An Anxious Sunday Afternoon
It was a mixed bag of results Sunday afternoon on the shores of Lake Erie. Yes, the Browns were able to hang on for a 31-21 victory over Houston, but the win did not come without some heart-racing moments. Most notably, Baker Mayfield exited the field of play after seeming to injure his left shoulder attempting to make a tackle after an interception. Despite Case Keenum beginning to warm up following Mayfield’s exit, the former number one overall pick showcased his toughness by returning to the field and reentering the game without missing a single snap. Game footage has been released from the sidelines of Mayfield discussing the incident with teammates. Mayfield informed his teammates that his shoulder popped out and back in Mayfield had a precautionary MRI that revealed no structural damage according to Mary Kay Cabbot.
Injuries Rear Their Ugly Head
This was not the only anxious moment for Browns fans as Jarvis Landry excited the game following the first offensive snap of the game. It was later revealed that Landry sprained his MCL. The Browns opted to put Landry on injured reserve, joining fellow starter Anthony Walker. Landry will be forced to miss at least three weeks with the injury.
The combination of a hampered quarterback and missing go-to wideout forced Kevin Stefanski to call a more conservative game offensively for a majority of Sunday’s contest. Cleveland threw the ball just 21 times as opposed to 34 carries for the running backs. This very well could be the game plan for the foreseeable future if Mayfield’s shoulder issues continue to linger.
In order for the Browns to overcome injuries to their skill position group, a few younger players will be forced to contribute at a very ripe stage in their careers. Firstly, do-it-all offensive weapon Demetric Felton led the team in receiving yards with 51 and a touchdown in Sunday’s victory. Felton has also had his moments on kick and punt returns as well through the first two games. Felton will be a critical piece, especially while Landry and Beckham are sidelined. Second, Anthony Schwartz will continue to be featured in certain situations. Schwartz was at fault in Mayfield’s interception that caused him to injure his shoulder, as he stopped running his route prematurely. These are common growing pains for rookie wide receivers, and Stefanski is confident that Schwartz will not make the same mistake twice.
Any Given Sunday
Overall, Cleveland was extremely fortunate to come away with a victory in their 2021 home opener. Former Brown Tyrod Taylor was picking apart the Cleveland defense completing 10/11 passes for 125 yards and a touchdown before being pulled for Davis Mills due to a hamstring injury. Taylor has been subsequently placed on injured reserve and will miss at least the next three games. Cleveland was on their heels defensively for the entirety of the first half, as Taylor seemed determined to give his team a chance against one of his prior organizations. It is still early and roles are being established for the newcomers on the Browns defense. If the defense looks like this in November, color me concerned. Brandin Cooks was featured nearly exclusively with nine receptions on fourteen targets, following the injury to rookie wideout Nico Collins.
There are concerns to be had regarding Cleveland’s defensive performance, as future opponents will not lose their starting quarterback mid-game each week. Coverages were far too soft for opposing Houston wideouts early in the game. Once Mills came in, however, Cleveland’s defense overwhelmed the young signal-caller. Luckily for the Browns, they very well could go two weeks in a row facing off against a rookie quarterback; this time Chicago’s Justin Fields. Andy Dalton suffered a knee injury in Chicago’s Week 2 victory over Cincinnati. His status for Sunday’s game is very much in doubt, which would make it an Ohio homecoming for the former Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields.