The Cleveland Browns are no strangers to beginning the regular season with a record of 0-1. It has not been since 2004 when the Browns topped Baltimore that they have been victorious in an opening game. While that unfortunate streak bled into the 2021 season with last week’s results, Cleveland will need to once again reset their focus; this time on the 1-0 Houston Texans.
A New Focus
In the days leading up to the Browns’ home opener, Kevin Stefanski has had signs planted throughout the facility in Berea, Ohio that state “Texans 1-0, Browns 0-1”. The purpose of this action is twofold. Firstly, it is a message to his team that they must refocus after what could be viewed as a mental debilitating loss at the hands of Kansas City. Second, it explains that despite all of the outside noise surrounding Houston’s organization, they should still not be taken lightly as they won their opening contest, unlike the Browns.
Houston, We Have a Problem
Houston is in an extremely difficult spot as an organization in the wake of the Deshaun Watson scandal. Despite keeping Watson on their roster, for now, former Brown Tyrod Taylor has assumed starting quarterback duties for a team that was without a draft pick in the first two rounds due to trades made by the prior regime. Additionally, the Texans selected quarterback David Mills from Stanford to fill a developmental role at the position. While nothing is certain, the selection of Mills could add some insight into the possible future of Watson in Houston. The Texans are also in their first season without their heart and soul, JJ Watt. Watt signed a free-agent deal with Arizona in the offseason after being rumored to have mutual interest with many teams, Cleveland included. It is truly an uphill battle for first-year Texans head man David Culley as he tries to navigate the NFL world without the proper assets in place to succeed off the bat.
From a pure football perspective, Cleveland should not have all that much trouble with the Texans. Offensively, Houston had a breakout performance against Jacksonville, but the Jaguars very well could be the most toxic situation in the entire league. Injuries could be the only thing that hampers Cleveland’s performance, as starting middle linebacker Anthony Walker will miss three weeks with a hamstring issue. Additionally, the Browns could be without their two top-left tackles for Sunday’s contest. Jedrick Wills is questionable with an ankle injury, while his backup Chris Hubbard has already been ruled out with his own injury for Sunday. This will force Cleveland to go with either Blake Hance or rookie James Hudson from the University of Cincinnati. It will be another unique challenge for famed offensive line coach Bill Callahan to prepare these two players if Wills is ultimately unable to give it a go.
Cleveland’s biggest task heading into the home opener will be to reset their focus following a disappointing result in week one. A hangover from the Kansas City loss should not happen, and Kevin Stefanski has taken measures to make sure that does not happen. If the Browns want to truly be considered one of the game’s elite teams, they will dispose of the Houston Texans on Sunday afternoon.