The Cleveland Browns have been on the schedule for three of the past four years - 2018, 2020 and 2021 and this 2022 matchup makes it four in the last five years. Furthermore, the Texans will face the Browns at NRG Stadium in 2023 as well, so the Browns have become like the 2010s Chiefs and the 2010s Patriots in a weird sort of way, facing them annually nearly every year. We're getting to know them all too well and Sunday is the exact embodiment of that close knowledge of the Browns. Why?
QB Deshaun Watson will lead the Browns into Houston to take on the Texans. That is certainly someone that the Texans and their fans know well.
It will have been 700 days since Watson took the field in a regular season game and that was as a member of the Texans. His return from suspension to face the team that he spurned adds some serious spice to a noon matchup of these two teams. That said, this is a powerful running team, led by an experienced and quality offensive line and a RB tandem that is ridiculously good - Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt.
Watson isn't the only former Texans to worry about in this matchup with the Browns. Jadeveon Clowney had some of the best games of his career at NRG Stadium and he had those days moving up and down the line of scrimmage and dominating any number of OL. The Texans current OL hasn't provided the proper protection for its QBs lately and Clowney and stud edge rusher Myles Garrett won't make it any easier on Sunday.
It's time to take a deep breath, swallow hard and get to Know the Texans' Week 13 Foe - the Cleveland Browns.
2022 Schedule (4-7)
Week 1 - W @ Carolina Panthers 26-24
Week 2 - L New York Jets 31-30
Week 3 - W Pittsburgh Steelers 29-17
Week 4 - L @ Atlanta Falcons 23-20
Week 5 - L Los Angeles Chargers 30-28
Week 6 - L New England Patriots 38-15
Week 7 - L @ Baltimore Ravens 23-20
Week 8 - W Cincinnati Bengals 32-13
Week 9 - BYE
Week 10 - L @ Miami Dolphins 39-17
Week 11 - L @ Buffalo Bills 31-23
Week 12 - W Tampa Bay Buccaneers 23-17
Week 13 - @ Houston Texans
Week 14 - @ Cincinnati Bengals
Week 15 - Baltimore Ravens
Week 16 - New Orleans Saints
Week 17 - @ Washington Commanders
Week 18 - @ Pittsburgh Steelers
Browns OFFENSE (in 2022 regular season)
Rushing Yards Per game - 154.4 ypg (5th in the NFL)
Passing Yards Per game - 222.5 ypg (15th)
Total offense per game - 376.9 ypg (5th)
Turnovers lost - 15 (8 Fumble lost, 7 INT)
Expected Browns starting offense for Week 13
QB - DESHAUN WATSON
RB - Nick Chubb
WR - AMARI COOPER
WR - Donovan Peoples-Jones
TE - Harrison Bryant
TE - David Njoku
LT - Jedrick Wills
LG - Joel Bitonio
C - HJALTE FROHOLDT
RG - Wyatt Teller
RT - Jack Conklin
Key Offensive Non-Starters
OT - Chris Hubbard
OC - GREG MANCZ
QB - Jacoby Brissett
RB - Kareem Hunt
TE - PHAROAH BROWN
WR - Anthony Schwartz
WR - DAVID BELL
Weapon X - Demetric Felton (if active, inactive against Tampa Bay last week)
RB - D'Earnest Johnson
Italics - Rookie
ALL CAPS - New to team in 2022
Keys to winning v. the Browns Offense
1. BIG BOY PADS NEEDED - Browns RB Nick Chubb has terrorized the Texans since he came into the league. After a somewhat pedestrian performance as a rookie in 2018, Chubb lit up the Texans the next two times. In 2020, he ran for 126 yards on just 19 carries and had a touchdown (foregoing a long touchdown to end the game). In 2021, he averaged over eight yards a carry on 11 carries and had another touchdown. He breaks a ton of tackles. He runs away from defenders with angles. He has patience, contact balance and an angry running spirit inside of him. The Texans have their hands full building a wall to slow running backs down and didn't the past two years against Chubb. Then, of course, tackling Chubb once they've done just that is just as problematic. Tough challenge to say the least for the Texans defense.
