Five players who need to prove something against Bears.
The Browns are at .500, with a record of 1-1. The team handled their business with the Texans and now have to deal with the limping Bears of the midway. Bears quarterback Andy Dalton may not play and if he does, he’s in a one-dimensional offense that’s managed by an offensively inept coach. If Dalton can’t play, rookie quarterback Justin Fields is next up and he has the same issues Dalton has to worry about, except for the fact that he’s a rookie and therefore is expected to not be good.
The Browns shouldn’t view any game as a “gimmie” but this is as close to a gimmie game as the Browns will have this year.
That makes this the perfect opportunity for a few key Browns players to turn around their season and start playing up to their potential.
These are the five Browns players who need to step up against the Bears
Donovan Peoples-Jones has been a non-factor to a concerning degree through the first two games. He’s been in nearly 80% of all offensive snaps but has only been targeted twice. Considering Baker Mayfield’s league-leading completion percentage, one would think if Peoples-Jones was open, he’d get the ball. He has to start showing up and getting open, otherwise, there’ll be no reason to keep him around.
Jack Conklin was undoubtedly the best offensive lineman for the Browns last year. Some will argue Wyatt Teller, but he only played in a handful of games. Conklin played in 15 and earned the second All-Pro nod of his career. The problem with Conklin in 2021 however is hard to pinpoint. Against the Chiefs, he was getting beat underneath by guys not nearly as strong as he is and was quite often off-balanced because of it. Against the Texans, Conklin couldn’t get around on guys and was forced to resort to grabbing at them as they blew by. His PFF score is still 79.5, so that’s good, but he has to play better.
It’s very possible that Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah was a byproduct of hype. Everyone said he was a first-round talent (which should no longer be a thing we celebrate) that fell to the second round. He was going to be a force, that’s what everyone thought. Then he played one preseason game and the expectations were raised. “He’s so good he doesn’t need to play another preseason game!” Turns out Owusu-Koramoah has been anything but good. While he may turn into a solid linebacker, he has not proven to be the game-changer everyone thought he’d be. It’s still early but we’ve seen time and time again that a player will show you who they are sooner, rather than later. Who is Owusu-Koramoah?
Blame whoever you want but Denzel Ward has not been playing well. Not just not good, but he’s been flat-out bad. He’s had two seasons of subpar play and this was supposed to be his big turnaround year. So far it’s been far from that. At this rate, it’s very likely that Ward doesn’t return for a sixth year, let alone a fifth. Ward needs to start playing like a Top 10 pick, instead of letting every receiver he matches up with look like an All-Pro receiver.
Myles Garrett had a PFF grade of 89.5 last season, he’s at a 72 in 2021. You can’t blame his play on Joe Woods’ scheme either, as he’s thrived in it. No, Garrett has just fallen off of a cliff. Maybe it’s lingering effects of Covid-19, maybe Jadeveon Clowney isn’t helping much in the pass-rushing department, who knows. What we know is that Garrett is sitting on a $125 million contract that he is not earning. He’s getting paid nearly $2 million per sack, and right now he hasn’t earned anything. Through two games he’s been nowhere to be seen. He had a pitty sack to close out the fourth quarter of the Chiefs game but that’s been it. Part of the defensive secondary’s inability to stop guys is due to Garrett being unable to pressure on quarterbacks. Garrett is running out of excuses. It’s time to put up.