After a heartbreaking loss against the Atlanta Falcons the Saints will travel to Cleveland for the second away game in a row. The Browns will play their first home game after a 30-27, last-second loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field. I watched the game to “scout the enemy” and here’s five takeaways from that contest that could affect the game against the Saints.
1. Brandin Cooks can make some noise on special teams.
Last Sunday Cooks never had a chance to show his returning skills but he’ll probably have a chance down in Cleveland. Browns’ punting unit isn’t very good: out of five punts Steelers’ returner Antonio Brown only made two fair catches. When he didn’t fair catch the ball he averaged 15.3 yards/return.
Hopefully our defense steps up and forces a lot of punts this week so Cooks make some electric plays on special teams too. I mean, if Cooks escapes the first couple of tackles and finds himself against Spencer Lanning, will he try to tackle him? Spencer Lanning is the guy who got stomped in the face by Antonio Brown, in case you’re wondering.
2. Running the football should not be a problem.
Ingram, Thomas and Robinson could have a nice day against a Browns’ defense that allowed 127 rushing yards to Le’veon Bell and Lagarette Blount. They suffered in the screen game too so look out for Thomas to shine in this game.
3. Hoyer under pressure sucks.
Brian Hoyer is a decent NFL quarterback…as long as his offensive line keeps him out of trouble. Last week against the Pittsburgh Steelers the Browns punted the ball a lot (especially in the first half) because of the pressure the Steelers were able to bring. The Browns were able to convert only 18% of third down plays (2/11) so it will be essential for the Saints defense to force Hoyer into third-and-long situations: this way they can give the ball back to Brees and let the offense put up more point.
4. Cleveland will run the ball A LOT.
Despite trailing 27-3 at halftime the Browns didn’t even think about passing the ball more in the second half. Why? Because that’s what they do and that’s what they have to do in order to put Hoyer in a position to be an efficient quarterback. Like I said, Hoyer is a mediocre quarterback but if you give him a good running game he can kill you with play-action passes: that’s exactly what happened in the second half of the Pittsburgh game when Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell were so good running the ball that when the Browns used the play-action pass Hoyer had a ton of time (both inside and outside the pocket on rollouts) to decide where to put the ball and receivers were able to get open.
Against the Steelers they ran for 183 yards on 30 attempts (6.1 yards/attempt) and we know the Saints’ run defense isn’t exactly great so I believe stopping the run will be the #1 focus for Rob Ryan’s unit this week.
5. If Jordan Cameron doesn’t play, Saints’ secondary shouldn’t have problems.
It looks like Cameron’s status is still uncertain for this Sunday, as he aggravated his shoulder on a deep reception against the Steelers. According to NFL.com the Browns signed a new tight end this week, Gerell Robinson.
Without Cameron the Saints will face no real threat in the passing game: Andrew Hawkins, Miles Austin, Taylor Gabriel and Travis Benjamin are the Browns’ starting receivers. If the Saints can’t stop them…good luck for the rest of the season.