feel like he’s only going to get better, especially learning from CHJ. The other that has made great positive strides throughout the season is NT Shelby Harris. Every game he seems to be playing better. He is figuring out how to read offensive plays more quickly, with an INT two weeks ago, and had another in his hands last week, but it was dropped. Watching him and Domata Peko Sr. rotate at nose tackle has been fun.”
Thanks again to Casey for taking the time to answer my questions.