clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Browns-Chiefs preview: What does Johnny Manziel need to show?

It's the Chiefs and Browns at Arrowhead on Sunday and to prepare for it we talked with Chris over at SB Nation's Browns blog, Dawgs By Nature. The Browns are 3-11 and Chris's answers clearly reflect that. Chiefs fans remember the tough years...

Here's our Q&A. Find my answers to their questions here.

1. Johnny Manziel gets the call. Will he be the Browns QB in two years?

DBN: No. In all likelihood, Johnny Manziel will not be a Brown next season. All reports out of the organization indicate a team unsure of Manziel's future in the league considering his checkered history. Owner Jimmy Haslam reportedly has a high opinion of the young quarterback, but head coach Mike Pettine and the coaching staff has been reluctant to start Manziel all season. Manziel only received the starting job after Josh McCown suffered several injuries and Austin Davis turned in an average performance in his lone start. Complicating matters is the uncertainty surrounding team leadership heading into the offseason.

To be honest, the Browns defense doesn't do anything well.


Manziel certainly has the talent to succeed in the NFL. The second-year signal caller has developed a pass-first mentality and displayed improved football IQ. However, Manziel still needs time to develop and thoroughly learn the ins and outs of an NFL offense. Manziel is talented, but not fully developed. Manziel will be on an NFL roster in two years, just not with the Browns.

2. Who is a Browns player on offense I may not know but should?

DBN: RB Duke Johnson. A rookie out of Miami, Johnson has turned out to be the star of general manager Ray Farmer's 2015 draft class. Johnson provides a bonafide weapon in an offense full of duds. Unlike most of his counterparts in Cleveland, Johnson is dangerous with the ball in his hands. Johnson has earned playing time as the second running back behind Isaiah Crowell, shouldering an increased higher workload as the season marches on. Johnson has run the ball 92 times for 342 yards, 3.7 yards per carry. His elusiveness has also earned him touches as a wideout, as Johnson has 485 receiving yards and two touchdowns.

Johnson's two main strengths are his speed and power. Johnson hits the hole with speed and isn't afraid to bully his way out of trouble. And above all else, don't allow Johnson to find open space. Just ask Seahawks safety Earl Thomas, a victim of Johnson's stiffarm last Sunday.

3. Who is a Browns player on defense I may not know but should?

DBN: DE Desmond Bryant. Among those with his last name in the NFL, he's probably the least prominent, but that hasn't stopped him. Desmond Bryant,yes the player with the infamous mug shot is quietly enjoying a solid season for the Browns. Overshadowed by Dez Bryant and even teammate Armonty Bryant (no relation), Desmond has managed to quietly record 29 tackles and a career-high six sacks. Playing on an under-performing defense, Bryant leads the team in sacks, generating much needed pressure on the quarterback. Bryant has eight tackles and three sacks in the last two weeks alone, including 1.5 against the Seahawks.

To beat the Chiefs, the Browns desperately need to attack Alex Smith. An injury-depleted Browns secondary could certainly use the help, particularly after Russell Wilson tore through it with the precision of an elite quarterback. Desmond Bryant will be a key player for the Browns on Sunday, as the pass rush begins with him.

4. What does the Browns defense do well? What's the strength?

DBN: To be honest, the Browns defense doesn't do anything well. The Browns have one of the worst defenses in the NFL, a major disappointment considering Pettine's defensive background and Farmer's offseason upgrades. The Browns use a 3-4 scheme, dependent on big defensive linemen eating up double teams. The linemen, in particular the nose tackles, have not drawn double teams, leaving the linebackers vulnerable to opposing offensive linemen. Unable to flow to the ball, the linebackers can't attack the gaps, leaving the job to safeties Donte Whitner and Tashaun Gipson. Predictably, the Browns' weakness in run defense allows opponents to air it out on playaction or deep passes.

Perhaps the one and only strength of the defense is its safeties. Gipson has regressed some from his superb 2014 campaign, but still fits in well as a ballhawking free safety. Whitner is growing older, but the veteran still has 74 tackles, second-best on the team. The wily strong safety does not whiff on tackles or miss assignments like many of his teammates in the secondary.

Fun fact: Chiefs offensive coordinator Doug Pederson played quarterback for the Browns in 2000. Due to an injury to Tim Couch, Pederson had to start eight games for an awful Browns team. Pederson won only once, throwing for 1,047 yards, two touchdowns, and eight interceptions. Pederson should have better luck against the Browns on Sunday.

5. The Chiefs are likely playing without Justin Houston. Can the Browns handle the Chiefs pass rush?

DBN: No. The Browns do have two Pro Bowl offensive linemen in left tackle Joe Thomas and center Alex Mack, but the club is missing both of its starting guards. Left guard Joel Bitonio and right guard John Greco are both done for the season, leaving journeyman Austin Pasztor and underperforming rookie Cameron Erving to start. Pasztor has played relatively well, but Erving has been a trainwreck. Erving played center and left tackle at Florida State before the Browns tried to switch him to guard. The Browns benched Erving after a few games of filling in for Bitonio earlier this season, leaving Pasztor to start. One game later, Erving found himself back in at guard. The 2015 first round draft pick responded by allowing a sack and several hurries against the Seahawks.

The Browns struggle against creative blitz packages, and I expect the Chiefs to dial some up to confuse a banged-up Browns offensive line. Manziel will scramble to avoid the pressure, but the Chiefs will cause chaos for Manziel.