Before the Las Vegas Raiders take on the Cleveland Browns for their Monday afternoon matchup, Chris Pokorny of Dawgs By Nature was kind enough to answer my questions about the Browns for Raider Nation.
1. The Browns’ quarterback situation got more interesting with Baker Mayfield and Case Keenum testing positive for COVID-19, so can you tell us what Cleveland might be missing if Baker and Case can’t go?
With the game being moved to Monday, we’re crossing our fingers that Mayfield produces a negative test and can play. If not, Nick Mullens will get the start. Considering he’s thrown for the 2nd most yardage in NFL history during his first 16 starts, there is definitely a level of encouragement there that the offense could still be potent. He’s been on the practice squad since September, so he should have knowledge of our offensive system. The issue is that he’s taken zero practice reps with the first-teamers, and as of this post, is missing three starting offensive linemen. It’s almost impossible to predict what level of success he could have; the deck would certainly be stacked against him.
2. Similar question, Jarvis Landry, Wyatt Teller, Austin Hooper and Jedrick Willis are all on the COVID-19 list. If they can’t go, who replaces them and how confident are you in those replacements?
At tight end, David Njoku and Harrison Bryant are both back, which is a big help to that group. They have been part of a three-man trio with Austin Hooper all year, so the team isn’t losing too much there for just one week.
At wide receiver, not having Jarvis Landry would hurt, but at least the depth is still there, unlike last year when the whole receiving room missed a game due to COVID. Donovan Peoples-Jones and Rashard Higgins would likely be the outside receivers, with Demetric Felton seeing action in the slot.
The offensive line is the biggest concern now, being without Jedrick Wills, Wyatt Teller, and now also right tackle James Hudson. We have a couple of backups who are good for spot starts in Blake Hance and Michael Dunn, but that is for instances when one of them are starting. Now you’re throwing three reserves in? That would hurt any team in the league.
3. To fill Kareem Hunts’ receiving back role, do you think we’ll see more opportunities for Demetric Felton or D’Earnest Johnson in that capacity?
Kareem Hunt has already missed some games this year, and it’s been clear that there is no replacing him. Felton has skills as a receiver, but not so much as a runner, so he doesn’t present the same threat. D’Ernest Johnson has shown to be a viable backup who can hit some big runs, but he’s better as a runner and is just your typical receiver as far as running backs go. Nick Chubb is always an underrated receiver, if he were utilized more in that capacity, he could thrive. But if it hasn’t happened yet in this offense, I don’t count on it changing.
4. Myles Garrett has looked unstoppable this season and has played his way into the Defensive Player of the Year conversation with 15 sacks. Does he have a particular weakness or how have teams managed to keep him in check in the past?
This year, there hasn’t been a particular weakness with him. The Patriots were the team that came closest to exploiting him; however, I attribute that to more of a schematic issue for the Browns, rather than blaming Garrett. For example, they would run plays that relied on him getting a good rush upfield, and then run a draw or a screen or a reverse near his side. The rest of the defense behind him wasn’t ready for it.
The one thing I’ll say about Garrett is that he is relentless. You might keep him quiet for 90% of the plays, but then he’ll win one or two matchups that lead to a big sack or turnover at the most inopportune time for the other team.
5. The Browns’ cornerbacks have been pretty impressive this season, especially Denzel Ward, Greg Newsome and Greedy Williams. If you were an opposing offensive coordinator, how would you attack them?
Denzel Ward has turned it up over these past two months, playing some of the best football of his career. With Greg Newsome and Greedy Williams, I still think they struggle a bit at turning their head around when a quarterback targets them deep on the outside, where receivers can either find the ball to make a catch or draw a pass interference penalty.
Greg Newsome was originally out this week with a concussion, but now we’re wondering if there’s any chance he clears the protocol in time for Monday.