On Sunday, the Cleveland Browns take on the Houston Texans in Week 2 for their home opener. Below, we analyze a few advantages, disadvantages, or general thoughts about the two teams before getting to our predictions for the game.
Former Browns on the Texans
- “Oh, you mean RB Duke Johnson and TE Darren Fells, right?” No — the former Browns running back is now on the Jaguars’ practice squad, and Fells has joined the Lions. This year, there are quite a few former members of the Browns who are starting or playing key roles for the Texans.
- On offense, with QB Deshaun Watson out with his situation, the Texans are starting QB Tyrod Taylor. He was last a starter in 2018 with the Browns. The past two years, he was a backup for the Chargers. Now, he’s back in a starting role and got off to a great start last week with 2 touchdown passes, 0 interceptions, and 291 yards. He’s also mobile — but historically, he was a guy who was a bit “safe” with the football most times to minimize the amount of turnovers. Cleveland’s defense did an awe-inspiring job containing Watson on his scrambles last year, so hopefully they can do it with Taylor too, who is now in his 11th year in the NFL.
- Next up is Pharaoh Brown, who was a backup tight end for the Browns in 2019. Now in his second year with the Texans, he is the team’s starter after Fells’ departure. Last week, Brown hauled in 4 catches for 67 yards. He still has a lot of family and friends who are Browns fans, and knows a lot of players on the team, so he’s amped up to face them:
Pharaoh Brown on returning to Cleveland: 'I want to go out there and dominate those guys. I have a bunch of family and friends who are Browns fans. Those Cleveland Browns fans talk the most stuff you can ever believe. I know all those guys. I'm coming hard. Excited to go back'— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) September 13, 2021
- On defense, LB Christian Kirksey finds himself in a starting role with the Texans and even picked off QB Trevor Lawrence last week to go along with 6 tackles. CB Terrance Mitchell, who the Browns let walk in free agency, is also a starter and had 5 tackles last week. I think a lot of us were fans of Mitchell, so I have no reason to knock him. He doesn’t come up with many interceptions, but you always have to be alert for him trying to rip the football out after a catch or run. Lastly, the Texans have CB Tavierre Thomas on their roster — Browns fans would love if he were actually having to play defense for Houston, but he’s back to being a specialist on special teams.
On Guard or Taking Care of Business?
- The old way of anticipating Browns games might have been to think, “Crap, we lost a close one in Week 1, and the Texans were pretty explosive in their first game — what if they upset us?” But we need to put this game in a little bit of perspective.
- Heading into the season, the Texans were ranked as pretty much the worst team in football. They defeated the Jaguars in Week 1, but Jacksonville isn’t a good team either and has a wide array of problems already with Urban Meyer as head coach. Someone made a good comparison and said that Houston’s Week 1 win could end up turning out like Jacksonville in 2020, where they won their first game and then lost the rest.
- Among the Texans’ biggest issues will be generating pressure and stopping the run, which obviously is a benefit to Cleveland’s high-octane and efficient offense.
Solving the Injury Situation
- As Thomas Moore already highlighted, the Browns situation at left tackle remains uncertain for Sunday. We know that backup OT Chris Hubbard is out with a triceps injury, and starting LT Jedrick Wills did not practice all week with an ankle injury. But the team did list Wills as questionable, so there’s a remote chance he could play. The more likely scenarios would see either rookie OT James Hudson III making his NFL debut, or Blake Hance starting and trying to be a household name again. Between the two, I really hope that Hance gets the start.
- The other position of interest if at linebacker, where Anthony Walker is on IR. I hope the Browns let rookie Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah gets the bulk of Walker’s reps — he has so much potential to be an impact player, and we’ll only get to see that with a higher volume of reps.
- Coming back from injury will be Grant Delpit, who should be worked into the rotation. So after the team really only had John Johnson III last week, they should have their full toolbox of Johnson, Delpit, and Ronnie Harrison this week.
Here are predictions from multiple staff members at DBN.
Chris Pokorny: “The Browns’ offense should not only click on all cylinders again, their defense should be forcing quite a few punts early on, which will feel a bit surreal after knowing how hard it was to get Kansas City off the field in our last two games against them. Cleveland will coast against a bad Texans team.” Browns 34, Texans 17
Thomas Moore: “The Browns are coming off a frustrating loss to the Kansas City Chiefs and are looking to get their playoff run on track. The Houston Texans will be served up to a rabid home crowd on Sunday in the NFL equivalent of a college team hosting a patsy for Homecoming. The Browns are too good for the Texans, despite Houston boasting a roster of more former Browns than should be allowed by league rules, and Cleveland will send the fans home happy after an easy victory over Houston.” Browns 31, Texans 10
Barry Shuck: “The fact that the Texans killed the Jaguars does not tell the story of this Houston squad. Everyone will beat Jacksonville this year. The Texans arguably have the very worst mix of players in the league. They could go 1-16 easily. There is such a huge talent void between the Browns and Texans. This game won’t be close - at any point.” Browns 31, Texans 10
Who do you think will win, Browns fans? Let us know in the comments section below.