Welcome to Week 2 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 2 - Browns and the NFL
1. Josh Gordon is Gone: I guess it’s a good thing I waited so late to write my column this week, because a lot would’ve changed between Saturday morning and Saturday night with the news of the team saying goodbye to WR Josh Gordon. Last week, we’re talking about it being his first Week 1 game since 2012. By Week 2, the team is moving on for good. I guess it’s an expected end to Gordon’s reign with the team, but it’s just a sad feeling overall. I wanted so badly for Cleveland to have a star player, and he is as talented of a receiver anyone could ever ask for.
Assuming he hasn’t had a major relapse, instead of the Browns outright waiving him, they should take the highest compensation package offered. It will likely be a conditional draft pick, contingent upon Gordon not getting into trouble with his new team. I speculated the trade scenario right away, and it wasn’t long before teams came calling:
The #Browns announced they are releasing Josh Gordon, but they may not get there. I’m told as many as five teams are researching possibly trading for Gordon. Cleveland has a market.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 16, 2018
2. Where Do We Go from Here? It’s back to preseason mode. One very good thing we have to fall back on is the fact that WR Jarvis Landry is a stud, so it’s not like the team is without a No. 1 receiver. WR Antonio Callaway is the big benefactor here. He has lights out speed and should be elevated to the starting lineup. WR Rashard Higgins will also see a good amount of action after having a fantastic camp and preseason. This should also open the door for more targets for RB Duke Johnson.
The obvious quesiton now is whether this means WR Dez Bryant will become a priority for the Browns. The two sides have been linked together for awhile. At this point, the headlines that come with Bryant may be more trouble than it’s worth, when you can use this opportunity to develop your younger players instead.
3. The Importance of the Tie: Back to your regularly scheduled program. After last week’s unexpected tie to begin the season, let’s talk about what that means from a coaching and strategic perspective the rest of the season. A tie is not as bad as you may think. When you are calculating winning percentages, it is based on the following:
- Win = 1.0
- Loss = 0.0
- Tie = 0.5
If it helps you make sense of it, the Browns have a record of 0.5 wins - 0 losses. Let’s say the Browns have a great season and win 8 games. Let’s say the Bengals also win 8 games, but lose 8 games. Cleveland would get the tiebreaker over Cincinnati, because they would technically have 8.5 wins, which is greater than 8 wins.
4. Strategic Perspective of a Tie: From a strategic perspective, the big thing that Hue Jackson must understand for the rest of the season is possibly settling for another tie if that scenario were to arise. 2 ties end up equaling a win. So let’s say the Browns finish the season with a record of 7-7-2. That means in reality, you could treat their record as 8-7, which is better than any team that would’ve finished .500 in the standings. That could matter for a wildcard spot.
Let’s think about this. If the Browns are tied with the Saints in overtime this week, and have the ball at the 50 yard line facing a 4th-and-10 with 1:20 left in the game, what would you want them to do? Instinct may scream at Jackson if he punts the ball, because you are basically giving up the chance to win. But playing for a tie instead of a loss has real value for your positioning in the standings, and I hope it is something he and his staff has at least discussed. Even though two ties doesn’t happen in the NFL, with overtime being shortened to 10 minutes last year, I think it’s only a matter of time before it does happen.
5. Fond Saints-Browns Memories: The Browns haven’t had much success since returning to the league in 1999...except when it comes to the New Orleans Saints, a team they have a 4-1 record against during that span. Not only that, but the games have had some of the most memorable moments for the club since 1999. Let’s see the highlights:
Their first win in the new era, the Tim Couch Hail Mary in 1999:
In 2010, Eric Mangini beat the Saints in a string of impressive wins. It included TWO pick sixes by David Bowens, but also this miraculous fake punt by Reggie Hodges:
The last time the Browns were down in New Orleans, Reggie Hodges went marching in pic.twitter.com/GV7bG5vARF— 1085 Gridiron Browns Podcast (@1085Gridiron) September 12, 2018
And then came the Browns’ Week 2 win over the Saints in 2014, when Brian Hoyer found Andrew Hawkins wide open, setting up a game-winning field goal as time expired:
6. Coach Miscommunications: On one hand, I don’t want to make a big deal out of miscommunications between the coaches. It makes it seem as though as I’m fishing for reasons for Hue Jackson to be fired. But now, more than ever, Jackson should have a firm grasp of how his personnel is going to be utilized on gameday, and be on the same page as all of his coaches.
