Since the Browns' visit to NRG Stadium last October, things have changed. Significantly, really. The Texans handled the Browns 33-17 in week six last year as the Browns were on their way to an 0-16 season. From that moment forward, the Browns have…
1. Added a new General Manager and personnel department.
2. Drafted their quarterback of the future.
3. Drafted their bell cow running back in the 2018 NFL Draft.
4. Drafted a shut down #1 cornerback in the first round.
5. Took a shot of Juice (okay, Juice is wide receiver Jarvis Landry...sorry)
6. Changed head coaches.
7. Changed offensive coordinators at end of 2017 and then did it again during the season.
8. Won as many games in 11 weeks than they did in the previous 53 games (4-49 since 11/30/2014).
Suffice to say, life has changed in Cleveland and the results are evident. Last week at Cincinnati, the Browns won a road game for the first time since October 11, 2015. But, it was the way they won Sunday's game that caught everyone's attention in this building. Quarterback Baker Mayfield and running back Nick Chubb, two members of the 2018 draft class, helped lead the Browns to a halftime lead at Cincinnati. A 28-0 halftime lead! The Browns dominated the Bengals from snap one to the final whistle. That's not something we've seen from a Browns team in quite some time.
Mayfield is the proverbial straw stirring the drink for the Browns entire organization. Over the past two weeks, he's completed 78% of his passes for 474 yards, seven touchdowns and no interceptions. His passer rating was 151.3 versus Atlanta and 143.9 in that win over Cincinnati. Since Freddie Kitchens took over as offensive coordinator, Mayfield has thrown only one interception and registered a QBR of 95.0 or better in all three games. So, yeah, just from the quarterback standpoint, things will be different (Kevin Hogan was 20 for 37 for 140 yards, three INT and four sacks last year in the meeting with the Texans).
Defensive end Myles Garrett has turned into the uber-beast I expected him to be after he was drafted number one overall in 2017. He has 10.0 sacks, tied for seventh in the league. Rookie Denzel Ward is tied for the team lead with three picks, along with safety Damarious Randall, who first year GM John Dorsey traded for last offseason.
It's coming together for Cleveland and that makes them very, VERY scary heading into NRG Stadium on Sunday, especially on a short week for the Texans. Without further ado, let's get to Know Sunday's Foe - the 2018 Cleveland Browns.
Schedule - Record (4-6-1)
T, 21-21 v. Pittsburgh Steelers
L, 21-18 @ New Orleans Saints
W, 21-17 v. New York Jets
L, 45-42 @ Oakland Raiders
W, 12-9 v. Baltimore Ravens
L, 38-14 v. Los Angeles Chargers
L, 26-23 @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
L, 33-18 @ Pittsburgh Steelers
L, 37-21 v. Kansas City Chiefs
W, 28-16 v. Atlanta Falcons
W, 35-20, @ Cincinnati Bengals
Rushing Yards Per game - 128.7 ypg (9th in the NFL)
Passing Yards Per game - 225.5 ypg (23rd)
Total offense per game - 354.2 ypg (18th)
Turnovers lost - 13 (10 INT, 3 fumbles lost) - Browns are +14 (!!!) T-1st in the NFL
Browns starting offense last Sunday v. Cincinnati:
QB - BAKER MAYFIELD (Rookie)
RB - NICK CHUBB (Rookie)
WR - JARVIS LANDRY
WR - ANTONIO CALLAWAY (Rookie)
TE - DARREN FELLS
TE - David Njoku
LT - GREG ROBINSON
LG - Joel Bitonio
C - JC Tretter
RG - Kevin Zeitler
RT - CHRIS HUBBARD
*Other Key Offensive pieces
*RB - Duke Johnson
WR - Rashard Higgins
WR - BRESHAD PERRIMAN
**All Caps indicates a 2018 addition
Keys to stopping the Browns Offense
1. Make the well a bad place to be for Mayfield (like it was for Marcus Mariota on MNF)
2. Bring multiple hats to Nick Chubb, in particular - he's going to break tackles and run his guts out - must match that physicality.
3. Where's Clowney? Challenge the Browns to find him on every play which should take their focus away from the other defensive dudes on this team.
4. Wide-receiver-posing-as-a-tight-end David Njoku is a problem and the Texans have to treat him like a receiver in the passing game when he's flexed away from the line of scrimmage.
5. If Mayfield steps out of the pocket, treat him like Chubb. In other words, bring the wood.
6. Keep rookie receiver Antonio Callaway in front all day long (i.e. eliminate any deep shots to the explosive rookie receiver).
*Rushing Yards Allowed Per game - 131.8 ypg (28th in the NFL)
Passing Yards Allowed Per game - 283.5 ypg (29th)
Total offense Allowed per game - 415.4 ypg (31st)
Turnovers generated - 27 (14 INT, 13 Fumbles recovered)
Browns starting defense last Sunday v. Cincinnati:
DE - Myles Garrett
DT - Larry Ogunjobi
DE - Emmanuel Ogbah
WLB - GENARD AVERY (Rookie)
MLB - Joe Schobert
SLB - Jamie Collins Sr.
Nickel - Briean Boddy-Calhoun
CB - DENZEL WARD (Rookie)
S - DAMARIOUS RANDALL
S - Jabrill Peppers
CB - TRAVIS CARRIE
*Other Key Defensive pieces
*LB - RAY RAY ARMSTRONG
DE - ANTHONY ZETTEL
DT - Trevon Coley
**All Caps indicates a 2018 addition
*Keys to winning versus the Browns Defense
*1. Take. Care. Of. The. Football. The Browns lead the league in takeaways - don't let them get cheap points on the scoreboard as a result.
2. Team effort on Myles Garrett - he has ability to wreck the game so don't let him by hitting him with multiple players on his pass rush.
3. Pound the rock and make the front six/seven have to defend it like Tennessee was forced to do.
4. Challenge the second level defenders to have to cover inside receivers and tight ends in the passing game.
5. Take the profit in the passing game - meaning that if an underneath throw is open, take it and live to see the next down...
6...Yet, when the shot play is there, take that. The Browns left a few of those on the table last year for this Texans offense. Don't be afraid to let it rip (just don't challenge Denzel Ward all that much).