The trade deadline has come and gone but the Cleveland Browns have a game to play this Sunday. Like every other game, this game seems to be a must-win for Cleveland. After a heartbreaking loss to the Seattle Seahawks, the Browns come back home to take on their 3rd NFC West opponent this time the Arizona Cardinals.
If I were to tell you that after making the postseason in 2021, the Arizona Cardinals would be in the middle of a rebuild you probably wouldn’t believe me. They are. Kliff Kingsbury and Steve Keim are out. Jonathan Gannon and Monti Ossenfort are in.
Considering how the Cardinals were trending down, a rebuild was inevitable but the fact that it happened so quickly is surprising. The team is 1-7, but it competes every single week despite the roster deficiencies.
Offensively, if you were to look at the numbers the unit is below average in specific areas but they are 4th in rushing offense and 11th in rushing EPA per play which is surprising when you look at who they have. When it comes to the quarterback position, quarterback Kyler Murray is still recovering from a torn ACL but he is inching closer to returning to the field. Quarterback Josh Dobbs (which a small minority of Browns fans were obsessed with) was the starting quarterback to start the year but he was traded to the Minnesota Vikings.
If Kyler isn’t able to go, rookie Clayton Tune will start.
In terms of weapons, the wide receiver room isn’t necessarily the best but there is some talent there. Wide receivers Marquise Brown, Michael Wilson and Rondale Moore lead the group and tight end Trey McBride has gotten more opportunities with Zach Ertz being on injured reserve.
Defensively, the unit is not great.
It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone considering how the team is devoid of talent. The defensive line group isn’t really strong, but the linebacker room has linebacker Kyzir White who came over from Philadelphia with Gannon and the secondary has safety Budda Baker. The defense has made improvements over the past couple of weeks so it shouldn’t be overlooked.
There is something there but not a lot.
Here are 3 visiting players to watch for Cleveland fans:
RB Emari Demercado
With running back James Conner being on injured reserve, the Cardinals have turned to running back Emari Demercado to carry the load. The undrafted rookie out of TCU played his way onto the 53-man roster. Demercado got his opportunity against the Bengals when James Conner went down and it’s safe to say he made the most out of his opportunity.
When you watch Demercado, the two things that come to mind is his toughness and his patience. When he runs, he runs with a point to prove. He has good balance and he has the ability to finish through contact. In terms of his patience, he tends to wait and then go upfield when the hole opens up. His vision & acceleration is decent, and he has a slight burst.
He’s not James Conner but he’s filled in well while Conner has been out.
One of the biggest strengths for Arizona has been their running game this season and Cleveland’s run defense has been tested for the past few weeks against Indianapolis and Seattle. It’s imperative for the Browns to stop the Cardinals running game in order to make this team one-dimensional.
TE Trey McBride
Another player that has stepped up as of late is tight end Trey McBride. Arizona drafted McBride to be the eventual replacement for tight end Zach Ertz, who could potentially end up not being on the team next season.
McBride is athletic, a willing blocker and has the ability to be a positive impact for the Cardinals passing game. With Ertz being out, the 2022 2nd round pick out of Colorado State saw his usage go up and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. McBride had his breakout game against the Baltimore Ravens last week catching 10 passes for 94 yards and a touchdown.
Arizona drafted McBride for a reason and it’s not wild to say that he is likely going to be a solid contributor for Arizona in the future. For Cleveland, they have done a good job in keeping tight ends in check this season but McBride can be someone who can find ways to give Cleveland issues. Despite who they have at quarterback, McBride is someone to watch for.
WR Marquise Brown
Deciding to stay on the offensive side of the ball, if there is someone who you should keep a very close eye on it’s wide receiver Marquise Brown. Browns fans are familiar with Brown considering his time with the Baltimore Ravens but since being traded to the Arizona Cardinals due to wanting a bigger role, he is essentially the main guy by default. After missing half of last season with a fractured foot Brown looks to be fully healthy. Brown can find ways to stretch a defense with his speed and find ways to contribute.
Brown has found ways to get the best of cornerbacks and he can find ways to break a game open. Cleveland’s secondary has struggled as of late but Brown is someone who can be a game-changer in the passing game (even if the quarterback is not settled). Look for Cleveland to find ways to limit Brown.