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Can the Broncos force the Browns’ Baker Mayfield into mistakes?

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Will Vic Fangio mix up the coverage looks enough to confuse Cleveland’s slumping second-year passer?

NFL: Cleveland Browns at New England Patriots
Mayfield has redefined the words “sophomore slump.”
Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

One of my goals this last offseason was to better educate myself on the state of the NFL league-wide. As much as I love keeping up with the day-to-day workings of the Broncos, I find that tunnel vision starts to seep in. In order to fight this, I started keeping up with some of the better national and team-focused writers around the league.

Few, if any are better than Jake Burns. Every time I read once of his posts I find it educational. So I knew I had to ask him for his insight on the Broncos and Browns match-up tomorrow.

Our conversation has been lightly edited for clarity.

1st and 10

Coming into this season I was near the front of the Browns’ bandwagon and saw little but blue skies and rainbows. Now at the midway point they’re 2-5 with a 23% chance at the postseason per Football Outsider’s Playoff Odds report. What’s the day to day feel around the team been like? Do you have confidence Freddie Kitchens could right the ship?

It’s been a gloomy start, no doubt. Most analysts underestimated how tough the start of the season would be schedule-wise, and the Browns left a couple wins on the table against the Seahawks and the Rams. There’s a good amount of skepticism about if Freddie is the answer at head coach because of multiple decision-making blunders, but it’s early in his tenure and the hope is he learns from them and applies those lessons to show improvement the rest of the way. Same with the overall team. The back half of this schedule is very winnable, and they have some nice opportunities to get to nine or 10 wins.

2nd and 4

I loved Baker Mayfield last year and hoped he’d somehow slip to the Broncos at number 5. His rookie year felt pretty validating as he began to tear up the league by season’s end. 2019 has been a struggle though. You mentioned that a lot of the problems can be traced to his eyes. Has that continued lately? If so, how can Fangio take advantage?

Yes, Mayfield has taken the NFL’s tough learning curve to the chin in year two. He’s making mistakes in processing, pocket management and overall decision making. Like you mentioned, much of it is tied to his eyes and the ability to understand coverages that change pre-snap to post-snap. Fangio should do all he can to manipulate and mess with Mayfield’s picture pre to post and put pressure on him. He has not handled pressure well in any way, shape or form this year.

3rd and 7

If I were Garett Bolles, I’d have trouble sleeping this week with Myles Garrett coming to town. Is there any reason to believe that mismatch won’t go woefully awry against the Broncos? What would you do to protect the 3rd year tackle?

Myles is rushing the passer really well. He’s expanded his move repertoire and is thriving in creating backfield disruption. However, he isn’t handling the run game all too well, so I would run his way, screen pass his way, and provide TE/WR alignment help and chips to give Allen just those few key seconds to get rid of the football.

4th and inches

Outside of the big names, are there any matchups where Kitchens or Steve Wilks are licking their chops?

I still think they love their ability to rush from Olivier Vernon’s edge as he has played extremely well of late opposite Myles. They also like challenging on the outsides now with Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams healthy and healed from their hamstring issues. Both played well last week. Expect the Browns to leave them on islands and get after Allen. Offensively they love their TEs and use them often in passing game. Expect Ricky Seals-Jones and Demetrius Harris to challenge the middle of the field and Broncos linebackers when the Browns use play-action.

Point After

How can Denver spring the upset on Sunday?

Watch how Tennessee handled Week 1. Tight formations, slow down edge rush with run game, multiple TEs, and PA max protect. Get an early lead somehow and make Cleveland strain. Within reason, let Nick Chubb get his. Don’t allow the Brown’s WRs to beat you. Make Mayfield consistently beat you against zone heavy coverage. He has yet to do that this year.

Poll

Who wins Broncos, or Browns?

This poll is closed

  • 9%
    Broncos by a lot.
    (61 votes)
  • 46%
    Broncos by a little.
    (286 votes)
  • 13%
    Browns by a lot.
    (85 votes)
  • 30%
    Browns by a little.
    (187 votes)
619 votes total Vote Now