Welcome to Week 2 of the NFL! This weekly column includes a lot of loose ends leading up to Monday’s game.
Pokorny’s 10 Things to Watch in Week 2 - Browns and the NFL
1. A New York State of Mind: My brother and I took an 8-day vacation in mid-August to New York City, the same time the Cleveland Indians were playing the Yankees and Mets in back-to-back series. It was the first time we had ever been to New York, and when either of us take a vacation, we don’t do it to relax — we make sure we squeeze every minute of sightseeing in as we possibly can.
I wish I could share more pictures, but I took over 2,200 pictures and videos over the 8-day span, so weeding them down would be a bit of a tedious task. The first day we were there, we got to see the taping of the final Stephen Colbert show of the season — navigating the subway system for the first time was an experience in itself, and I loved seeing how many $1 pizza slice stores were scattered throughout Manhattan.
We rode bicycles through Prospect Park and Central Park. We walked the Brooklyn Bridge. We went to see spots from TV shows or movies, like the Ghostbusters firehouse, library, and Shandor hotel; the exterior of the restaurant from Seinfeld; the outside of the Law & Order courthouse; the Bethesda Fountain from John Wick 2 (and Home Alone); and several other tie-ins to Home Alone 2, like the Plaza Hotel and spots in Central Park.
We saw all of the famous spots, like Times Square, the Empire State Building, the 9/11 Memorial, 30 Rockefeller Center, the Statue of Liberty, and so many other things that would take me forever to list off. And we went to our Yankees and Indians game — both of which we lost. The one picture I included is me (left) and my brother in the museum at the Mets’ stadium, with a lookalike statue of Mr. Met.
We never made it over to East Rutherford, New Jersey, so see the stadium where the Jets and Giants play. It is the sight of tonight’s Monday Night Football game between the Jets and Browns. I love getting a perspective of other major cities — it makes my personal connection to the game that much stronger, being able to draw on my experience of having been there. Sadly, the other two major cities I’ve been to this year — San Diego and Orlando — do not have NFL franchises.
2. Major QB Injuries: Building off the previous story, I had gone to two Indians games in New York this year, but I had yet to go to an Indians game in Cleveland in 2019. That changed on Sunday, as I used the Browns’ Monday schedule to my advantage. Because of that, I wasn’t 100% locked in to what was happening during the 1:00 PM games in the NFL on Sunday.
Understandably, one of the first headlines I read on Twitter were about the injuries to Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger and Saints QB Drew Brees. The Steelers do not look like a good team through two weeks, something I expected them to struggle with. That creates more opportunities for the Browns to seize the division. The Saints, on the other hand, still have a decent option in QB Teddy Bridgewater for the next six week; if he can get them to .500, I’m sure the Saints will take it.
Then I see other injuries, like the Eagles losing Nelson Agholor (concussion, but only for the first half), DeSean Jackson (groin), and Alshon Jeffery (calf), with QB Carson Wentz leaving briefly. All of those injuries make me think to QB Baker Mayfield, and the hits he took last week and how not having him under center would be a disaster. My fingers are crossed that the gameplan has been altered this week to play to the team’s strengths.
3. Elijah McGuire Getting a Callup: QB Drew Stanton was placed on IR on Monday, and RB Elijah McGuire was promoted from the practice squad to the 53-man roster. McGuire played for running backs coach Stump Mitchell for two years in New York, so there’s a chance that we could see McGuire as part of the running back rotation this week while RB Dontrell Hilliard is sidelined with a concussion.
Last year, McGuire had no blocking support as he was only getting 0.36 yards up the field on his carries before the first contact from a defender would occur. In McGuire’s three starts from Week 15-17 last year, he averaged 2.4 yards per carry, but caught the ball quite well.
