Whew. That’s better. Every fan of the Cleveland Browns should be feeling much better about the 2019 prospects of the club after they drubbed the Ravens in Baltimore, 40-25. The victory was complete in that the offense had the running and passing game working; with the short-handed defense still providing needed stops and late turnovers.
Now continues the difficult early-season schedule. Next up is the undefeated 49ers, who are coming off a bye week, on Monday Night Football in San Francisco.
So, let’s take account of what we have learned thus far and what we think might happen.
Here we go.
Gilbert: The Week 4 Browns are the real Browns. This is the type of offensive play-calling we saw last season paired with the talent the Browns now have this season. This is more of what I expected and I think the Browns will continue to improve off of Week 4.
Poloha: Hopefully Week 4. If they want to compete for an AFC North title or even make the postseason, it has to be Week 4. With that said, they showed plenty of improvement throughout the first three weeks of the season. It will take some time for this team and new coaching staff to gel, but last week’s win in Baltimore was not only fun, but gave the Dawg Pound plenty of hope and optimism.
Suek: You could write-off the Week 4 Browns performance as an anomaly if you had no knowledge of the 2018 season. We saw a return to form from a play-calling perspective from Freddie Kitchens. We saw a second-year quarterback deliver the ball accurately and get his swagger back. We saw a defense create turnovers at opportune times. Week 4 was the Browns that were expected. Week 4 was the real Browns.
Bode: Week 1 through Week 3 was likely not as dire as it appeared, nor was Week 4 as amazingly fantastic as it appeared. The Browns did only have 10 points at halftime against Baltimore and there was some clunkiness. There were marks of greatness in the first three weeks like Landry’s long slant-route touchdown. We have to remember there are a lot of new players and coaches, these things take some time to settle.
Gerbs: Week 4 Browns was as good a team as we could see, and most closely resembles what we saw from last year’s Kitchens-led offense. The only thing that worries me is that Kitchens thought Weeks 1-3 were good options. What possibly could have made him think that would work, and will that rear it’s head again? Who knows.
Gilbert: Rashard Higgins is the most important receiver of the two. He is the receiver with the best cohesion with Baker Mayfield. His reliability as a receiver is a huge outlet for Mayfield and almost a safety blanket for the young quarterback. Callaway will definitely help in taking the top off a defense, but I think Higgins consistency is what makes him the most important of the two.
Poloha: Rashard Higgins. When he is on the field, it’s been clear that Higgins is Baker Mayfield’s security blanket and a wideout that the quarterback trusts to make plays. Antonio Callaway can help open the middle of the field and the ground attack with his speed, but Higgins is by far the most important.
Suek: In 1923, Thomas Fisk Goff of the of the Crescent Sign Company designed a sign that was erected on Mount Lee in order to advertise for a local real estate development. Standing 45 feet tall and 350 feet long, the “Hollywood” sign is a cultural icon and internationally recognized symbol and just happens to be the nickname of the answer to this question: Rashard Higgins.
Bode: When everyone is healthy, Callaway is a bit redundant, while Higgins is essential; especially with the Njoku injury. But, in the NFL, a team is never at full health, so each player will have their opportunities to shine such as Callaway being thrust into the Landry-role in his first week back. The 49ers are tough up front against the run, so these receivers will be an important part of Monday Night Football too.
Gerbs: Higgins is for sure the biggest missing piece of this offense, but don’t think Callaway will be some downer. His ability to take the top off the offense will make all the difference after some feeding of Nick Chubb. Look for at least one long shot down the field on play-action.
Gilbert: This will definitely not be a surprise like Seals-Jones was, but I think Odell Beckham Jr. will pop off in terms of big play producing. With the offense better in Week 4, I think the Browns will incorporate Beckham into the offense where he can produce huge plays for the offense. I think his big-play producing will pop off soon.
Poloha: If he plays, then my answer is Rashard Higgins. If he doesn’t, the Browns will need OBJ to have a huge game, especially if Jarvis Landry misses the game due to being in concussion protocol.
Suek: Baker Mayfield. It’s time for his first multi-touchdown, zero interception game of the 2019 season.
Bode: Expect to see more of Chubb in the passing game, which might surprise some. He has only run wheel routes a few times a game, but he has been WIDE open on them. The issue is that he wasn’t in Mayfield’s read set. I assume Kitchens and Monken have noticed and will let Mayfield hit Chubb at least a couple times on the pattern.
Gerbs: It’s time for the OBJ show. If Landry misses, which he probably should being in the concussion protocol, I fully expect a big showing from Beckham Jr. If you thought the Monday Night Jets win was his coming out party, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
Gilbert: The Browns need to continue off of Week 4’s offensive performance and play-calling. But, there are two big things that the offense must do for it to be successful versus the 49ers. One will be establishing and staying with Nick Chubb. Chubb must be the centerpiece of the offense and the team cannot get away from him at any time during the game. The second key will be limiting mistakes and turnovers. The offense cannot give the ball away or makes mistakes that allow the 49ers defense to pounce on them.
