Are you wondering what this version of the Browns Offense will look like without all the main contributors? Well, that makes two of us.
Baker Mayfield, Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt and Odell Beckham. These are four of the Browns’ offensive playmakers and focal points. Why do I bring them up? Oh, only because they will be not be suiting up for tonight’s game on national television with the Denver Broncos. In their place will be names such as Case Keenum, D’ernest Johnson and Demetric Felton. Luckily, the Browns probably are playing against an opponent where a win shouldn’t be out of the equation. The question certainly swirling through the minds of Browns’ fans has to be: “What the f*** is this offense going to look like?”
It should ease the pain for Browns’ fans to know that the QB at the helm has a proven track record. The last time Case Keenum suited up for a Kevin Stefanski-style offense, things went very well. Keenum was a journeyman in the NFL before landing on the Minnesota Vikings. Stefanski was on the staff of the Vikings’ offense. Keenum, with the help of Stefanski’s playstyle, led the Minnesota Vikings to a 12-3 record along with delivering the Minneapolis Miracle. I would think Stefanski signed off on bringing in Keenum to a Three-year/18-million-dollar contract. I find that the play styles of Keenum and Mayfield are very similar. Short throws that allow for lots of yards after the catch opportunities. That is the name of the game when it comes to both Baker and now Keenum.
Another huge facet of the offense when Keenum was on the Vikings was the ability to play off of play-action. That will be tricky to deploy when you are down both parts of the lethal backfield. Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt are both sidelined due to injuries. This results in the patchwork backfield of D’ernest Johnson and Demetric Felton. Johnson, the third-year back out of USF, should be a familiar face to Browns’ fans as he has stepped up in the past. Stepping in for an injured Nick Chubb in Week 4 of last season, Johnson rose to the challenge rushing for 95 yards on 13 carries. To handle the receiving work should be rookie RB/WR Demetric Felton. Felton, the sixth-round pick from UCLA, has been getting sprinkled some receiving work over the first six games of the season. Nothing, however, compares to the workload he should expect to see tonight. If these two running backs can even give you 70% of the offensive production that Chubb and Hunt give you, it should open up the playbook for the Browns.
The Browns currently are the best rushing attack in the NFL averaging 168 yards a game. Maintaining a rushing attack would allow Keenum to operate in his comfort zone. The best case for this Browns offense is that the run game shows some life against the Broncos defense that currently ranks fourth-best in the NFL only allowing around 85.5 yards per game. It’ll allow some play action and that is Keenum’s bread and butter.
There are a lot of question marks at receiver with both OBJ and Jarvis Landry being game-time decisions. This will leave the tight ends I would expect to receive most of the short-yardage work from Keenum. Both Njoku and Hooper have flashed production at various points this season, but they will be pivotal on offense tonight. Both Donovan Peoples-Jones and Rashard Higgins are more field stretchers than YAC receivers. I feel like Keenum’s most likely will target Felton a decent amount out of the backfield. That should be enough for this offense to move the chains. The Raiders just last week carved up this Broncos secondary and I wouldn’t say the weapons outside of TE Darren Whaler are that much better than what the Browns are working with now.
Overall, this game gives me Broncos-Jets Thursday Night Football PTSD from last season. However, now that the Browns are involved, we will now have a vested interest in the outcome. I think Stefanski can handle this bad hand dealt to him and overcome the odds. The worst thing that can honestly come out of this game will be the Mayfield haters when Keenum wins.