No running back had a lower yards-before-contact average than Elijah McGuire. No running back was even close. pic.twitter.com/AP06xEE3ke— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) February 23, 2019
4. Not Having Damarious Randall: I think the Browns’ defensive line will get back on track this week, but now the team’s safety depth has me concerned since FS Damarious Randall is out with a concussion. Eric Murray and Morgan Burnett is not a very inspiring tandem, but Cleveland might get away with that this week since Trevor Siemian is starting at quarterback. Siemian’s career accuracy is below average and he is prone to throwing a lot of interceptions, so if Cleveland’s pass-rush can rattle him early, then hopefully Randall will be good-to-go against the Rams in Week 3. Either way, Randall won’t be able to do anything to stick it to former Browns defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.
5. Chris Smith Will Play on MNF: One of the emotional stories that is sure to be featured during tonight’s game is that DE Chris Smith has decided to play against the Jets. If the rotation stays the same, he won’t see a ton of reps — he only played 9 snaps (15%) against the Titans last week — but it’ll still be something his teammates can rally behind a bit.
#Browns DE Chris Smith will play tonight following the tragic death of his girlfriend and mother of his month-old daughter last week. Statement from Smith & his spokesperson pic.twitter.com/bEEt8ox7oL— Daryl Ruiter (@RuiterWrongFAN) September 16, 2019
6. White Uniforms Tonight? I haven’t seen any information posted on what color uniforms the Browns will wear tonight, but the team did post a travel video of the team headed to New Jersey. At the beginning of it, you can see a big rack of white jerseys.
New Jersey#CLEvsNYJ pic.twitter.com/wGfiYfyfVX— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) September 15, 2019
7. More Attention to Detail: I love reading Jake Burns’ Twitter feed after the game, as he breaks down plays and points out so many details. His great efforts are one of the reasons that I don’t break down much film any more — I know how long it takes me to do that stuff (and guessing at things too), yet he does it in his sleep and is much more knowledgable on the subject matter than I am.
One of the things he noticed last week was how the selling of the playaction fake for Baker Mayfield, Nick Chubb, and the offensive line just wasn’t quite right. It may be very subtle — a 0.5 second sell job that needs to be added — but it can influence plays in a major way:
I'm probably just a moron here, but there's not much going on with these fakes to truly sell run action.— Jake Burns (@jake_burns18) September 12, 2019
Doesn't feel like all box players are selling like necessary. A few are decent, but this doesn't feel crisp to me. pic.twitter.com/3ngG8qYIer
8. Stopping Le’Veon Bell: The scouting report is that RB Le’Veon Bell is still a very talented back, but he’s behind an offensive line that still doesn’t excel in run blocking. Another film reviewer who looked at last week’s Jets game noted how the Bills run blitzed very often, something Cleveland could be looking to do if they don’t believe in Siemian.
I wish I would have tracked how often the Bills run blitzed, it was the most I have ever seen. Note for @jake_burns18.— Cover 1 (@Cover_1_) September 11, 2019
2nd and 8 pic.twitter.com/LyoNojwOOh
9. NFL Week 2 Picks: Here are my Week 2 picks, along with a few notes.
- Last week, I began the season at 12-3-1.
- I’m sharing my picks late this week since Cleveland plays on Monday, but the picks were all genuine. I’m off to a pretty good start again with an 11-4 record. If the Browns don’t let us down, then I’ll have 12-win weeks in back-to-back weeks, which would probably be one of the best prediction starts I’ve ever gotten off to.
10. Predicting the Browns’ Week 2 Inactives: I predict the following players will be inactive for Sunday’s game against the Titans:
Projected Inactives: RB Dontrell Hilliard, WR Taywan Taylor, TE Ricky Seal-Jones, OL Kendall Lamm, DE Genard Avery, LB Adarius Taylor, and S Damarious Randall.
I was disastrous at guessing the inactives last week, as the only one that I had right was Takitaki (due to injury). This week, I know I’ll at least have four of the picks right (unless someone goes on IR for McGuire), because Hilliard, Lamm, Taylor, and Randall are already ruled out this week to injury.
My other three inactive picks are Taylor, Seal-Jones, and Avery, all three of whom were inactive last week. Taylor would be needed if WR Rashard Higgins can’t play, but I think he’ll give-it-a-go this week. I wish Avery would be playing and getting solid reps, but he seems to have fallen out of favor for whatever reason.