Nov 6, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Maliek Collins (96) sacks Cleveland Browns quarterback Cody Kessler (6) during the second half at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Cowboys won 35-10. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
The Cleveland Browns travel to Baltimore to face the Ravens. Here are some storylines to watch as the Browns seek their first win of the season.
Primetime! The Cleveland Browns travel on a short week to take on the division rival Baltimore Ravens on Thursday night football.
Head coach Hue Jackson will have his hands full as he is still in search of his first head coaching victory with the Browns. Earlier this week as 0-16 talk began, Jackson was adamant on his plans this season saying,”Somehow someway, we are going to find a way not to be 0-16.”
The team has been undermined all season by injuries and bad luck and haven’t yet to crack the win column. However, in a rebuilding season with major roster turnover and youth movement, the team hasn’t quit on their coach. Each week the team plays with passion and heart and gives their full effort for the Browns organization.
With so many rookies and young players fighting to prove themselves in this league, Jackson has had the full respect and command of his team despite the frustrating season. As long as Jackson and his players stick to the course and continue to play each week with energy, the Cleveland Browns will get their coveted first win of the season sooner rather than later.
On a short week the Browns play their first and only prime time game and will have a real opportunity to upset their division foe. Here are the storylines to follow leading up until kickoff.
Nov 6, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) is tackled by Cleveland Browns linebacker Jamie Collins (right), and outside linebacker Joe Schobert (53) in the first half at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Last week against the Dallas Cowboys, Jamie Collins made his Browns debut. It was unknown what Collins role would be after joining the team midweek, but defensive coordinator Ray Horton made Collins the centerpiece of the defense using him inside on early running downs and using him as a pass rusher on passing downs.
Collins recorded eight tackles, one for loss and one quarterback hit. Collins had moments where he showcased his elite playmaking potential. However, the Dallas offense did a great job of adjusting to Collins early in the game and began to run away from him on the weak side of the formations.
Collins wasn’t perfect as he was out of position on a touchdown he gave up to tight end Jason Witten. The play was a blown coverage by Collins, where it looked like he thought he had safety help over the top. The miscommunication resulted in a touchdown, but expect a more confident player after another week in the Browns defensive scheme.
“He looked really good blitzing at times, got some pressure every now and then,” Jackson said on Monday. “Obviously, he got an opportunity to play with his new teammates and did some good things. There are some things that he is going to learn more about our system as he moves forward.”
Despite a blown coverage and trying to learn on the fly in his first week with the team, Collins was by far the most talented defender on the field for the Browns. The Pro Bowl linebacker showed his natural ability to fight through blockers and have a nose for the ball carrier.
Although he was known as more of a traditional linebacker for New England, Collins showed his speed and athleticism to rush off the edge and give the defense a true threat on the edge. In his second game with the Browns, expect Collins to play more aggressive and loosely.
With another week of learning and studying within the defense, Collins will have the freedom to reign and make plays all over the field for the defense.
Quarterback Cody Kessler has been a pleasant surprise at the position all year despite so many other disappointments. While other parts of the team have underperformed, Kessler has played like a veteran, showing poise, toughness and the ability to protect the football.
In Kessler’s six starts he has thrown for 1,150 yards, five touchdowns and only one interception.
The key for Kessler’s rookie success has been his ability to protect the ball and not force passes into tight spots. Kessler has played mistake-free football and is completing 67.5 percent of his passes and has given his playmakers the chance to make plays in space with the ball.
Kessler was praised for these traits pre-draft coming out of Southern Cal and has showcased them to the best of his ability. In a season where he was not expected to play let alone be starting games early in the season, Kessler has done a superb job of taking over as the staring quarterback and quickly becoming a leader on the offense.
Now with some starts under his belt, Jackson wants to see his young quarterback be more aggressive and take some chances tonight in Baltimore.
“That is the way we in this offense to score more points,” Jackson said. “Cody has done a good job of distributing the ball and he has done a good job of putting the ball in the right places for the most part, but he knows now that in the National Football League you have to sometimes take a few more chances to score points because the defenses are too good.”
While Jackson wants to stretch the field more, Kessler does not sound quite as confident about that plan.
“I did that a couple times last game and then threw some balls up to give (WR) Corey (Coleman) and (WR) Terrelle (Pryor Sr.) when you have athletes like that, you have to give them a chance,” he said this week. “At the end of the day, you want to be smart with it. If they are double covered and it is not there and they did not win, check it down and get the ball out and get to the next play and don’t put your team in bad situations.”
Expect Kessler and the Browns offensive weapons to come out energized for their primetime game and look to hit an early home run. Kessler has proven in his six game starting that he can make smart decisions with the ball, and now is the time to give him more freedom to take some chances downfield with solid playmakers in Corey Coleman, Terrelle Pryor and Gary Barnidge.