1. The Browns had an impressive loss to the Chiefs in week one, followed by an uninspired win against the Texans in week two. Do you think they’re primed for an impressive win or disappointing loss in week three?
DBN: Without trying to dive too much into your third question yet, the Browns’ defense has played at a very underwhelming level through two games, given the individual talent names at a few positions. Offensively, the Browns are a very solid group to the point where I think it’ll be difficult for most teams to stay pace with them in a high-scoring affair. Because Chicago’s offense has only managed 37 points through two games and just over 200 yards of offense against the Bengals last week, it sounds nice on paper to say that the Browns’ defense will get to rookie quarterback Justin Fields to complement the offense en route to an impressive win. I think it’ll be a Browns win, just not quite the “impressive” win we’re looking for from this team yet.
2. With Jarvis Landry out and Odell Beckham Jr. yet to play this season, the Browns receiving corps is starting to look like more of a receiving corpse. Do you expect Beckham to get right by Sunday? Who would you expect to step up in the slot to attack the Chicago Bears defense’s current biggest weakness?
DBN: Per Brad Stainbrook of The OBR, who has been a pretty reliable source, Odell Beckham is expected to make his debut on Sunday. One would expect that to be on somewhat of a pitch count, even if it’s just for conditioning purposes, but I think it could still be a significant amount of reps (i.e. 40-60% of the game). As for the slot receiver role, last week, rookie RB/WR Demetric Felton, a sixth-round pick, saw his first action of the regular season. Even though he played just 3 snaps, he caught 2 passes for 51 yards and a touchdown. Felton was worked out in the slot all preseason — and one thing we have to remember is that Jarvis Landry got injured during last week’s game, so head coach Kevin Stefanski didn’t have time to radically adjust the playbook for different personnel. With a week to plan for that, I think Felton will see a little more action, and that veteran WR Rashard Higgins will see some more reps too after a couple of mistakes by second-year WR Donovan Peoples-Jones (fumble) and WR Anthony Schwartz (not finishing route, leading to interception) last week against the Texans.
3. The Browns defense came into the season with a lot of new starters. Who has hit the ground running, and who might the Bears be able to attack while they still try to find their stride?
DBN: As crazy as it may sound, the Browns’ best new starter so far, by far, has been DT Malik McDowell. A second-round pick by the Seahawks in 2017, he never played a snap in the NFL. The Browns took a flier on him in camp, and he was so impressive that he won a starting role and has started the past two games. He displays great power and has been an asset to the Browns’ run defense. It figures that the guy who comes the cheapest makes the biggest splash, right? Free agent safety John Johnson III has been below average these first two weeks, as has slot cornerback Troy Hill, both of whom came over from the Rams. Defensive end Jadaveon Clowney has been solid — definitely not a weakness. On the same note, though, you kind of build these expectations that the combination of Clowney and Myles Garrett will be impossible for other teams to block, but yet those two have not really struck fear into Patrick Mahomes or Tyrod Taylor/Davis Mills yet. I imagine things will click for the defense at some point, we’re just not there yet.
4. With the switch to a 17 game season, the Lions could have gone down as the only 0 and 16 team in history if it weren’t for the 2017 Browns. Why did you have to take that from them? I only ask because the Lions are kind of like a little sibling to the Bears and that was literally the only special thing about them.
DBN: Haha, well, it certainly wasn’t a fun honor to have, but as far as the impact it’s had, I don’t even remember or think about the 0-16 season unless someone else mentions it. That’s how quick the Browns have turned their team around, and maybe it was those couple of painful losing seasons that helped the team re-build to where it’s at today, with the chance to be a serious contender in the AFC. It’s also helped prevent Hue Jackson from getting a head coaching gig elsewhere to ruin their team too, so hey, that’s a favor we might have done for someone.
5. If Myles Garrett writes a poem about the outcome of this game, what will the title be?
DBN: “Just in: We Attacked the Field.”
I’m going to assume Chris didn’t read the headline to my postgame last week, and didn’t realize I had literally just used the “Just in” Justin word play. Instead, I believe this was a case of two brilliant minds coming up with the same idea on the same week.
Let’s hope the Browns defense continues to struggle