It is perfectly fine if he makes the ultimate decisions, but why was there a mix-up in how the first play of last week’s game would be called, personnel-wise? (Josh Gordon was involved in a formation that included three tight ends, but Jackson did not want him to start).
Also, prior to the game, special teams coordinator Amos Jones said that Antonio Callaway would be the punt returner, and that both he and Jabrill Peppers would be in on kickoffs. Instead, Peppers returned almost all of the punts. Heading into Week 2 now, Jones said, “Coach made that decision. Obviously, we are going to stick behind it as coaches. We are going to do what the hell we are told.”
Yes, that is true. Do what you are told, and respect the head coaches’ decision. But also, these miscommunications should not be happening so close to gameday in the first place. If they are happening among the coaches, then no wonder the players are perplexed at times too — to where you have alignment mistakes, or special teams blunders (i.e. Joel Bitonio getting overloaded on the blocked kick in overtime). Get it under control, Hue.
7. Jake Burns on Browns Film Review: If you haven’t been following, Jake Burns on @BrownsFilmBDN has been doing an insane amount of work breaking down Browns film all preseason and now in Week 1. In the Twitter moment below, he looked at 60 plays from Week 1 alone! I have to admit, it has discouraged me a bit from doing my own film review like I have in the past, because I know how time consuming it is, and before I can get to it, I see that Jake has already covered it all. I think I will try to do a post mid-week that embeds several of his clips for key plays, though, to help highlight his work while offering my own assessment.
8. The Little Things Add Up: In his press conference this week, Browns defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was asked about whether the Browns should’ve scored on LB Joe Schobert’s fumble return in overtime. He thinks they should have, and said what happened on the play:
On if he addressed not scoring on LB Joe Schobert’s fumble recovery in OT when blockers were available:
“Yes. In fact, I have addressed it. Would you be talking about 95 (Garrett)? Yes. We did. We have in all of our takeaways. I thought we had two legitimate chances in those takeaways of scoring with them. One of the things that we do is we have a scheme. We have a way that we practice. I think that my special teams background helps me. I was a special teams coordinator, years that I did all of that stuff. I thought that we had it set up pretty good. We could have turned and blocked one more person. We did not. Then we blocked in the back, affected field position and made it a longer field goal. We can’t do those things. We over-emphasize that. I thought that the head coach did a good job with that today in our film work that we did today with the team. We had already covered it defensively, and we had a chance to re-cover it again because we talk about how that type of a play can be the reason that you win or lose a game. It was one of the reasons that we tied the game.”
On if the team would have scored on Schobert’s fumble recovery if a Browns player blocked Steelers C Maurkice Pouncey:
“He would have scored. I really do believe that. That is how we have it schematically understood. Especially when a guy is trailing a play like that and you know that you can’t make a legal block, you do not block him. You do not block. You turn and find other work, but do not block that person and lose field position because of it.”
9. NFL Week 2 Picks: I went 10-5-1 in Week 1. Here are my Week 2 picks, along with a few notes.
- I am really pushing it with seven picks for road teams to win! Unfortunately, the Browns aren’t one of them. Some of it has to do with injuries. The Falcons lost two key defensive players, I don’t know what to make of the Titans’ situation, and Aaron Rodgers won’t have his mobility if he plays (but they might not have won anyone against a tough Vikings team).
- Teams with their stock up last week get rewarded, like the Chiefs over the Steelers and the Jets over the Dolphins. Teams with the stock down, like Buffalo, Oakland, and Detroit, have the opposite effect going for them.
- My game of the week would be New England vs. Jacksonville, a re-match of the AFC Championship from a year ago. I expect a very physical game, with the Patriots still coming out on top.
- The pick I feel least confident in is the Giants vs. Cowboys on Sunday Night Football. I don’t know what to make of Dallas, and the Giants are intriguing because of Saquon Barkley but just haven’t sustained winning lately.
- The Bears earned some brownie points for their effort in Week 1. The loss was a big letdown, but I think they learn this week and finish for a dominant game.
10. Predicting the Browns’ Week 2 Inactives: I predict the following players will be inactive for Sunday’s game against the Saints:
Projected Inactives: QB Drew Stanton, WR Josh Gordon, TE Seth DeValve, DE Emmanuel Ogbah, DE Ifeadi Odenigbo, LB Christian Kirksey, and CB Tavierre Thomas.
I feel pretty good about getting all the inactives correct this week. Stanton should be down again for not needing three quarterbacks. Gordon, DeValve, Ogbah, and Kirksey are already ruled out, leaving just two players to predict. Odenigbo was inactive last week, and I think Thomas will be down with CB E.J. Gaines back now.