It’s football time, folks, and we’re back again with the Interview with the Enemy series. Now the games actually count! This week, Chris Pokorny of Dawgs by Nature answers 5 quick questions about our week two matchup at home in the dome against the Cleveland Browns.
So how is overall team morale after the tie against Pittsburgh?
I don’t think you’ll find many players on any NFL team that will acknowledge the benefits the tie can have down the road. Therefore, the morale was like you would expect -- a lot of confusion, talking about missed opportunities, and not really knowing how to feel. At the same time, I sense a more confident vibe from the team. They felt like they belonged in the winner’s circle and have that belief that Cleveland is a contender.
What are the expectations for Josh Gordon in Week 2? Does he start? Does he see significant snaps?
Josh Gordon should start in Week 2 and play almost the entire game. Much was made about Hue Jackson making the decision not to start Gordon in Week 1, but he ended up “starting” anyway because the team’s first play was a three tight end, one receiver look that included Gordon (shrugs). Although he then did not play most of the rest of the first series, he still ended up playing 78% of the snaps. Fans were perplexed as to why he had just three targets all game when he has the talent to be the best receiver in the NFL. It is believed that the Browns will go out of their way to get Gordon involved early and often this week, because there is no reason why he shouldn’t be having at least 8 catches and 12 or more targets each week.
Who is one player on the Browns that Saints fans might not have heard of that you expect to make an impact on this game?
That would definitely be rookie fifth round pick Genard Avery. He was drafted as a linebacker, but ended up playing in more of a pass-rushing defensive end type of role this preseason. In Week 1, he played about 50% of the snaps and was graded very high by Pro Football Focus for his edge rushing productivity. In the final minutes of overtime, he also poked the ball away from Ben Roethlisberger to give the team a chance to win it (before a missed field goal led to a tie). Myles Garrett will be the workhorse who plays every snap and is the team’s most dangerous threat, but Avery is the lesser-known guy making a splash too.
How long do you expect Tyrod Taylor to keep the starting gig? Could Baker Mayfield have led the team to a different result in Week 1?
We ran a poll on our site asking that question, and after 2,200 votes, 59% of fans answered “Yes” -- that Baker Mayfield would have led the Browns to victory (as opposed to a tie) in Week 1. I’m not sure if I buy that. It was a heavy rainstorm the whole game, which is a tough role to put Cleveland in. How do we know he wouldn’t have tried to force some balls that led to mistakes? I am really high on Mayfield, but I just don’t see how you can automatically feel so confident in a rookie quarterback in those weather conditions.
I expect Taylor to keep the starting job for the entire season, unless he gets hurt, obviously. He may not “win” games on his own, but he will keep Cleveland competitive each week, and that’s the type of thing Hue Jackson is looking for in 2018.
What’s your prediction for the game? Final score?
I think the Browns’ offense will be crisper not having to work in the rain, but I also think the Saints will learn from their shell-shock defensive effort of Week 1 for a better performance. I’ve always seen Drew Brees get rid of the ball so quick, and that should negate much of the Browns’ pressure. I’m expecting a competitive game, but for the [Browns] to pull it out on the road by a score of 28-24.
A big thanks to Chris for taking the time to answer our questions. Make sure you check out his work and the rest of the good folks at Dawgs by Nature for tons of Browns content. You can follow Dawgs by Nature on Twitter @DawgsByNature, and of course you can always follow me @dunnellz.