It’s generally accepted that the Cleveland Browns have drafted incredibly badly. However, they may also have had the worst luck with injuries in the league this year.
First off they’re about to start their fifth quarterback in five games. That’s right, a week after losing RGIII for a substantial period they lost Josh McCown for three weeks. At this rate the Browns will need WR Terrelle Pryor to switch back to quarterback for Week 4! Hoping to avoid this, the Browns signed the man dubbed “Clipboard Jesus”, Charlie Whitehurst. The 34-year-old perennial back up QB has played in only 24 games in 10 seasons. The injury to McCown may be a blessing in disguise as he is clearly not the answer for now, let alone quarterback of the future. Instead the Browns will start their rookie quarterback Cody Kessler under center.
Corey Coleman has been one of the few bright spots in the 2016 Browns season. The rookie wide receiver has seven catches for 173 yards. In the first quarter of last week’s match against the Steelers he was pretty much uncoverable as he snagged two touchdowns. Things were looking good until Wednesday’s practice. Coleman broke his hand during and his recovery is expected to keep him out 4-6 weeks. Veteran Andrew Hawkins and rookies Rashard Higgins and Ricardo Louis will try to keep the sinking ship afloat.
Promising third-round pass rusher Carl Nassib also broke his hand in Sunday’s loss to the Ravens. The solution being an increase in playing time for Tyrone Holmes. Not familiar with him? Hardly surprising as he’s a rookie who has barely played and collected only one tackle.
Derrick Kindred, the Browns rookie has shown some ability so far this season. He’s already picked up 11 tackles and defensed 2 passes as a back up. He’ll get his first opportunity to start on Sunday as he replaces injured safety Ibraheim Campbell. His time as a starter will be made even harder if Pro Bowl corner Joe Haden doesn’t recover from a groin strain.
Special teams are not exempt from the Browns bad luck. The team put kicker Patrick Murray on injured reserve with a knee injury. One of the Browns few offseason acquisitions, he was 1 for 2 on field goals and 3 for 4 on PATs. To replace him the team signed Cody Parkey who was an impressive weapon for the Eagles in 2014 when he set an Eagles single-season record (150 points) and earned a Pro Bowl selection. Injured early last year, he was released in the final round of cuts earlier this year.
Bengals vs. Broncos
The Bengals’ offense is based around hitting A.J. Green. When Green can get open, he makes space for those around him, whether through the air or on the ground. Last week the Steelers kept AJ very quiet during their 24 -16 win. Denver boasts one of the better defenses in the league. Only one of five deep passes against Denver has been completed this season (Pro Football Focus). Andy Dalton hasn’t been good when blitzed this season (69.4 passer rating) and now he’s facing Von Miller, who’s been everywhere in the first two games. He already has 10 tackles, 4 sacks and a forced fumble!
On offense the Bronco’s Trevor Siemian continues to do enough to get by especially if he’s handing off to CJ Anderson. Anderson has averaged 4.2 yards a carry and a touchdown this season. The Broncos just have too many weapons they can call on for the Bengals to keep this one close.
Steelers vs. Eagles
NFL.com has the Steelers as the top team in pro football right now. Antonio Brown is an absolute beast and DeAngelo Williams is a fantasy dream, despite being a back up. The Eagles have a good defense (17 points over two games) but expect CB Leodis McKelvin to remain out from injury. This means Jalen Mills will again see significant time and should be targeted by the Steelers. Mills struggled early against the Bears but rebounded to acquit himself well.
Rookie quarterback Carson Wentz is filling the City of Brotherly Love with dreams of playoff football. Zach Ertz was a huge weapon in the Eagles first game but he’ll be missing for another couple of weeks. This would be an ideal time for 6’5 receiver Dorial Green-Beckham to step up, especially in the red zone where he can use his size.
Ryan Matthews could help soften up a fast but inexperienced Steelers defense, but I’m going with the Steelers in this one. As an Eagles fan, I think (hope) it could go either way.
Ravens vs. Jaguars
Dennis Pitta has returned from consecutive serious hip injuries to be Joe Flacco’s favorite target again. On Sunday he caught nine balls for 102 crucial yards. Mike Wallace has proven a valuable addition, but the Ravens running game has been anemic this season. They’ll meet a team that many, including myself, picked to make the playoffs. So far they are 0-2 and their defense has looked lost, despite many upgrades, including Jalen Ramsey, Myles Jack and a healthy Dante Fowler.
If you have any idea which is the real Ravens defense, you’re a better a man than I. Are they the team that allowed 20 points in the first quarter to a woeful Browns team. Or are they the team that shut out the Browns for the following three quarters? If Chris Ivory plays, this could be the Jaguars first win of the year. The Jaguars offense can be scary when Blake Bortles plays sensible, turnover free football.
Dolphins vs. Browns
Both the Dolphins and the Browns are 0-2. The Browns seem to be going from one low to another and things won’t get any better. CB Tramon Williams has been horrible. Pro Football Focus has him as allowing a passer rating of 135! He’ll be facing a Ryan Tannehill desperate to show he’s a true franchise quarterback. Although he’s passed for almost 600 yards in two games he only has two touchdown passes to go with his two interceptions. However, Dolphins receiver DeVante Parker is listed as questionable and undeniably talented but fragile Arian Foster will be missing from action. This will mean the first start of rookie Kenyon Drake, as British born running back Jay Ajayi has fallen out of favour. With all the injuries mentioned above, the Browns will struggle in this one.