The New York Jets try to get on the winning track when they visit the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. Previewing this matchup, Chris Pokorny of Dawgs By Nature was kind enough to answer a few questions regarding the 2022 Browns.
Check out the Q&A below, and be sure to check out DraftKings Sportsbook for all your betting needs this season.
1. The Browns pulled off a blockbuster acquisition in the offseason, acquiring star quarterback Deshaun Watson from the Houston Texans and giving up a boatload of draft picks in the trade. How are Browns fans feeling about the acquisition?
I think it’s a mixed bag. It’s one thing to try to upgrade at quarterback with Deshaun Watson, but it cost the team more than three first-round draft picks, he’s suspended for more than half of his first season, and then there’s all the drama that comes with the acquisition — not to mention that, despite his shortcomings, a lot of fans were still supportive of Baker Mayfield. I have felt passionless about the quarterback position in Cleveland since the trade happened, but I’ve still been able to separate that component from my rooting interest in the team; last week, I was as amped up as ever over a Week 1 win over the Carolina Panthers. As a quarterback, Watson would no doubt be a huge asset to the Browns’ offense, giving the team a downfield threat with his mobility keeping defenses on their heels too. But for now, we’re watching Jacoby Brissett under center instead, which segues into your next question.
2. Deshaun Watson is suspended for the first 11 games of the 2022 NFL season. With Baker Mayfield now in Carolina, Jacoby Brissett is under center for the Browns now. Is Brissett good enough to keep the Browns in contention until Watson returns? What do Browns fans think about their playoff chances this year?
The Browns’ offensive line, running game, and parts of their defense are definitely good enough to compete with most of the NFL, and pull off wins against the back half of the league. I would view us as a .500 type of team with Brissett, but that mark does speak to his shortcomings. He is not a threat to stretch the field with his arm, mostly because of his accuracy. He is pretty slow with his movements. I think he can do a decent enough job at not blowing games for Cleveland, but in cases where the team falls behind against a high-powered offense like the Chargers, I’m not looking forward to Brissett having to throw the ball a bunch to get the team back in the game. With all due respect to the Jets, the one good thing about the Browns’ start to the season is that they arguably have the easiest four-game stretch that you could ask for to begin a season (Panthers, Jets, Steelers, Falcons). If Cleveland could start 3-1 or 4-0, then that sets them up to be 5-6 or 6-5 by the time Watson returns. Watson’s return is another story, though, because I find it hard to believe that any quarterback who has basically missed two full seasons is going to be sharp right out of the gate.
3. Other than the big changes at quarterback, could you fill in Jets fans regarding the most significant additions and losses to the Browns roster since last year?
On offense, the team parted ways with wide receiver Jarvis Landry, center J.C. Tretter, and tight end Austin Hooper. Losing Hooper was the least important loss on offense, as he never lived up to his contract. Tretter was the biggest loss, but surprisingly, he ended up retiring a few weeks ago after no other team signed him (he was a Top-10 center in the league). Landry was the heart and soul of the receiving group and I wish he had been retained, but wide receiver Amari Cooper was added to be the team’s top receiver now.
Defensively, there really aren’t a lot of changes to point out as far as starters go. The defensive tackle position saw the addition of Taven Bryan, but he is nothing to write home about. Cleveland not having a draft pick in the first two rounds reduced the amount of early-season contributors one would normally expect from the draft, but defensive end Alex Wright and cornerback Martin Emerson are part of the rotation.
The biggest changes came on special teams, where kicker Cade York was drafted in the fourth round, and punter Corey Bojorquez was signed in free agency. York was a machine all preseason and became a fan favorite; that feeling was magnified when he drilled the 58-yard game winning field goal in Week 1. Bojorquez also adds great directional punting and distance to the team after their punter(s) had struggled the past couple of years. It may seem small, but that better field position gained via punts, and the ability to attempt more 50+ yard field goals, can make a huge difference in these close games. It already turned the first game into a win after it would’ve been a loss a year ago.
4. There are always unsung players on any team that fans of that team love and know their value but fans of other teams may not be so familiar with. Could you let Jets fans know about a player on offense and a player on defense for the Browns that fits the bill?
On offense, the players we love are all very well known or Pro Bowl caliber players already. However, I’m still not sure how familiar people are with right guard Wyatt Teller. He has been awesome for the past several years and can bulldoze multiple people on any given run play. On defense, let’s go with linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah. He was the team’s second-round draft pick a year ago, and his instincts and finishing ability on tackles instantly caught fans’ attention to the point where it’s always fun to watch him when he’s one-on-one in the open field.
5. If you were the head coach of another team, how would you go about attacking the Browns on offense and on defense? Where are the areas of vulnerability for the Browns?
The Browns had two completely blown coverages because of mistakes from their safeties in Week 1, each of which basically led to a 50-yard and 75-yard touchdown. That’s the only reason that Carolina had a chance to get back in the game; it was crazy because it felt like the defense absolutely dominated like 90% of the snaps, and then bang, you have these two plays where you’re thinking, “wtf, after all of that dominance, we just allowed two one-play touchdowns?” However, that is not something I feel teams can anticipate taking advantage of — the Browns’ coverage players are good, and so is their pass rush. I thought it was a mistake for the Panthers to not run up the middle last week, so that’s where I would attack Cleveland’s defense, along with trying more screen passes too to bait the pass rush in.
Regarding the Browns’ offense, it’s better that the Jets’ defense commits an extra defender to the run early, otherwise Cleveland will run all over the Jets. Force our inexperienced receivers (besides Amari Cooper) to get separation, and then see if Jacoby Brissett can actually make the throw. The Panthers didn’t do that strategy until the fourth quarter last week, and while it worked, they should’ve done it much sooner.
6. If you were a betting man, who would you bet on to win this game?
I would take the Browns (+6.5). The Jets struggled to score a touchdown last week against the Ravens and lost by a large deficit. Cleveland is at home, has a solid running game, and will pressure Joe Flacco into some mistakes.