Poloha: Call the same type of plays and play the same type of way as they did in Baltimore. If Freddie remains creative while also calling plays that allows Baker to get the ball out quick, the Browns offense will once again do well. We know Mayfield can make plays and be accurate, it just comes down to the types of plays that are called. With that said, it’s also important to establish the rushing attack that is headed by Nick Chubb. We all know the type of running back he can be, and his dominance only helps Baker and company.
Suek: Although San Francisco has the second-best defensive DVOA, the defense hasn’t really been tested to-date, as two of their three games were against the lowly Bengals and Mason Rudolph led Steelers. With that said, Kitchens should replicate the Week 4 offensive game plan, while also incorporating some elements of the deep passing attack game to Odell Beckham, Jr. and Antonio Callaway.
Bode: Don’t expect Chubb to gash the 49ers like he did the Ravens. They are disciplined and stronger up front. It is going to take a bunch of short and intermediate passing to take advantage of what San Francisco does on defense.
Gerbs: Execute order 6. Let Baker be Baker, hit the quick slants and work the gameplan like last week. I don’t believe this San Francisco team is as good as we have been led to think it is, and this will be another chance for Cleveland to show up and show off on prime time for a national audience.
Gilbert: Jermaine Whitehead had an exceptional game versus the Ravens. He made huge plays that changed the game for the Browns. If he can continue to make these types of impact, the Browns have another playmaker in the secondary depth chart.
Poloha: It’s tough for me to single out just one player, but the fact that the secondary played so well with their entire starting defensive backfield out against the Rams and followed that up with a solid performance even without Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams in Baltimore last weekend is something that the Browns badly needed. The ‘next man up’ saying is perfect for that group and the secondary was a huge reason why the Browns upset the Ravens in Baltimore.
Suek: Two players in two separate games have been the most impressive: Jermaine Whitehead vs the Ravens and Juston Burris vs the Rams. Both players had inspiring performances against rather formidable offenses.
Bode: Read Gerbs below for my answer, but I’ll add this: don’t be surprised if Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams are the ones coming off the bench once their hamstrings heal (as long as those Gerbs mentions keeps doing what they have been).
Gerbs: Cornerbacks are similar to your engine in your car: it’s best if you don’t hear anything wonky from it, and the fact that the check engine light hasn’t come on with TJ Carrie and Terrence Mitchell leading the way against some good offenses is so underrated when you think about the performance of this defense.
Gilbert: Vernon will be the second-leading sack producer on the team by the end of the season. Vernon, despite the one sack total, has been great so far. His impact as a rusher cannot be summed up by his one sack. The sacks will come given how well he has played this season and so he will finish with the second-most sacks on the team behind Garrett.
Poloha: It will probably be Vernon given that he’s lining up opposite of Garrett, but I would love for it to be Ogunjobi just because he’s playing so well so far. Then again, if it’s a close fight for the second-most sacks on the team, that most likely only means good things for the Browns defense.
Suek: I agree with Gilbert and Poloha here. Although Vernon only has one sack on 15 pressures through four weeks, his presence has been palpable on the defensive line. It is only a matter of time until his disruption and pass-rush ability is reflected in the box score.
Bode: Gernard Avery! Somewhat of a sarcastic answer as he has been a healthy inactive for each game thus far though the 2018 version of him had the explosion to put it together (question is whether he gained weight to play a true defensive end and lost some of that explosion). Anyways, I have been an Ogunjobi guy since Day 1, I’m not abandoning ship now.
Gerbs: Give me Larry LotsOfLetters. Ogunjobi has been one of the best found secrets of the NFL over the past few years, it’s time for him to get some recognition. With so much attention being paid to Garrett and Vernon and defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson doing more of the heavy lifting against the run than years prior, Ogunjobi has had the opportunity to ball out and make his presence known.
Gilbert: The Browns will definitely get another prime-time game later in the season, besides the Thursday night game they already have on the schedule. I am looking at the Baltimore game late in the season as one that could get flexed into a prime-time spot. I do enjoy being in the national spotlight with these games.
Poloha: If the Browns remain in the playoff hunt, it’s almost certain that they will get another prime-time game later in the season. While I do love night games, it sucks having to wait all day to see the Brownies play.
Suek: It all depends on the performance down the stretch. As Gilbert said, the December 22 match-up against the Ravens would be a viewership dream for a network should the AFC North be on the line.
Bode: The soft schedule later in the season does not help the Browns gain nationally televised games. The Baltimore week has been mentioned. The other December games are Cincinnati (twice!), Pittsburgh, and Arizona. Those are not the most appealing teams unless Kliff Kingsbury starts scoring points in the desert.
Gerbs: I expect one more matchup, and as everyone said, the Ravens matchup is probably the one to get moved around. But I echo Poloha here: it’s oddly unnerving watching so much football take place knowing your game isn’t until later or the next day.