CO-WRITTEN BY JAKOB ROSATI, NICK KERVER, AND CHI OKARE
Week 2 Takeaways:
Overall, the offensive line looked better than last week and Odell Beckham Jr. had his way. That is all we can ask for since not many players on the Browns had played together during the preseason. I like Jarvis Landry returning punts and the energy he brought, but we need to see more of him on offense.
Baker Mayfield went 19/35, with a 54.3% completion rate, 325 yards, an average of 9.3 yards per throw, a touchdown, and an interception. The stat line wasn’t terrible and something we shouldn’t be worried about. Certainly, not anything to complain about. It appeared at one point that Baker was forcing it to Odell and left many receivers open. Maybe that had something to do with Gregg Williams or maybe Baker feels the pressure of having someone like Odell on the field. He was overthrowing his receivers and on a complete, healthy NFL team, those passes will be intercepted. Baker needs to take his time, breath, and read the defense more clearly.
Freddie Kitchens tallied his first NFL win Monday night. Honestly, I liked Kitchens a whole lot more going into the season. The offense has looked like a fraction of what it was supposed to be. He called or at least let Baker throw and then take a hit on the last play of the game as opposed to giving it to Nick Chubb. Chubb hasn’t even attempted 20 carries in a game yet. That concerns me as does the discomfort apparent in Baker’s play.
The defense was the one glaring points of strong play Monday night. They held the New York Jets to 3 points. That being said, the Jets were decimated by injuries. Eric Murray filled in for Damraious Randall nicely and Joe Schobert showed again why he deserved to be in the Pro Bowl last season. Myles Garrett looked amazing. Although he may have had too many penalties, he still recorded a monstrous 3 sacks. That is something Garrett can clean up. Some of the roughing the passer flags were questionable, seeing it is hard for Garrett to not make the play when running that fast, being that heavy and the ball leaving the quarterback’s hand seconds before the hit.
Another bright spot to take away from the Jet’s game was the Browns’ special teams play. Their two rookies, kicker Austin Seibert and punter Jamie Gillan, both had great games. Seibert was 3/3 on his field goal tries, with a long of 48, and made both extra points. Gillan landed 5 out of his 6 punts inside the Jets 20-yard line and was even named the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week for week 2. For a unit, especially kicking, that was completely unproven and a huge question mark coming into the season, their performance is a big positive for the future.
Week 3 Preview:
Browns (1-1) vs. Rams (2-0)
Where: FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland, OH
When: 8:20 PM EST, Sunday, September 22
Weather: 75 degrees, 50% chance of showers
Last Meeting: October 25, 2015 – (Then St. Louis) Rams won 24-6
Betting Line: Rams -3; O/U 49
Injuries from Week 2/Outlook: The Browns’ starting tight end David Njoku was ruled out on 9/18 with a likely broken wrist.
Whether his wrist is actually broken or the scans come out negative, the Browns will be without one of their biggest weapons on Sunday night. This leaves them with Pharoah Brown, Demetrius Harris, and Ricky Seals-Jones at the tight end spot. As there is a chance the Browns already may be missing Rashard Higgins, one of Baker’s favorite targets, they will need their stars, Beckham and Landry, to show up big time.
Myles Garrett vs Aaron Donald: This Sunday Night Football match-up features two of the best pass rushers in the game. Garrett has been an absolute monster in the first two weeks of the season, leading the league with 5 sacks. He has to watch the roughing the passer penalties going forward. Aaron Donald has not had a great start, with just 2 tackles and 2 QB hits on the season, yet all eyes will be on him during the game.
Evidently, the Browns are well aware of Donald’s talent, and will likely be double teaming him for much of the game-perhaps assigning this job to guard Joel Bitonio and center JC Tretter. However, Donald lines up all over the defensive line so it will be interesting to see the impact he has.
The Browns secondary is still a relative unknown for Sunday. With safety Damarious Randall still in the concussion protocol, it is impossible to know if he will be available on Sunday. Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams got off to a somewhat shaky start in Week 1 against the Titans, but were much better against the Jets. However, with the combination of backup quarterbacks and terrible offensive line play from New York, it’s hard to take anything away from that game. An extremely potent offense like the Rams will definitely expose any weaknesses the Browns have in their secondary, so they will have to step up and hope Randall is able to play.
Jared Goff: The Rams’ young quarterback is coming off his second straight Pro Bowl appearance, and a Super Bowl loss. However much his success can be attributed to his coach Sean McVay’s offensive scheme, it’s hard to debate that Goff has been a star and showed up under the bright lights for the most part. An interesting stat: Goff is 17-2 in his career in Week 1 to week 8. Goff has added to this with the Rams’ 2 early wins this year, so it will be interesting to see if he continues to play well early on in the season.
OBJ: The star wideout showed flashes of brilliance in Monday night’s win over the Jets and will be a player to watch (no pun intended) Sunday night. His spectacular one-handed catch in the 1st quarter and an 89-yard touchdown in the third showed his incredible talent. Beckham has received the most targets by far with 21 through the first two games, catching 13 of them. Expect OBJ to be Baker’s #1 option on Sunday.
The Browns’ next five opponents all started the season 2-0, so Cleveland will be tested on a weekly basis. All games are important, but the Browns only play 1 game in the division in their first 9 games. Looking at the other teams in the division, the Ravens have looked extremely impressive so far at 2-0, having scored 82 points in their first 2 games. The Bengals are 0-2, and look to be starting a rebuilding phase. Meanwhile, the Steelers are 0-2, but perhaps the bigger loss is that Big Ben was ruled out for the season with an elbow injury. This division looks as if it could be for the taking.
The Scottish Hammer: Jamie Gillan was named special teams player of the week for his week 2 performance against the Jets. Gillan had 6 punts for an average of 38 and a long of 47 yards, putting 5 of the 6 inside the 20. The defense may be prevalent in this game so field position will be key for momentum, especially for the Browns. Most importantly, Gillan has verified the Browns’ decision to choose him over Britton Colquitt as the punter.
Second Primetime Game in a Row: This is the first time in a while that the Browns have had 2 primetime games in a row, and the first Sunday Night Football game in Cleveland since 2008. We will see how Cleveland reacts, especially matching up to a team that just made the Super Bowl. The Dawg Pound will likely be more than ready.
Strange Scheduling: Major League Baseball decided last week to move the 1:00 Cleveland Indians game on Sunday to a 6:30 start time, meaning both teams will be playing primetime games on national television. This is the last Tribe home game of the season and they are in the middle of the playoff chase, so this scheduling decision with the Browns taking the evening attention is shocking.
Jakob – 23-20 Rams; Austin 27-13 Rams; Braden 31-14 Rams; Evan 24-23 Browns; Nick – 24-17 Rams; Chi- 28-20 Rams