On the path to an improbable playoff run, the Browns look to regroup of sorts against the lowly Miami Dolphins. Coming off a big win over rival Pittsburgh, you would think all’s well that is well in Cleveland, but the extracurriculars that Myles Garrett and others took part in with eight seconds on the game clock have put a sour taste in the mouths of those in orange and brown. Let’s hope that a tuneup against the Dolphins, sporting the third-worst record in the NFL, brings back those feelings of happy and thanks before the Browns go back to Pittsburgh and deal with the transgressions of the past.
Suek: The team could still do a better job of executing. There were flashes of the 2019 expected offense in Week 11 vs. the Steelers, but we once again saw the stagnant, under-performing unit for two quarters or so. The addition of running back Kareem Hunt cannot be understated, as the Browns now have the most formidable duo of backs in the league. Ground-and-pound and target Beckham/Landry and there is no reason this offense shouldn’t be mentioned in the same breath as the Chiefs, Ravens, 49ers, etc. as one of the best offenses in the league down the stretch. Execute and take care of the football.
Poloha: Just being more efficient and taking advantage of all the playmakers that are on the field, especially if David Njoku returns this Sunday. With guys like Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, Nick Chubb, and Kareem Hunt, among others, just find the mismatch and use it. It sounds easier than it should, but with all those skill players, Baker needs to take advantage of it, especially against a depleted secondary like Miami’s.
Gilbert: I want to see two things. The first thing I want to see is a more concerted effort in throwing downfield. The Browns have one of the best big-play receivers in the game in Odell Beckham. The Cleveland passing game needs to produce more big plays. The second thing is finishing. I want to see the Browns finish drives better. Scoring touchdowns in the red zone is still not a strength. The Browns need to finish drives with seven points.
Bode: Eh, the offense still had struggles against Pittsburgh. It was only the third time on the season fewer than 300 yards were obtained. The domination by the defense both in limiting yardage and creating turnovers is what made the 21-7 victory feel more like a blowout. For the offense moving forward, tight end David Njoku returning from injury will hopefully help a bit in short yardage and within the red zone. Also, the Dolphins are the absolute worst defense in the entire NFL even if they have been a smidge better than putrid in recent weeks. The offense should feast.
Gerbs: Getting better at doing the simple things more frequently is big. Not shooting yourself in the foot is important, cutting down on the mental mistakes is key going forward. As Cody said, there have been flashes of the explosive offense from last year all season, but then there are slips back into slugfest mode.
Suek: The deep ball. Mayfield was second in the league in deep-ball accuracy and sixth in deep passing yards/touchdowns in 2018. We have seen the team take some shots as of late (Beckham, Jr., and Hodge vs. the Steelers in Week 11), but I would like to see them at a slightly higher frequency with the talent at the position group.
Poloha: The deep ball, as Cody already alluded to. Also, being more efficient in the red zone and just being in himself. He’s been better as of late, as already mentioned, but he just needs to be confident again, especially with the type of skill players that the Browns have offensively.
Gilbert: I think the deep ball is still missing in the offense. Last season, Mayfield was not afraid to stretch the field with deep passes. This year, the offense has struggled with the long pass plays. I think if Mayfield can connect on a couple of these deep passes, it will open up the rest of the field.
Bode: The Browns have Nick Chubb. He is rather good at running the football. The Browns do not use this advantage in the passing game enough by using play-action. When they do, Mayfield has done extremely well. Let’s do that more. OK? Otherwise, having the defense setup the offense with good field position and extra drives like they did against the Steelers is always nice.
Gerbs: What’s key to the deep ball? Good protection. Keeping Mayfield upright and safe in the pocket is important. He has shown that he did not trust his offensive line early on and got happy feet, got out of the pocket, and started making mistakes by trying to do too much. Stay in the pocket and use your accuracy to cut up opposing defenses.
Suek: Two names: Juston Burris and Devaroe Lawrence. Burris has played admirably in a fairly limited role thus far in 2019 (Pro Football Focus’ 21st-ranked safety). Lawrence was seemingly unblockable in the preseason, with 11 quarterback hurries in only 56 pass-rush snaps. Both now have the opportunity to stake claim at future positions with the squad.
Poloha: Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams. With an injury-riddled front seven, it’s important that the two cornerbacks dominate on the outside.
Gilbert: Joe Schobert needs to have another huge game like he did against Pittsburgh. He must be all over the field for the defense. Sheldon Richardson, also, must be an impactful player on the defensive line as he is the lone starter left on the line this week.
Bode: The Genard Avery trade really hurts this week. With a bunch of roster filler players on the defensive line, the secondary and linebacker corps better be ready to carry the load. Joe Schobert is coming off the finest game of his Browns career, so it would be fantastic to see him be That Guy.
Gerbs: Schobert and Mack Wilson need to help out a ton in the run game. Schobert has shown he is a very astute tackler in volume, and he will definitely be getting those opportunities this week. With the defensive line stretched thin, those linebackers are going to be the important lines of defense against the rush.
Suek: Fitzpatrick or “FitzMagic” is one of the most turnover-prone quarterbacks in the league, but don’t let that fool you: he is perfectly capable of winning games. The defense should strive to keep him under constant duress, as the Dolphins field the worst pass-blocking offensive line in the league. Force a few turnovers and capitalize with touchdowns and the Browns should be well on their way to the third straight win at First Energy Stadium.
Poloha: We want Fitz to be bad and not like FitzMagic. There’s a reason he can’t stick around on one team but continues to find starting gigs around the NFL. Just put pressure on him and lock down the receivers with guys like Denzel and Greedy.
Gilbert: Fitzpatrick is a turnover machine. The Browns must pressure him and cause him to make mistakes that leads to turnovers.
Bode: Ryan Fitzpatrick has 43 games in his NFL career with at least two interceptions and 43 games taking at least three sacks– often from holding the ball too long. Despite some mythical status he seems to bring with him, only 17 of his career games have topped 300 yards. Fitzpatrick is going to gamble. He is going to force passes into tight– or non-existent– windows. The Browns defense must be prepared to take advantage and make him pay for those mistakes.
Gerbs: Pressure him, get up in his face. As Cody showed in Deep Coverage today, Miami is 4th worst at pass blocking grades according to PFF. Even without Garrett, Ogunjobi, and probably Olivier Vernon, the Browns should be able to get up in the grill of Fitzpatrick and make him miss on a few throws.
Suek: I am still going with “no.” Right now, it is a crowded race for the two wild card spots, with the Chiefs, Raiders, Colts, Texans, Bills, Titans, and Browns all on the heels of potential berths. Yes, the schedule is favorable, but I am afraid it will be too little too late for this squad.
Poloha: I want to say yes, but I’m still leaning against it as of right now. The next two weeks loom large.
Gilbert: I am not going to change my answer. I believed at the start of the season that they would make the playoffs. And, after all of the turmoil this season, I still believe they will make the playoffs. The schedule is set up for the Browns and there have been a lot of signs that this team is improving, especially on offense.
Bode: I don’t care yet. Here is what I care about this week as the Browns attempt to re-achieve watchable-mediocrity. The Dolphins have a garbage offensive line; so even with roster-filler defensive lineman, the Browns must generate a pass rush this week or it alludes to even bigger problems. Austin Seibert has missed three kicks in two weeks, so let’s see him have a clean week. And, the Browns need to not be in danger of the Dolphins winning the game in the fourth quarter.
Gerbs: They need lots of help, but yes, I do. It’s going to be a chore winning every game for the rest of the season, but they are all winnable games. Show up against Baltimore in Week 16 and make your presence known.