Last week left all Browns fans including myself in shock. The worst part is no one could figure out what kind of shock they felt. A tie is the strangest thing that could happen in the NFL because it takes away from the climax of the game. Most Browns fans still don’t know how to take last Sunday, so this week in New Orleans is a big week for the orange and brown. Last week brought out shining spots but also some glaring issues, so I’m going to tell you who you should be looking for to have a good game Week 2 in the Big Easy.
Denzel Ward, CB
Denzel Ward made his NFL debut in Cleveland last week and it was nothing short of spectacular. The 4th overall pick in the 2018 Draft showed all Browns fans just what made John Dorsey and the rest of the front office drool over him this offseason. Ward played the majority of the game covering Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown, who is known to be one of the best receivers in the game, arguably of all time. Ward held Brown to nine receptions for 93 years and a touchdown. Now that may sound like a stellar stat line, but this is nowhere near as good of a game as what Brown is known for. Over the past five seasons, Antonio Brown has averaged a whopping 101.76 receiving yards per game and Ward in his debut was able to hold him under that. Typically, he’s the standout best player on the team each game but against Denzel Ward, he didn’t even have the most receiving yards on his team. Along with locking up Brown, Denzel picked off future Hall of Fame QB Ben Roethlisberger TWICE! Denzel couldn’t have dreamed of a better NFL debut while earning Rookie of the Week along the way. I think he’s gearing up to do the same this week in New Orleans, but with Michael Thomas as his new target.
Desmond Harrison, LT
I know this isn’t a sexy pick to be a standout this week, but Bob Wylie and the rest of the Browns coaching staff are gaining a lot of trust in the rookie. This trust means a lot more with the shoes Harrison is expected to fill in Joe Thomas. That being said, even Joe has spoken out about Harrison and how he thinks he can be the next best tackle in the league. Those are big words coming from a man who never missed a snap in his career. Last week, quite frankly, our offensive line looked like a turnstile. It didn’t seem like Tyrod Taylor could buy any time before the pocket collapsed (which heavily factored into his 15/40 reception/attempt ratio). This week look for Desmond Harrison to have a fire lit under him and pop off in the trenches. He knows this is his shot to make the starting line and I don’t think he’ll let it go to waste.
Tyrod Taylor, QB
Last week had a lot of Cleveland Browns fans questioning their trust for starting QB, Tyrod Taylor. In a game that was played in a complete downpour, Tyrod threw 40 passes while only completing 15 of them. While this seems like a glaring issue and a reason to start looking at Baker Mayfield, I’m here to tell you that those stats aren’t what the seem to be. To start off, Tyrod is a very conservative QB, so no matter the weather you can trust him to make good decisions with the football. Last week the rain made it so hard to throw the ball that Tyrod, being his conservative self, had to throw the ball away and just eat the down. This doesn’t show up in the stat line because throwing the ball away counts as an attempt, but it shows how deceiving the stat can be in the first place. On top of the weather conditions, our offensive line looked pitiful. The offensive line combined for five penalties and couldn’t seem to block any of the Steelers D-Lineman to save their lives. This caused for Tyrod to be rushed on most plays and forced to look to make a play with his legs. This week in New Orleans there will be no weather issues in the Superdome and the offensive line will have watched film of their shoddy play. Look for Tyrod to bounce back this week and prove why he is the starting QB and leader of this team.
Genard Avery, OLB
Genard Avery is my biggest key player to look for on Sunday in New Orleans. Some people might not know who he is, but you will soon. He was picked in the 5th round of the 2018 NFL Draft out of Memphis and he’s shown to be a problem for QBs since arriving in Cleveland. This week with defensive captain, Christian Kirksey, out with shoulder and ankle injuries, Avery will see more playing time at linebacker. In the preseason, Genard Avery got first-team reps against the Eagles which included a strip sack on Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles. Gregg Williams has spoken out about how much he loves Avery and I think it’s about time Browns fans find out why. Look for Genard Avery to have a coming out party this week against the Saints. I think he’ll be leaving Drew Brees with nightmares for a while.
Hopefully, the Browns were able to work out think kinks this week in practice and are ready to hit the ground running on Sunday. We saw what the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were able to do to the Saints last week and I think it will be no surprise if the Browns can repeat that. Keep in mind the Saints have started 0-2 in each of the last four seasons. I believe that there’s a good chance the Browns can continue that streak while simultaneously ending our winless streak this week in New Orleans.