Browns @ Washington – Game #4 Preview
The Browns have another road contest against a Washington team that had a huge win against their division rivals. Once again the orange and brown will be underdogs and are expected to come away with a defeat. However, will this be a situation where the home team comes in overconfident and plays tight (leading towards a possible upset?) It’s unlikely, but let’s discuss this game anyways.
Quarterback: I thought the coaching job done with Cody Kessler was exceptional last week; Hue Jackson did not put him in any difficult situations and lightened his load with Terrelle Pryor taking several snaps behind center. I anticipate that the rookie quarterback will have more snaps than he did a week ago – but the play calling should be rather similar (shorter crossing and under routes). Hopefully this is where Kessler finds his first career passing touchdown in the NFL.
Running Back: Are we starting to see the Browns actually utilize their two running backs correctly? Let’s hope that this can continue on Sunday – as they will rely heavily on this with their rookie signal caller. I am gaining confidence in this unit, despite the struggles with the offensive line. The big thing missing from Crowell and Johnson last contest was a trip to the end zone (though that feat was accomplished by Pryor). I would not be surprised to see their fortunes change as they get more comfortable with this offense.
Wide Receiver: It’s hard to imagine that Terrelle Pryor will duplicate his performance from a week ago; if the Browns can just see an output similar to his receiving numbers that would be a good day. However, the opposition will more than likely double cover the veteran with one guy preventing a deep pass. That leaves Andrew Hawkins and a rookie or two to step in and make their mark. Ricardo Louis is coming off a contest with three grabs for forty yards, which he can definitely build off of. Rashard Higgins is the wild card; I don’t expect much but perhaps he can make that one “big play” for this offense.
Tight End: Well Gary Barnidge is doing a yeoman’s work on the field. The veteran is not showing off, but rather is playing well by securing passes and collecting first downs. His big play ability has tapered off from 2015, but part of that could be the Browns actually have other good receiving options on their offense. Rookie Seth DeValve finally saw some playing time last contest; he did not accumulate any statistics though. Perhaps he can make his first mark against Washington.
Offensive Line: That was an alarming performance last contest by Austin Pasztor; this might be his last opportunity to hold down his starting job at right tackle. Rookies Spencer Drango and Shon Coleman ought to be practicing hard to get their shot at hitting the field. The OVI by Alvin Bailey surely did not help the right guard; I would not be surprised to see one of the rookies supplant him in the near future. One thing is certain; the guys upfront must win consistently at the point of attack if they want to see their first win.
Defensive Line: Whether you want to admit it or not, Danny Shelton continues to be a force in the middle of this defensive line. He is not tallying seven tackles for losses and three sacks, but the second year pro is making it difficult for opponents to run up the middle of the field. I am not completely worried about shutting down Matt Jones this week but there’s always a possibility of a few long runs. It would be nice to have Carl Nassib return for this contest, but his status remains undetermined as of this point.
Outside Linebacker: Coach Jackson confirmed that Nate Orchard’s ankle injury will cause him to miss time at outside linebacker. Thus Emmanuel Ogbah and Joe Schobert will continue to see nearly all of the snaps at the edge on Sunday. There’s a shot that Corey Lemonier sees ample action as well; it would really be a boost if this unit could take down Kirk Cousins multiple times in this matchup.
Inside Linebacker: In addition to corralling the opposing rushers, the duo of Chris Kirksey and Demario Davis will have their hands full with tight end Jordan Reed. The veteran is reliable and can make teams pay who do not focus on him during their game plan. Kirksey is coming off a game with nine stops – he has been relentless but is still searching for those big hits behind the line of scrimmage.
Safety: I have been extremely impressed with both Derrick Kindred and Jordan Poyer’s play as of late. The former was a late round draft pick who is making big hits on a regular basis. Poyer has improved significantly against the pass from a year ago – I am holding out hope for an interception (or two) against Cousins. A pair of safeties who can alter opposing game plans is something not seen by the Browns in quite some time. They are not there yet but are inching ever closer each week.
Cornerback: Getting Joe Haden back should be a boost for the cornerback spot, but the real question is about Briean Boddy-Calhoun. Was the rookie simply in the right place at the right time (last game)? Or can he be a staple in the Browns’ secondary. The Browns are supporting the youth movement, so Boddy-Calhoun might be seeing more opportunities to collect interceptions.
Special Teams: One could argue that special teams lost the Browns their last two contests (and that person would win that
argument). Fans just have to hope and pray for the worst not to happen when attempting field goals. Perhaps coach Jackson will be more aggressive and try for touchdowns rather than kicking it on fourth down.
Coaching: This is by far the best coaching staff the Browns have had for many years. I know that is not saying a ton – but it is
refreshing to see talent finally being utilized. The coaches are not perfect and are subject to mistakes – but I would rather have Jackson and company than Jay Gruden and his staff. I am pulling for the home team to commit a coaching blunder that proves costly.
Prediction (My Record: 3 – 0): Until the Browns show they can win a game, I will not predict them to win. They will come close again this week, but will fall for the fourth time this year by the score of 24 – 20. At that point they will be accompanied by a couple suspendedplayers (provided they are activated).