2. Njoku Reborn - Throughout his career in Cleveland, pass catching TE David Njoku has always flashed his athleticism and crazy elite pass catching ability. But, it always seemed like he was being held back, or held himself back. But, this offseason, he signed a contract extension which seemed to be the perfect tonic to get the athletically gifted tight end to a different level. It shows in his play too. As a rookie, he had 56 catches, but then reeled in five, 19 and 36 the next three years. After the extension, though, he's shined in 2022; he's on pace for 77 catches in 2022. He even had that amazing one handed catch on 4th and ten with :34 seconds remaining to tie the game against the Bucs, which the Browns then won in OT. That's the type of play that a player uses to catapult into a different stratosphere, especially with a QB now taking over that can see that to fruition. Speaking of said QB…
3. The one thing not spoken much of - The Deshaun Watson dilemma over the past couple of seasons will come to a head on Sunday with him taking snaps for the Texans' opponent. We know he can throw. We know he can create. But, the one thing most people don't talk about or discuss is his ability to shake off defenders in the pocket to deliver the football or make long scrambles. He did that often here in Houston and it's the one aspect that worries me the most about this contest with the Browns. The Browns OL is a strong one and it's tough enough to just get back there to the QB. But, add in Watson's strength and desire to not be sacked and those Texans pass rushers have a nightmare on their hands getting sacks and creating disruption.
Browns DEFENSE (in 2022 regular season)
Rushing Yards Allowed Per game - 131.5 ypg (23rd in the NFL)
Passing Yards Allowed Per game - 216.1 ypg (14th)
Total offense Allowed per game - 347.6 ypg (18th)
Turnovers generated - 8 (3 INT, 5 Fumble recoveries - Browns are -7 in TO margin)
Expected Browns starting defense for Week 13
DE - Myles Garrett
DT - TAVEN BRYAN
DT - Jordan Elliott
DE - Jadeveon Clowney
LB - Sione Takitaki
LB/S - Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah
LB - Tony Fields
CB - MARTIN EMERSON/Greg Newsome (inactive last week)
S - Grant Delpit
S - John Johnson III
CB - Denzel Ward
Key Defensive Non-Starters
S - Ronnie Harrison
CB - Thomas Graham Jr.
CB - A.J. Green
DE - ALEX WRIGHT
ALL CAPS - New to team in 2022
Italics - Rookie
Keys to winning v. the Browns Defense
1. We'll see you again - After last year's contest in Cleveland, Browns edge rusher Myles Garrett made some claims about his one-on-one battle with Laremy Tunsil. Well, actually, Garrett's claim was that he was given the star treatment with multiple pass protectors to help Tunsil hold him without a sack in that week two matchup. That claim was refuted by both Tunsil and film, so now these two meet again in the most anticipated one-on-one battle in this Texans-Browns matchup. Garrett has reached 10.0 sacks again and had 1.5 of Tom Brady last week. He'd love to get his former Aggie teammate Kyle Allen a few times this week as well. However, he's got to go through Tunsil to do it and from Laremy's response last year, Tunsil will be ready.
2. He's a JOK, not a joke - When the Browns drafted Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah last year, I thought GM Andrew Berry had one of the steals of the draft. JOK fell to the second round due to a medical scare/issue. But, he's been a force ever since he arrived in Cleveland in 2021. The medical scare far in his rearview mirror, JOK is the singular chess piece that creates some issues for opposing offenses. In the Tampa Bay game, he knifed into the backfield beating the TE's block to make a stop on third and one. He can drop. He can rush. He can change the game in a quick second. He's racked up seven TFL in eight games and the Texans must be aware of his presence and his role in the defense from that spot. Speaking of moving around…
3. Where will he be? - …when the Texans made Jadeveon Clowney the number one overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, the thought was that he would be a dynamic pass rusher off the edge for years. But, what he evolved into was a menace up and down the line of scrimmage. He did just as much damage playing against guards and centers as a stand up rusher than he did on the outside. Given the Texans issues on the inside the past few weeks, I'd imagine that Cleveland will unleash him inside as well. Whether it's on loops and stunts or whether he just lines up to rush from an inside spot, #90 is going to be a thorn in the Texans side. This is his first time coming back to NRG Stadium to play against the Texans, so like Watson, he'll have plenty to prove and if he does it on the inside as I expect, it could be a long day for the Texans offense.
Tap to browse tickets for the Houston Texans next home game vs. the Cleveland Browns here.