The Cleveland Browns are officially entering the portion of their schedule where things can get pretty, pretty interesting. Heading into the week, they were favorites, on the road, against the Indianapolis Colts. While the line has since moved to about even, this is the first time in the 2017 season where Cleveland is not expected to lose by at least one touchdown.
While this may seem like a good thing to fans, Week 3 also doubles as a game that could be a huge referendum on where the team stands for the season. Are they the team that battled Pittsburgh in Week 1, or are they the team that lost by two scores to the Ravens? WFNY discusses.
Cleveland Browns offense versus Colts defense
In seven words or less, please describe how bad the Browns need to win in Week 3.
Gerberry: Must move forward, beat bad teams.
Gilbert: We have to beat the Luck-less Colts.
Josh: Must beat horrible Colts team.
Bode: Browns fan sanity is at stake Sunday.
Scott: The game everyone else should avoid watching.
Dave: Really, really, really, really, really, really, bad.
Isaiah Crowell wants more money and more carries. Should the Browns feed the Crow? How do they get their running game going this week?
Gerberry: Regardless of his statements (which are ridiculous given his AYC and just the sum total of his play in general), they HAVE to run the ball to be able to win. This offense, especially with the injury to Corey Coleman and all-around poopiness of Kenny Britt, is not built to win shootouts. Keep long drives going, give the defense a reason to bite on play action and keep your defense off the field.
Gilbert: As I stated on Tuesday, Hue Jackson must give the running game a chance. I would give Crowell a shot to get out of his funk and give him a good consistent workload. But, Duke Johnson would be used a lot more in my gameplan. Johnson needs to get more than a handful of carries, because he can be a real playmaker for the offense.
Josh: While I don’t like how he is so focused on his next contract rather than doing whatever he can to help the team win, Hue Jackson must give the ball to Crow and the rest of the running backs more. It will not only open up the pass game a bit, but will also take some of the pressure of DeShone Kizer as well.
Bode: Crowell knows he isn’t getting paid if he continues to play as he did the first two weeks, which hopefully was all he was attempting to say in his clunky own way. If the Browns are not going to attempt to get Crowell into a rhythm with more runs, then they need to do so with Duke Johnson or Matt Dayes. Throwing all those deep passes doesn’t work as well if the linebackers and safeties aren’t inching up to the line.
Scott: Yes, the Browns should continue running the ball. Yes, Isaiah Crowell needs to execute better when he has it in his hands. This piece perfectly laid out the issues at hand. Sure, the offensive line isn’t exactly living up to expectations, but Crowell hasn’t made good decisions either. This is the ultimate get-right game. If No. 34 doesn’t put up, it could double as the get-out game.
Dave: The Browns should feed the Crow, and the he should perform better. The money will come to him if he runs like we know he can.
DeShone Kizer had a migraine and so did fans from watching the Browns turn it over five times. What should be the game plan in the passing game this week to fix the issues turning it over?
Gerberry: I expect more of Week 1 Kizer now that his migraine has passed. More ball control, shorter throws, swing passes out to Duke “I’m Going To Stiff Arm You So Bad Your Grandchildren Will Feel It” Johnson. The only reason to be throwing 30 percent of your passes deep downfield is if the defense is biting on routes and/or play action.
Gilbert: Play action, Play action, and more play action. But, that would consist of the Browns running the ball on a consistent basis, so the Colts would have to honor the run game. Play action can help alleviate Kizer and his workload. I would also like to see more screens with the running backs. Anything to make Kizer’s job easier.
Josh: Stop forcing throws. If you don’t have it, throw it away. There were multiple times last week that Kizer threw it into double and even triple coverage, that can’t happen. Also, as I said in my previous answer, running the ball will allow the Browns to use play action and give Kizer more time.
Bode: A big way to fix the offense is to get to play the Colts defense instead of the Ravens or Steelers. It’d be nice to see Hue Jackson give Kizer some misdirection reads (have him look left at the snap with opposite motion routes to open up the receivers on the right), but Kizer mostly just needs to continue to learn to read defenses. Growing pains are expected.
Scott: The good news is, as inferred above, that the Indianapolis Colts are one of the worst defensive units in football, and can be exploited deep—one of the very ways the Browns have attempted to attack this season—ranking 31st through two weeks. The bad news is that they have a safety by the name of Malik Hooker waiting deep for DeShone Kizer to make a mistake. My hopes are for the Browns to use the run (as well as short routes against the zone) to set up the eventual deep ball. The one injury to watch will be Vontae Davis as he has the ability to take away one half of the field. Mistake free ball should get it done, but that’s also much easier said.
Dave: I’d love to see more short throws. Slants, screens, stuff to DeValve and Njoku. Easy throws for a rookie to move the chains.
The Colts have a much weaker defense than the Steelers and Ravens. How should the Browns exploit them?
Gerberry: Stretch your players out to the sides of the field. Indianapolis has trouble on the outsides with a lack of depth at cornerback. Get Duke and Njoku and Devalve out in space and use the sidelines to your advantage. Keep the ball away from Malik Hooker so as to not incur “why don’t we use Peppers this way” conversations.
Gilbert: I think the Browns and Kizer can exploit them in the pass game. But as I said earlier, the run game should be established, so the offense is more balanced. Kizer, though, should have a much simpler time throwing it against a Colts pass defense that has struggled quite a bit so far. After playing the Ravens and the Steelers, Kizer should feel relieved to see the struggling Colts pass defense.
