Don’t forget … Broncos versus Browns is Saturday night!
What special tricks do you think offensive co-ordinator Freddie Kitchens has up his sleeve this week?
Bode: Kitchens has already used the Flex-bone, Wing-T, and varieties of no-back offenses– all with multiple run and pass options out of each. Still waiting for a Jet sweep pass to the running back on a wheel route.
Colosimo: Beats me…..I am not going to even attempt to predict what new things Freddie may incorporate this week.
Pat: We’ve seen a semi-Statue of Liberty, triple running backs, and a whole slew of other fun things. I’m going with quints this week. Five receivers to the right and a buck-naked bootleg from Baker Mayfield for 20 yards.
Gilbert: The tricks Kitchens will have to do are with his blocking scheme against Von Miller and Bradley Chubb. He needs to use chip blocks or extra aid on these two edge rushers to keep them off balance. Slowing them down should be a big priority for Kitchens.
Gerbs: Over the last five weeks, as all the trick plays have been thrown in at random, this could be the week where they have a trick look and run normal-ish plays. I mean you gotta zig when they think you’re going to zag, right?
Can the offensive line keep Mayfield from getting hit by a defense that features both Von Miller and Bradley Chubb?
Baker Mayfield has not been under pressure since Freddie Kitchens took over play-calling duties, but that could change against the Broncos Saturday on @nflnetwork per @NextGenStats pic.twitter.com/kN9B9wNyey
— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) December 11, 2018
Bode: Kitchens has been brilliant using schemes and action to reduce the aggressiveness of defensive fronts while providing help to the weakness at tackle along the line. Mayfield better read the defensive backfield quickly this week though because the Broncos defensive line generates a ton of heat.
Colosimo: The Houston Texans brought a front seven featuring JJ Watt, Jadaveon Clowney, and Whitney Mercilus to face this Browns offense two weeks ago. A front seven that many people said was one of the best in the NFL. Freddie Kitchens took an offensive line that features Greg Robinson and Chris Hubbard as bookends and held that front seven to zero sacks. Now I don’t expect a repeat of that, but the chart above doesn’t scare me.
Pat: No they can’t, but that’s okay. I think Freddie Kitchens will continue to call plays that allow for Baker to be mobile and/or get the ball out quickly, which will limit the opportunities for the Broncos’ pass-rushing studs. I’m guessing 2 sacks between Chubb and Miller.
Gilbert: I think it can. Overall, the offensive line has been playing really well over the last several weeks. But, the combination of Kitchens and Mayfield has aided the line immensely. Kitchens will most likely use extra blockers and chip blocking by backs and tight ends to help slow down the edge rushers and to help the Browns offensive line. Mayfield will need to continue to get the ball out quickly and move around the pocket to find time.
Gerbs: Sure they can. To have gone up against the Texans and not give up any sacks against Clowney and Watt, I fully believe in Kitchens, Baker and their ability to run an offense that keeps the QB upright.
Baker Mayfield has feasted against poor pass defenses. The Broncos have one of the best in the NFL though. What do you expect out of No. 6 this week?
Bode: The Broncos defense is a fascinating case-study due to a complete lock-down on passing offenses before Chris Harris went down to injury and a restructure to a gambling bend-don’t-break style defense that relies on turnovers since. There’s a reason that the last four weeks have seen offenses put up a ton of yards but not points on them. Mayfield will need to resist the urge on some of the windows he likes to force-fit passes into because the Broncos can do to him what the Texans did in the first half of that game.
Colosimo: The key to dealing with the Broncos defense will be continuing to protect Baker Mayfield. The Broncos strength is through pass rushing, not coverage. The improved play of the Browns’ offensive line has as much to do with scheme as anything else. The Browns have kept Baker clean partially by incorporating a heavy dose of screen passes and counteraction to keep opposing defenses from teeing off on the Browns subpar tackles. If Baker is kept relatively clean, I think he finds plenty of opportunities to move the ball through the air.
Pat: I think he’s going to show up and maul this pass defense. It’s a prime time game with no one else playing except the Browns and Broncos, which seems like exactly the right scenario for Baker Mayfield to show off. Chris Harris is still out with injury. Harris’ backup Isaac Yiadom is out. Shaq Barrett is still out with injury. This is not a full-capacity Denver defense and I think Baker is going to be itching to show what he can do.
Gilbert: I think Mayfield will have a huge game in prime time. He has shown over the last several weeks that he is on a roll and that even when he faces adversity, he does not flinch and just continues to attack. Also, Denver is missing their star corner, Chris Harris, so the secondary is vulnerable without him. The Browns should have opportunities to make some big plays through the air.
Gerbs: High volume and short throws. Last week, the Carolina secondary was ripe to be shredded by the deep ball, as evidenced by the 66-yard bomb to Breshard Perriman and 51-yard dart to Jarvis Landry for a touchdown. This week, with the pass rush inevitably more of an issue, getting the ball out fast and on slants works well. Expect to see a 70-75% completion percentage for 320 and two touchdowns from Baker, with Duke Johnson getting his legs back and being a force again.
What do the Browns need to do to disrupt Case Keenum, who has had an up-and-down season for the Broncos? Or do they need to focus on disrupting him given that many of his best games have been Bronco losses?
Bode: Keenum is another member of the Texas-bred NFL quarterbacking community (Abilene born, college days at Houston). Still… stop the run, win the game. A weird facet in today’s NFL, but the Browns need to pull up closer to the line of scrimmage and dare Keenum to beat them over the top trusting Demarious Randall can stop the big play from happening.
