Happy Saturday one and all.
We talked with Chris Pokorny of Dawgs by Nature to see what on earth is going on with the Cleveland Browns.
1. The Browns sit at 4-3 and in a wild card spot in the playoffs. How are Browns fans feeling about their season thus far?
It has been a mixed bag, with it learning toward disappointing and optimistic at the same time. How can two opposite feelings be felt at the same time? For as much as some fans don’t care for Deshaun Watson, the expectation was that 2023 was the year that the team should be a major threat in the AFC, ready to make a big playoff push. Instead, it’s been disappointing to see Watson either not performing well, or sidelined and the team forced to start the likes of Dorian Thompson-Robinson and P.J. Walker. On top of that, Nick Chubb, who is the team’s best offensive player and beloved by all, suffered a terrible knee injury in Week 2. Despite that doom-and-gloom, the defense ranks near the top of the NFL in multiple categories, and the team got by with a 2-2 record with those backup quarterbacks. There is still that hope that if Watson and the offense can click, then the Browns can really catch fire. But we’re also getting close to the half-way point of the season and don’t have a lot more games to “waste,” so-to-speak.
2. Seems like Deshaun Watson is still trying to get healthy, so is it going to continue to be P.J Walker or will Dorian Thompson-Robinson going to get a shot?
You never know with Watson, lol. Heading into the week, I was expecting to see P.J. Walker get the start again. Watson practiced this week, though, and on Friday, head coach Kevin Stefanski announced that he will get the start against Arizona. The last two times the team “expected” him to start, he was a late scratch a month ago against Baltimore, and then he played a few snaps against the Indianapolis Colts before giving way to Walker again. You would hope that time has healed his shoulder injury, but Browns fans just want this shoulder injury drama to be over with. Then, we can get back to discussing how Watson’s on-the-field performance still isn’t worth what the team gave up for him.
3. The Cardinals had the Ravens and Browns back-to-back on the schedule. The offensive performance was miserable from the Cardinals against the Ravens, what do the Browns do that will make this performance just as if not more miserable?
The Browns’ defense features a lot of aggressiveness that relies on instincts. Sometimes, that comes back to bite them against mobile quarterbacks who run the read-option well, or who can extend plays with their feet to find a late-breaking receiver downfield. However, if an offense doesn’t have a good pulse on the Browns’ pass-rush, they are doomed, which has happened to more than half of the teams Cleveland has faced this year. It’s not luck that the Browns rank 1st in the league defensively, 3rd in sacks per pass attempt, and 1st on third down defense. There are some oddities, like Cleveland ranking 29th in the red zone and 32nd in goal-to-go situations. Cleveland’s defense has also had some “bad individual quarters,” followed by domination. For example, the Ravens scored like 21 points in the second quarter, but were shut down the rest of the game. The Seahawks had 17 points in the first quarter last week, but were basically shut down the rest of the way. Given the fact that Arizona will have a new quarterback on Sunday, I’m expecting less-than-desirable results for their offense, since it’s not easy to come in and have to be ready for the speed with which the Browns’ defense plays with.
4. Give me one offensive player not named Deshaun Watson that needs to step up for the Browns to have a shot to make the playoffs and potentially make a run?
I will go with rookie third round wide receiver Cedric Tillman. This week, the Browns traded starting receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones to the Lions. Peoples-Jones was a good receiver, but the team just wasn’t targeting him at all this season despite him having the most wide receiver snaps. Tillman had a promising preseason, and the team often plays in three receiver sets. Amari Cooper and Elijah Moore are two of those three receivers, and the third spot could go to Tillman. Perhaps he can find the spark or chemistry with Watson that didn’t seem to develop with Peoples-Jones.
5. Last week I was certain the Cardinals/Ravens under 44 was hitting and then the Ravens decided to let the Cardinals score 17 fourth quarter points. With the potential Clayton Tune vs PJ Walker matchup, are you taking the over or under of 37.5 according to DraftKings Sportsbook?
Even though it was looking like that match-up initially, it will at the very least be Clayton Tune vs. Deshaun Watson now, with the chance that it’ll still be Kyler Murray vs. Deshaun Watson. Given Watson’s slow starts to games, and the fact that I think the Browns’ defense will make a first-time starter’s life a living hell, I think I would still take the under on that low point total.