Titans Browns preview

Titans Browns preview
Marcus Mariota about to release a pass for the Titans. Photo courtesy of USAToday

Titans Browns preview

The Browns are awful. It’s not like they’ve beaten the Titans two of the last three times…wait a sec. They have won two of the last three.

Last year’s game wasn’t very close. The Browns scored two touchdowns during “garbage time” and almost “stole” a win, but all-in-all the Titans had the game in hand.

Last year marked a turning point for the Titans organization. General Manager Jon Robinson brought hope to the organization as Marcus Mariota did the year before. The Titans finished with a 9-7 record in 2016. In 2015, however, the Titans were just as bad off as the Browns. They had the second pick in the draft after a 2 win season. They had fired yet another coach and yet again experienced massive roster turnover. Titans fans need not be reminded of those miserable seasons.

The Titans got to a point, a winning point, that the Browns wish to be at. The Browns are closer to that point themselves. If they scored 12 more points this year, the Browns record would be 3-3 just like the Titans. Hue Jackson has been their coach for a bit now. Draft picks have panned out and they are making progress. The Titans are the better-stocked team. They do have more talent, but this is not those “worst team in football” type Browns of yesteryear. They are a pretty solid team that is just lacking a little bit of a luck; one play here or there and they’re 3-3. The Browns aren’t where the Titans are yet, development wise, but they are not that far off.

The Titans have terrific 23-year-old Marcus Mariota at quarterback. He is an enormous advantage over the Browns Deshone Kizer. The Browns darling draft pick hasn’t completed 50 percent of his passes in his last three starts and was pulled by the coach. Rookie quarterbacks have “growing pains” and he appears to be going through them. Kevin Hogan is out for this game. The Browns would have to go with third-string quarterback Cody Kessler if they need a replacement for Kizer.

Which Titans pass defense will show up? The Titans pass defense has had some awful games and some that were top ten in team history. Allowing Russell Wilson to throw for 364 yards is not good. Holding the Miami Dolphins to just 78 yards passing was outstanding. The Titans pass defense must play a decent game. They can’t give away the huge advantage Mariota has by allowing Kizer to slice them up.

The Browns run game is quite opportunistic. Kizer is the Browns second-leading rusher with half as many yards as Isaiah Crowell. Crowell is a good hard-nosed back that could use a better line to clear the way. Duke Johnson Jr. has great hands and is a terrific receiving threat out of the backfield. The Browns have a curious run game that seems to stall, then they slip a run in for a first down.

At wide receiver, the Browns are quite weak. Kenny Britt is far past his glory days winding down his career. He missed a team meeting and reportedly was warned he will be cut at his next infraction. Britt only has 8 catches this year. Exciting youngster Corey Coleman is on IR. Somewhat highly regarded tight end prospect David Njoku has shown flashes while Seth Devalve has been more steady at tight end. Other than a couple names, the Browns have hustling types. They may not be that good, but if a team “slacks off” or doesn’t respect them, they are going to make a play. Titans fans have adored their fair share of hustling types over the years. Adoree Jackson is a superb athlete that totally outclasses the competition. Let’s not forget though- a guy like Rashard Higgins just needs to get to a spot and catch a ball. While the Browns are weak at receiver, if Marc Mariani has taught us Titans fans anything, it’s that we had better respect the hustling types.

The Browns defense is pretty solid. Jason McCourty is playing better than he ever has. He’s PFF’s top ranked cornerback in the NFL and let’s face it- he was never that highly ranked with the Titans. (McCourty hurt his ankle and may sit) Myles Garrett looks like a terror. In two games he has three sacks and everyone praising how talented the top pick in last year’s draft is. Emmanuel Ogbah is what the Titans hoped Kevin Dodd would be and picked in the same round of the same draft too. He plays outside linebacker and defensive end and is a decent looking young prospect. Jamie Collins was a Patriots free agent that several Titans fans wanted. Jabril Peppers was a common Titans fans mock draft selection. (Peppers is questionable) There is some talent on this defense.

The Titans run game has been a common topic lately. This week has been the week of Derrick Henry and DeMarco Murray talk. Maybe what we should have been discussing is how the Browns are tied for the best in the NFL at only allowing 3 yards per carry to running backs. Whichever running back gets most of the carries, it’s going to be a tough haul for them. The Browns are quite stout against the run.

Mariota’s advantage becomes even more significant if Peppers and McCourty are out. The Titans should be able to move the ball through the air rather easily if those two sit. (Like many teams, the Browns need better depth) Coach Mularkey prefers to run early and run often when his team has a lead. That may be a trap this week. With the Browns tough run defense, this is probably exactly what they want. The Titans will need to get a 14 point lead before they (all but) remove the passing game from their offense and try to run out the clock.

This should be a Titans win. Careful not to overstate these Browns. They’re fiesty and hungry to get their first win.

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