Colosimo: I don’t think the Browns need to do anything out of the ordinary to disrupt Keenum, but I expect Gregg to have an aggressive gameplan put together for the Broncos, run blitzing often and daring Keenum to beat them through the air.
Pat: I would concentrate first on shutting down Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman. This is a game where I think I would be okay with Gregg Williams blitzing the run gaps early and often. Case Keenum is a competent QB, but I don’t expect him to be able to consistently beat the Browns’ secondary with pressure in his face and no wide receivers to hit. After trading Demaryius Thomas and losing Emmanuel Sanders for the season, they’re going to be relying heavily on rookie WR Courtland Sutton, and I don’t think that’s a good scenario for Keenum.
Gilbert: The Browns defense should have running back Phillip Lindsay at the top of the list of what to worry about the most. The Browns need to force Case Keenum to win the game. Shutting down Lindsay and the Broncos run game will be important to winning this game. Putting pressure on Keenum to have to carry the offense could cause him to make mistakes, which allows the Browns opportunistic defense to get some interceptions from Keenum.
Gerbs: Head Coach Vance Joseph was quoted earlier in the week as wanting to see a little less caution by Keenum, and if that holds true, Keenum might end up being his own worst enemy against a Browns defense that feasts on turnovers. I would love to see a concentration on keeping Lindsay and Freeman under control and let Keenum do what he’s going to. With the injuries to the receiving corp, Keenum might do himself in.
The game will feature three of the best four rookie running backs in the NFL. Between Nick Chubb, Phillip Lindsay, and Royce Freeman, who is the best rookie runner and why? What strengths does each provide?
Bode: I want to say Chubb… it might be Chubb long-term, but there is no doubt that Lindsay has been the best this season. The rookie from Colorado nicknamed “Tasmanian Devil” stayed close to home and has been perhaps the best UDFA story of the year. He is a weapon in space, in the passing game, and can cut on the inside despite his size. Chubb has displayed great instincts, cutting ability, and second-level speed. Royce Freeman has shown some good things himself, but the one-cut runner hasn’t been nearly on the same level as these other two runners.
Colosimo: I think Chubb is the best of the three. That may seem biased, but some of the advanced rushing statistics would support that, with Chubb leading the league in yards after contact, yards gained after close, (this is similar to yards after contact but moves the distance out a yard, so it’s the number of yards a runner gains after a defender is within 1 yard, which rewards elusive backs as well as big backs), and is close to the bottom of the league in the opposite statistics (yards before contact and yards gained before close). In other words, he as good he’s been its been largely of his own making, without advantages in scheme or run blocking. Lindsay is a fantastic running back in his own right and he’s having a better season than Chubb overall, but if you ask me which one I think is better its Chubb.
Pat: I hate to be the homer, but it’s Nick Chubb. He has every single trait that you want in a running back, and he’s shown them all consistently throughout the season. He’s not just one of the best rookie running backs, Nick Chubb is one of the best running backs period.
Gilbert: I believe Chubb is the best running back of this bunch. I think his diverse running style makes him the best of the three. He can run past you with his speed, around you with his cutting ability and through you with his power. He is a complete back who also contributes as a blocker and a receiver. Lindsay is not far behind Chubb. He is a back with electric speed, but he also is stronger than his build would indicate. He easily runs through arm tackles to gain extra yards. Freeman is a solid back with a downhill running style, who can break tackles with his quality size and strength.
Gerbs: My inner homer wants to say Chubbers, but Lindsay has the best story and the best resume (mostly due to having played a full year and not being buried behind Carlos Hyde). An undrafted rookie free agent, Lindsay has changed the game in Denver and has become one of the next great Broncos running backs. That being said, there is nothing better than watching Chubb going headlong into a safety or linebacker and leaving a hole on the other side. I’ll always enjoy watching Chubb and I’m happy he’s going to be here for the foreseeable future.
The Browns have only won one game in six tries on the road in 2018. Going to Denver means playing at high altitude. What does the team need to do in order to get over the hump for a tough away game and become Road Dawgs?
Bode: If the offense can limit turnovers and continue to have success in the red zone, while the defense can figure out how to suppress Lindsay from having a big game, then the Browns could continue fans far-off daydreams about sneaking into the NFL playoffs for one more week.
Colosimo: Take their cues from Baker Mayfield. Baker was never scared of playing on the road, as any Ohio State fan can tell you. The best thing you can do as a road team, especially for a primetime game, is to avoid getting behind early. If the Browns can contain the Denver offense early and put some points on the board they have the opportunity to take the home crowd down a notch or two, making adjustments on the line easier on offense. And if the Browns have a big 1st half, you might knock the crowd out entirely as the stadium stops selling beer and the effects an all-day tailgate start to set in.
Pat: Is doping an option? If not, they should get some good rest and the coaches should rotate players earlier and more frequently than usual. This is not a game to play Myles Garrett in 90 percent of the snaps.
Gilbert: The Browns need to start fast. They cannot get behind quickly as they did in Houston. Mayfield needs to play to his highest level from the start and really lay a heavy punch to the Broncos early in the game. An early turnover by the Browns defense would also be huge. Start fast.
Gerbs: Stop. The. Run. Game. It’s been the hardest thing for this defense to do, but tackling and keeping Lindsay and company in check while Keenum attempts to air it out to his MASH unit of wideouts is the bets case scenario for a Browns win. Let’s keep it going and get back home with a W.