Baltimore Beatdown had the pleasure of asking Dawgs By Nature five questions pertaining to the upcoming week 2 matchup against the Cleveland Browns. Good news, they didn’t slack on the answers, in fact they made me feel guilty by my own responses. . .
1. Starting with the obvious, how much does the loss of RGIII affect the team?
If the Browns wanted to enter this season with the best chance to ensure some consistency on offense, they would have started Josh McCown. The reason why Robert Griffin III was practically given the keys to the starting job from the start of the offseason was because head coach Hue Jackson wanted to see if he could rejuvenate Griffin’s career. If Griffin were to mature as the season went along, he could be in the conversation as a long-term answer, since he’s over a decade younger than McCown.
That reclamation project is pretty much out the window now. The end result is that Cleveland’s offense will probably run a bit smoother – McCown goes through his reads better and can complete passes other than the deep ball. So for fans who want to win now, it’s a good thing. (Note: When I say win now, I don’t mean contending). It makes it more likely that the team will use one of their first-round picks next year on a quarterback, though, because even if Jackson still believes he can make Griffin a good quarterback, the other concern is his durability. He failed that test before he could even finish one game. He’s not the long-term answer.
2. The Browns lost two great offensive lineman in Alex Mack and Mitchell Schwartz to free agency, how are they dealing with the absence?
It was painful to watch those two players leave, as both of them were Pro Bowl-caliber players. However, the previous regime had just invested a first-round pick in a center (Cameron Erving), so by letting Mack go, the regime at least had somebody with some intrigue they could pilot-test there. Schwartz had the best season of his career in a contract year and was just the right age to where it would’ve been great to lock him up long-term. It sounded like he would’ve been fine with staying, but for various reasons, the team wasn’t on the same page with him after free agency had already started.
Last year, Erving was used as an offensive guard in spot duty and was unbearable. He was such a liability in blocking that he had to be removed from the lineup before he even got very many reps. This year at center, he’s definitely shown improvements, just by virtue of him not outright blowing assignments. There are still a couple of concerns that stand out, though. When he has a chance to make a play in open space (i.e. a screen pass), he’s not been able to get to his target to block them. Second, and more importantly, between Week 1 and the preseason, he sailed two Shotgun snaps over the quarterback’s end. Last week’s led to a game-changing safety.
At right tackle, veteran Austin Pasztor is there right now. He’s not too bad if the Browns go to power run blocking, but he’s very vulnerable in pass protection to letting his guy get right by him. The team drafted two offensive tackles this year – Spencer Drango and Shon Coleman. The expectation is that before long, one of them will replace Pasztor in the starting lineup…just not yet.
3. Joe Haden is known for great man coverage, do you see him shadowing a specific receiver?
Joe Haden was known for being great in man coverage. He had a rough 2015 season, though. We’re hoping things will be different in 2016, but he was beaten for a touchdown in Week 1 already. I didn’t think he played bad last week, but I remember how good he was a few years ago, and he just doesn’t seem to have that same type of confidence and instincts now. I don’t think he’ll go up against a specific receiver all game; I anticipate that he’ll line up on one side of the field and see whoever comes out his direction.
4. What does Josh McCown bring to the Browns offense?
You’ll see a carbon copy of what you saw a year ago. He accurate, mobile, and inspires his teammates with his play. His biggest fault is that, like Robert Griffin III, he’s never proved to be durable in his career. If the Browns get too pass-happy down the stretch, McCown is also prone to fumbling the ball when he takes a hit. As far as a favorite target, that would be tight end Gary Barnidge, who was held to without a catch in Week 1.
5. What two players (one offense one defense) should Ravens fans be worried about on Sunday?
On offense, I’d be concerned about WR Terrelle Pryor. The transition this guy has made to the receiver position has been incredible, and when all of these defensive backs see him for the first time, I think his combination of size, speed, and even the subtleties of his route running will catch them off guard. If there is an area where he’s still a bit shaky, I’d say it would be catching passes over the middle, where it seems like he might be thinking about potential contact too much. Last week, he caught one pass over the middle, but bobbled and about three times as he fell down, despite no defenders being near him.
On defense, rookie DE Carl Nassib is the player you want to look out for. It’s been awhile since the Browns have had a player in their front seven play with some swagger, but Nassib breaks an intensity and a high motor on every down. If he’s not making a play, he’s influencing it so others can.