As we prepare to head into the weekend and our home match-up against the Cleveland Browns, I reached out to Chris Pokorny of Dawgs By Nature to find out a little bit more about this Browns team the Colts will face in their frantic bid to prevent falling to 0-3.
The Colts have got a coach who is firmly on the hot seat because he can’t seem to game plan well or develop his players. The Browns have been 1-17 under Head Coach Hue Jackson. Do you get the sense that the front office is being patient and letting the team’s rebuild take place, or does he face pressure to win now to stick around?
Chris: This is choice timing with your first question! All 32 SB Nation sites just did a series on "What they get wrong about [my team]," and the one I wrote about the Browns focused on other media or team sites often believing that Hue Jackson and the front office are at risk of losing their jobs.
The Browns are in a unique position to where their 1-15 record didn't impact their job security, and they knew that ahead of time. The same applies to an extent this year as the team continues its methodical re-building process, although I would say that it would reflect poorly in 2017 on Jackson if he doesn't get close to a handful of wins. At the end of the day, the impression is that Jackson and the front office will all remain in place for 2018 unless some unforeseen locker room disaster takes place.
Colts fans and the NFL at large often write the Browns off based on who they are, yet their roster has seen major improvements over the last couple of years. What unit on this team would be all over people’s radar if they weren’t wearing Browns uniforms?
Chris: It would definitely be the Browns' offensive line. They are the highest-paid group in the NFL with a future Hall of Fame left tackle, Pro Bowl caliber players at left guard and right guard, and what appear to be stable enough presence at center and right tackle.
The group has received somewhat of a lackluster reputation through two weeks because of all the sacks given up. For some teams, like the Bengals and Texans, this is indicative of some very poor offensive line play. For the Browns, it boils down to a rookie quarterback who is holding the ball longer than anyone in the NFL. Through two weeks, I've seen maybe one sack that was a blow by, and that was actually on the running backs.
The expectation was also that because the Browns have the highest-paid line, the running game would flourish right away. It hasn't. But we have to give this unit time to get some better chemistry together, as all five players did not even start one game together in the preseason, either due to rest or injury. One of these weeks, that chemistry will come together and a good running game always receives some positive press.
The Browns had some struggles last week on offense. How should we expect to see them attack this very young Colts defense?
Chris: Struggles would be an understatement. For as much potential that I saw from DeShone Kizer during the preseason and in Week 1, where he looked as if he was 'this close' to taking that next step forward, Week 2's performance against Baltimore was a disaster. The Browns actually put together several decent drives, but with the way Kizer was playing, I kept thinking to myself, 'Well, let's see what mistake ends this drive,' and before long, he had 1 fumble and 3 interceptions, 2 of which were in the red zone.
With that in mind, it's hard to say how Kizer should attack the Colts' defense because I wouldn't confidently be able to place money on him being 'over' his bad Week 2 performance, especially since the amount of time he spends holding on to the football actually got longer after already being worst in the league.
Ideally, the Browns' offense would be a run-heavy approach, completely minimizing a number of throws that Kizer makes in order to let him be as efficient as possible. Instead, I feel like Hue Jackson has made the mistake of letting Kizer rip it often without any restraints. We're trying to have him at a point in his development that he hasn't reached yet, and trial by fire isn't the best way to make him learn in my opinion.
First overall pick Myles Garrett suffered a high ankle sprain, but reports are that he might be back in time to see action on Sunday. How big an impact does his presence have on this defense?
Chris: Myles Garrett was billed as a generational player heading into the draft, and he lived up to every bit of that reputation and then some during training camp and the preseason. Fans were completely demoralized when we heard he was going to miss several weeks to begin the regular season. Even though it's a good sign that he's resuming some activities, I think it's still a bit too early for him to come back – Week 4 is a more realistic expectation.
If a healthy Garrett was available – the one we saw all offseason – he sets the tone of the entire defense. Without him, the Browns don't have any personnel who can generate a pass-rush on their own. Garrett would win a lot of match-ups, which creates a trickle-down effect for the rest of the defense.
Finally, what do you predict is the outcome of this game?
Chris: I still need to break down the match-ups a little more, but I have to go with the Browns. I try not to take the mentality that 'the Colts are the worst team in the league without Andrew Luck,' because I know very well that opposing teams' fanbases think the same thing about the Browns. This is a prove it league, and Cleveland has done very little of that. But I do believe that the Browns' defense is a little underrated, and while they lost to experienced quarterbacks (Ben Roethlisberger and Joe Flacco) over the first two weeks, I'm optimistic about their chances of troubling a young Jacoby Brissett and some short field situations playing to the favor of Cleveland's somewhat untapped running game.
Thanks to Chris for taking time to answer our questions!
Who is your pick to win on Sunday?
This poll is closed