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Scouting the Browns: Week 5

The Los Angeles Chargers play the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, October 10, 2021 at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, CA.
The Los Angeles Chargers play the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, October 10, 2021 at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, CA. [FINAL SCORE: LAC 47 - CLE 42]

The Chargers are on the road again in Week 5 against the Browns.

Kickoff is Sunday at 10 a.m. (PT). The Bolts and Browns are both 2-2.

We chatted with Mary Kay Cabot, who covers the Browns for The Plain Dealer, to get a preview of the game.

The Browns, like the Chargers and a dozen other teams, sit at 2-2 after four games. What's the biggest reason Cleveland has that record entering Week 5?

MKC: The Browns had a major melt down in the final 1:22 against the Jets, blowing a 30-17 lead and losing 31-30 on a last-second field goal. They lost to the Falcons 23-20 last weekend without three of their four starting defensive linemen, including premier ends Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney. Conversely, they were lucky to get out of Carolina with a victory, and needed a 58-yard, game-winning field goal by Cade York to pull it off. So, they're about where they should be right now.

The Chargers have talked all week about slowing down the Browns rushing attack. What makes that aspect go for Cleveland? Good running backs? A solid scheme?

MKC: The Browns have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, with Pro Bowl guards Joel Bitonio and Wyatt Teller, and an All-Pro right tackle in Jack Conklin. Their left tackle, Jedrick Wills, Jr., was the No. 10 overall pick in 2020. So it definitely starts up front. Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt take it from there, and both will run through a brick wall if they must. If they can't bowl you over, they'll try to hurdle you. Chubb has three 100-yard games already this season, and has taken his game to another level. Hunt, who asked to be traded, is playing for his next contract in addition to trying to carry his hometown team to a Super Bowl. They are a load, especially at home.  

How has Jacoby Brissett looked through four games?

MKC:Brissett has been up and down so far this season. He had rough outings against Carolina in Week 1 — but got Cade York in position for that gamewinning field goal at the end for a 26-24 victory — and also didn't have his best game Sunday in Atlanta en route to the 23-20 loss. He made an error on a crucial fourth and 3 from the 4 on the opening drive, and threw a pick at the end when the Browns needed about 14 yards to get York in position for the gametying field goal. When he connects well with Amari Cooper, which he did two straight weeks for 101 yards and a TD, he fares well. When he can't get the ball to Cooper, like in Atlanta where he had one catch for 9 yards, he's less successful. But he manages the game well and doesn't turn it over a lot, which is what the Browns need with Deshaun Watson out the first 11 games.

Defensively, who's a player Chargers fans should keep an eye on for Sunday?

MKC:This one's easy. Myles Garrett. Garrett makes his return to the field after flipping his Porsche multiple times a week ago Monday. He suffered a sprained left shoulder, strained right biceps and some lacerations on his wrist. When he returned to practice on Wednesday, he did so with extra pep in his step and a wink for the cameras. He has a newfound gratitude for life and for the game of football, and he has a chance to break Clay Matthews' official Browns record of 62 sacks with one on Sunday. He has three sacks in three games, and is aiming for NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Jamaree Salyer will have his hands full. 

Finally, what is a fair expectation for where Cleveland should be at by the end of the season? Is a playoff appearance the standard now under Kevin Stefanski?

MKC:TheThe Browns are grappling with the loss of Watson for the first 11 games of the season, and are still trying to salvage a challenging situation and make the playoffs. They'll need Brissett to hand over at least five or six victories to remain in the hunt. The Chargers game marks the beginning of a grueling stretch for the Browns in which they also face the Patriots, Bengals, Ravens, Bills, Bucs and Dolphins. Where will the minimum three other victories they need before Watson returns come from? They're hoping to bad one this Sunday, if they can run like the wind and pressure Herbert into a few mistakes. They're capable of at least nine victories, but that might not be enough for the playoffs.

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