Josh: Malik Hooker scares me at safety, especially with how often Kizer has thrown it at least 15 yards through the air the first two weeks. Outside of him, I think the Browns offense can do plenty of things against the Colts defense, especially if they win in the trenches, which they should. If the offensive line plays well, it will allow Kizer to have more and give Crowell plenty of holes downfield.
Bode: Goff did a great job looking off Hooker in Week 1. As a rookie, Hooker is over-aggressive and floats to where the quarterback looks. Add in some play-action and the Browns can take advantage of the rest of the Colts defensive backfield. On the ground, look for more power runs to the right where the Colts are giving up over five yards per carry.
Scott: See above. This is DeShone Kizer’s game to win. He just can’t force his throws.
Dave: I think a sensible balanced attack can do the trick. Don’t try to get it all in one play. Build drives, move the chains, and the points will come.
Cleveland Browns defense versus Indianapolis Colts
What should the Browns do to confuse and limit Jacoby Brissett?
Gerberry: If Peppers plays 10 yards closer to the line of scrimmage, that might cause the biggest confusion. If the Colts watched any tape and were able to find Jabrill on it at all, they will be shocked come Sunday when he’s closer to the line of scrimmage. Use Peppers athleticism to blitz and stunt against Brissett.
Gilbert: I think the Browns need to keep contain and not allow Jacoby Brissett to use his legs. Make him a pocket passer. Cleveland cannot allow him to get confidence by making a big run play.
Josh: Have Jabrill Peppers play closer to the line of scrimmage so he can make plays happen just by using his athleticism. Force the Colts to want to beat you deep, don’t just try to stop them from doing so. Take some chances and risks and see what a guy like him can do by himself. Would much rather see the Browns defense get beat deep because their playmakers are trying to make plays rather than standing 25 yards from the ball at t
Bode: The Browns defense has played it straight without a bunch of different concepts through the first two weeks other than to vary who is blitzing. Mixing up the coverage and looks more could shake Brissett out of any comfort zone he might have. Continuing to find ways to get pressure on him will be difficult but essential.
Scott: It seems simple, but every blitz needs to be complimented with a QB spy and double coverage on TY Hilton. I picture Schobert staying home with Jabrill Peppers helping either QB over the top and a LB/SS bracket of Jack Doyle underneath. I should do this for a living.
Dave: Blitz, blitz, blitz. Lets see some good pressure this week.
What should be the role of Jabrill Peppers this week?
Gerberry: Blitz, blitz, blitz. He almost came to the NFL as a linebacker, but in the first two weeks of the season, he might as well have just stood on the goalline and said: “Come get me”. He has speed and athleticism for days, lets see it.
Gilbert: I want him to be in the stratosphere of the line of scrimmage. The Browns should not worry about the deep pass against Brissett and the Colts. Peppers needs to be used as a downhill attacking safety who is used in a variety of roles and spots on the field. Stop limiting him.
Josh: Peppers was known for his athleticism and versatility in college, but Greg Williams has kind of taken that away from him given his gameplan. Just use the rookie as you would most other rookies in the league and go from there.
Bode: Everything and anything. I want to see him as the monster safety near the line, I want to see him blitz, I want to see him play back, and I want to see him play man-to-man coverage on tight ends. I’m still waiting for Gregg Williams to unlock our utility knife.
Scott: Over-the-top assistance on TY Hilton would be ideal. I too would love to see him blitz, but it’d be easy to call out when he’d have to get a running start from 25 yards out.
Dave: Maybe we have him 50 yards away from the line of scrimmage…
Is this the week the Browns finally limit the opposing tight end?
Gerberry: Depends on if Jamie Collins Sr. is out of the concussion protocol in time for Sunday’s game. That’s not a knock on James Burgess, but Collins is one of the best coverage linebackers in the league and should be able to shut down Jack Doyle. If Collins does not play, they need to be able to utilize safety help and cover up the tight end.
Gilbert: I think this is the week the Browns limit the opposing tight end because I just don’t think Brissett is a talented enough quarterback to exploit that weakness. As I showed in my film room, the Browns linebackers were a huge reason for Ben Watson’s big day. The Browns linebackers are better than that and I believe they can fix this problem.
Josh: Jack Doyle is good, but it just comes down to if Jacoby Brissett is good enough to get him the ball when he’s being pressured. You know Gregg Williams is going to draw up some good plays on defense, but…
Bode: Having Doyle catch a few balls underneath because Brissett is forced to dump things off is fine. Having him wide open and gifting the tight end to 20 yards on receptions over the middle is not acceptable. I don’t think the Browns will shut down Doyle, but he better not have a Ben Watson day after those holes in coverage last week either.
Scott: No. Until proven otherwise, I expect every tight end to carve up the Browns. Anything less than six catches for 60 yards and a TD would be a win for the Browns. That’s how bad things are.
Dave: Do the Colts have a tight end?
Cleveland Browns outlook
What do the Browns need to do in order to obtain their first 2017 victory?
Gerberry: Stay with the run game. If Crowell is unable to get it done, then the coaching staff needs to identify it and use Johnson or Matthew Dayes in the backfield to keep the running game going. Expecting DeShone Kizer to throw 35 times a game as a rookie is not a way to win a game.
Gilbert: Run the ball with consistency, stop the Colts run game and make Kizer’s job easier with play action, screens and simpler route combinations. Though, I think the biggest key is to not to commit turnovers because without giving the Colts a short field, I think the Browns can handle Brissett and their offense.
Josh: Against an Andrew Luck-less Colts team, I feel like they really have to mess up to not win this one. Just be yourselves, Browns.
Bode: Score more points than the Colts.
Scott: Win the turnover battle. The Colts’ defense is ripe for the picking. Keeping them on the field will be key.