1. What's the mood in Cleveland around Tashaun Gipson's comments? Is it really as big a deal as the national media makes it out to be?
The comments do fuel the fire in the belly a little, but the present mood in Cleveland is kind of, "been there, done that." In other words, these are the types of things that Tashaun Gipson already expressed in his first year with the Jaguars, so it's kind of like old news to us. I know the comments about shutting out the Browns are new, but we've already established the picture in our heads that Gipson feels the need to vent about the organization. Gipson can be frustrated all he wants, but at one time, the Browns did offer him a hefty extension and he declined it at the time. I understand why he might be sour that the team later said "not interested" when he actually hit free agency, but to moan about it to the extent he has just seems petty.
2. The Browns' strength seems to begin and end with their run defense. How is that pass defense though? How have you made underwhelming quarterbacks look? (Asking for a friend... whose name is Blake...)
Statistically, the Browns don't look too bad against the pass, ranking 17th in passing yards allowed. However, whether it be good or underwhelming quarterbacks, the only quarterback who really had a lackluster performance against Cleveland was Marcus Mariota. The other 8 quarterbacks they've faced have combined for 19 touchdown passes to just 5 interceptions.
It's unique when describing Cleveland's pass defense. Teams don't march up-and-down the field on them the entire game through the air, which explains why they aren't ranked something like 30th in pass defense. They have a talented individual trio at cornerback in Jason McCourty, Jamar Taylor, and Briean Boddy-Calhoun (in case you haven't heard, McCourty is having a Pro Bowl like season). Gregg Williams insists on having rookie safety Jabrill Peppers play 30 yards downfield in center field, so teams don't throw many deep routes in the middle.
The struggles often come in the red zone, where Cleveland allows a touchdown 76% of the time. They just cannot stop opposing quarterbacks down there. Around other parts of the field, the linebackers have struggled too much in covering running backs and tight ends. And if one cornerback has had some lapses, it's Taylor, but it's hard to fault him too much because for as much as the Browns blitz (most in the league), the amount of pressure they actually generate is relatively low.
3. If you were an opposing offensive and defensive coordinator, how would you attack the Browns?
Offensive coordinators should maintain a balance in the running and passing game, but understand that Cleveland won't allow them to have a big day on the ground. The Browns' pass rush struggles to get home, and with the Browns often playing with a very deep single high safety, it sometimes feels like teams have an 11-on-10 advantage. If Blake Bortles is patient enough, he'll find some breakdowns in the Browns' defense, but don't unnecessarily force the ball to the middle of the field. Teams haven't taken that bait yet and its worked out for them.
Defensive coordinators don't have to worry about the Browns' wide receivers very much, as I'd rank them the worst in the NFL by far (although Corey Coleman comes back this week, and Josh Gordon returns in two weeks). The Browns have some athletic tight ends who have the potential to out-match a lot of linebackers and safeties in my opinion, but they haven't excelled in that area like they should. My advice: pressure Kizer heavily on one side, forcing him to roll out, while maintaining one spy on the side you are pushing him too. Kizer's accuracy once he leaves the pocket is not good -- most of the time, it ends up as a throwaway, incompletion, or near-interception.
4. Is there is a Jaguars player on the offensive side of the ball other than Leonard Fournette that you'd say, "If the Browns don't stop him, we're in trouble"?
No, not really. I'm not too optimistic about facing the Jaguars' offense, which means I think one of our best chance at scoring is getting Blake Bortles to screw up. The more the ball is in his hands, the better. I'll take my chances with that.
5. What's gonna happen on Sunday? Will the Jaguars get a win? Will the Browns surprise us?
I'm happy to see the Jaguars turn things around after so many down years. I kept liking their defensive-caliber team, but was disappointed to see losing season after losing season. To see them flip the switch gives some hope that something similar could happen to Cleveland one year.
You have to understand that Browns fans are desperate to see a win, though, and I keep telling myself that Blake Bortles can keep Cleveland in the game. The Browns have gone with a safer offensive approach over the past three games, and the running game is starting to catch fire. Cleveland actually led the Vikings and Lions late into the third quarter for two straight games before falling apart late. That might seem like "LOL" type progress for many teams, but it was a vast improvement for Cleveland, and the players in that locker room are not phoning it in.
The Browns are hungry to turn the tide, so I wouldn't count this Sunday as a lock quite yet for Jacksonville.