The Texans (2-6) travel to Cleveland (5-3) for a Week 10 matchup. Here are five things to watch when Houston and the Browns square off at FirstEnergy Stadium. First Glance is presented by First Community Credit Union.
1) Watson, stay wonderful – Deshaun Watson is on a roll. Over the last five games, he's passed for at least 275 yards and finished with a passer rating of 105.0 in each of those contests. Watson's the youngest quarterback to do so in NFL history, and only the fifth signal-caller to do so. He explained the reason for the recent rhythm of the offense.
"Just spreading the ball around," Watson said. "Just continue to have positive plays, stay ahead of the chains, get the ball to different receivers and let the running backs run when they need to and then me make plays when I need to. Really, it's just space guys out. That's the identity of our offense is really just trying to attack that way."
Watson's been one of the NFL's best this season at generating explosive plays. He's completed 30 passes for 20 yards or more, which is third-best in the League. Watson's also second in the NFL in passing yards per attempt, at 8.8.
The Browns are impressed with his capabilities, and Cleveland defensive coordinator Joe Woods joked about how Watson's impacted his nights.
"He is very dangerous," Woods said. "Very dangerous. I haven't slept very much this week. They're doing a nice job in their scheme. They're really putting him in position to take advantage of his talents…He's playing at a high level. He's really doing a good job running their offense."
2) Duke Day – All signs are pointing to Duke Johnson getting the start at running back after David Johnson was knocked early from win over Jacksonville with a concussion. The former returns to Cleveland, where he began his career in 2015 as a third round pick. Duke Johnson touched the ball 20 times last Sunday against the Jaguars, getting 16 carries and catching four passes.
Whether he's running it or catching it, Johnson doesn't really care.
"To be honest, it's really just touching the ball," Johnson said. "It really doesn't matter to me how I get it, where I get it. I just think the more opportunities I get, the more you get a rhythm in a football game."
For his career, Johnson's averaged 4.3 yards per carry and 9.2 yards per catch. Combined, he's scored 19 touchdowns in his career. Receiver Brandin Cooks likes to see Johnson go to work with the ball in his hands.
"He's shifty," Cooks said. "Typically, the first man is not bringing him down. To be able to make guys miss the way that he does, is awesome to see, really."
3) Other former Browns – In addition to Duke Johnson, several Texans are taking trips back to Cleveland. Tight ends Darren Fells and Pharaoh Brown, as well as safety Eric Murray all spent time with the Browns. Cleveland running back Nick Chubb thinks Johnson and the former Browns will all have a little extra juice on Sunday.
"I think he'll definitely have something to prove, and I also think Pharaoh Brown will too," Chubb said. "It'll be fun to watch and compete against those guys from across the field."
Since leaving Cleveland for Houston before the 2019 season, Fells has caught 10 touchdowns in 24 games as a Texan. Brown, meanwhile, is contributing as well. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly has been a big fan of Brown's versatility and contributions in his six games this year as a Texan.
"Asking him to go out there and block in space or asking him to align as a fullback or as an inline tight end, all those things, he doesn't blink," Kelly said. "He doesn't hesitate. He goes out and tries to do his best and a lot of times he's doing a really, really good job for us. He's got great instincts, and again, to go along with the natural ability that he has. I'm really glad that he's here and we're able to work with him."
4) Tunsil vs. Garrett – The times Cleveland defensive end Myles Garrett faces off with left tackle Laremy Tunsil will be fascinating. The former has nine sacks and a quartet of forced fumbles, and is one of the NFL's premier defenders. The latter has played at an All-Pro level and helped protect Watson's blind side. Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski thinks very highly of Tunsil, and said whoever lines up against him will be in for a fight. Whether it's Garrett, or someone else, will be fascinating to see.
"I think Tunsil's as good as they come in this league," Stefanski said. "Just his combination again of his size and length. Anybody that's rushing over there is going to get a full day's worth versus Tunsil."
Watson is also a huge fan of his teammate Tunsil.
"He's great," Watson said. "I feel like the best left tackle in the game, so I'm glad that he's on my team. I'm glad that he's healthy and he's been able to do what he do and he takes the charge of the offensive line. I'm comfortable when he's on my left side and he's fully healthy and can go out there each and every snap."
Kelly pointed out, though, that Garrett will likely move around to different spots along the line throughout the game.
"He's got enough size and athletic ability to be versatile enough to move across the front," Kelly said. "I'm sure every single one of our guys up front will get a shot at him on Sunday. That's – his ability paired with his size and ability to move across the front, makes him a really, really good pass rusher and a really good player."
5) Browns on the ground – Cleveland has run the ball well this season, whether it was Chubb in the first four games, or Kareem Hunt after Chubb got injured. Combined, the duo is averaging 5.25 yards per carry this season. Chubb's coming back for his first bit of action since Week 4, and whether it's him or Hunt, defensive end J.J. Watt said the Texans will need to be disciplined on defense.
"Those guys are very good backs," Watt said. "The offensive line does a good job blocking for them. They have Baker (Mayfield), who obviously can throw the ball and play action off of what they do in the running game. They're very effective. That's up to us up front first and foremost as the front line of defense to do our job to set the edges, build the wall in the middle and the backers to come up and make tackles. Everybody doing their job to do what we can to be successful on Sunday."