The Browns finally had their first home game against a Houston Texans team that before the season began everyone had already written off as a very bad team. Jacksonville will tell you otherwise as the Texans thumped the Jaguars 37-21 with a backup QB and rolled to a 27-7 halftime lead.
Houston has several former Browns on their roster including TE Pharaoh Brown, LB Christian Kirksey, DB Tavierre Thomas and QB Tyrod Taylor who left the game with a hamstring issue.
Let’s get at it. Who played well for the Browns? Who didn’t?
QB Baker Mayfield - The Browns signalcaller started the game red hot and halfway through the second period was 9-9 with 111 passing yards. His eight carries was more so being flushed from the pocket which provided his rushing touchdown. Showed poise after tossing the interception and kept Cleveland alive with two good drives for scores. Only 213 total yards passing, but was effective when called upon.
WR/KR Demetric Felton - This kid is shifty and will make players miss. Led all receivers with 51 passing yards plus had two big returns - one in kickoff whereas the other a punt. His 122 total yards led the team for the day. On his 33-yard touchdown catch on a swing pass in the right flats he made four Texans miss. Muffed a punt, but recovered it.
LB Malcolm Smith - With Anthony Walker out the veteran Smith filled in admirably. Led the defense in total tackles with eight. Smith is excellent in pass coverage of whatever back attempts to sneak out of the backfield. Made a crucial interception in the third quarter at Houston’s 18-yard line which changed the game. Smith did have a facemask penalty in the fourth quarter, but overall was all over the field.
Special Teams - So much went right in this game. Felton has solidified the return game and broke a kickoff for 25-yards. Kickoff and punt return coverage was awesome with Elijah Lee, A.J. Green, Mack Wilson and D’Ernest Johnson on most of the tackles. K Chase McLaughlin made his only field goal attempt of 30-yards and was 4-4 in PATs. P Jamie Gillan netted one of his two punts inside the 20. Kickoff coverage for Coach Mike Priefer is outstanding.
Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt - Hard to separate these two, but each has his own running style. Early on, Hunt was dominate with several slashing runs. Late, it was the Chubb Show culminated by his 26-yard touchdown run behind a crushing block by RG Wyatt Teller along with DPJ with 7:41 remaining in the game that proved to be the difference. Unlike most games, neither was utilized in the passing game, but ran with purpose today. Chubb finished with 95-yards while Hunt had 51.
Pass rush - All anyone heard about this new revamped Browns defense was how these new guys could get after the quarterback. With only one returning starter, after two games, very little of that analysis is true. For much of the game, Texans QB Tyrod Taylor had enough time to check his progressions. When his backup Davis Mills came in, the story was pretty much the same. Except for the final Texans’ drive in which every down was a passing down and the pass rush was jailbreak, the pass rush from Myles Garrett, Jadeveon Clowney, Jordan Elliott, Malik Jackson and Takk McKinley has been stagnant. The only sack of the day was not from a defensive lineman. Zero batted balls and out of seven tackles for loss, only two came from the D-Line.
CB Greg Newsome - Today the rookie had his indoctrination into life in the NFL. Several times he was playing too soft and the result was double-digit gains. The youngster must learn to turn his head when the ball is in flight. His PI call was from not turning around, which if he did would certainly have been an easy interception instead of a 27-yard penalty on a key third down play. Newsome had issues covering WR Brandin Cooks who finished with a team-high 78 yards. Also, in the NFL, the offense will call it a “rub” while the defense will label it a “pick.” Regardless, the two-yard TD pass to Cooks in the third quarter was Newsome’s man. This young man needs to understand that when two receivers are lined up as bookends next to each other, a pick is inevitable and don’t get boxed out thus leaving your man wide open.
Milk Bones – like a diet Snickers bar
Tight end usage - The Browns might have the best overall tight end group in the league. Until today, these guys were mainly used as blockers. Harrison Bryant, David Njoku and Austin Hooper saw 12 total targets while Bryant was second in receiving yards. Thank you for using these guys.
LB Sione Takitaki - The strongside linebacker will give everything he has during a game. The first half was owned by Takitaki including a crucial fumble recovery. He also helps to anchor the Special Teams units with excellent coverage. He has become a sure tackler and had one tackle for loss.
S Grant Delpit - Came on strong in the second half. His seven-yard sack of Mills on the Texans’ final drive became too much for their offense to recover. He was sneaky in his approach and only sprinted into the hole at the last possible moment to where Mills didn’t have a chance. Hopefully his injury days are over.
Rightside offensive line - Early on, the failures on running plays was towards RG Wyatt Teller and RT Jack Conklin. The pair did settle although Conklin had a holding penalty in the third quarter plus allowed a sack early. Chubb’s game sealing TD run was between Teller and center J.C. Tretter with Conklin pushing his man out and DPJ moving a body on the second level.
What needs to change with the Browns anemic pass rush?
This poll is closed
Provide more stunts
Be patient - it will come together