We’re halfway through the NFL season and the Cleveland Browns have yet to notch a win. It’s a familiar story but rest assured we’re not here to throw stones. At least one member of the POD staff is a fan of this team, after all. I should have let him run the questions, but instead we reached out to Dawgs By Nature and their own Chris Porknoy. Chris has a wonderful first name, and he gives the lowdown on Cleveland’s finest. You can read our answers here.
1. In spite of the bizarre AJ McCarron non-trade and trying to roll out Kevin Hogan, DeShone Kizer is set to start against the Lions. He had some highs and lows back in Notre Dame, but it's been pretty low right now for the Browns. Was he thrust in too early? Where do you see Kizer panning out for this team?
The whole quarterback situation was handled like a disaster from the beginning. Cody Kessler was the "starter" through all the offseason programs, and Brock Osweiler was running with the second-teamers despite everyone believing the team had no real intention of keeping him. DeShone Kizer was stuck with the third-teamers. Before the first preseason game, Osweiler performed the best at a team scrimmage and was thrust into the starting role. He was a dud in his two preseason starts, while Kizer showed some intrigue against third-teamers.
Because of that, the somewhat rash decision was made to start Kizer. For some reason, Hue Jackson also decided that there would be no restrictions on the rookie -- rather than easing him in with a limited, comfortable playbook, he opened everything up for him and wanted him to sling it. What we got were inaccurate passes, bad decisions, and him holding on to the ball way too long. In the Browns' two games before the bye, Jackson finally instituted a "safer" gameplan for Kizer, and while statistically it doesn't look much better, it at least makes more sense. I don't see him panning out as a long-term guy, but in a lost season, we might as well see if there's any way he can improve over these final eight games.
2. What has losing Joe Thomas been like?
The team has only played one game without him so far, so there's not a lot of evidence to go off it. I was in attendance for the game that Joe Thomas got hurt, and it was devastating. I was hoping it was just a tweak and that the team would call a timeout so he could go back in. Obviously, it turned out to be a serious triceps injury. This week, Thomas has still stuck around the club, acting as "Coach Thomas" for the offensive linemen. He's also managed to maintain the humorous presence he brings to the locker room and to social media.
In Thomas' lone absence so far, second-year man Spencer Drango got the start. I expected it to be a disaster for Cleveland, but Drango surprisingly held his own against Vikings pass rusher Everson Griffen. The jury is still out on him, and the rest of Cleveland's line is pretty stable, so it'd still be wise to attack Drango and see what comes of it.
3. The Browns are winless but had four games lost by less than a touchdown. What have the Browns been doing to keep their chances alive in those games?
Some of those games might be a little skewed, because they were situations where Cleveland might have been down 2-3 scores before getting garbage time touchdowns to make the score respectable. Their best defensive game came two games ago against the Titans, and their success really boils down to what they can do on defense. The team is extremely deep on the defensive line when it comes to stopping opposing teams' running games. The problem has been that they blitz more than any team in the NFL, but still can't generate much pressure despite all those blitzes, which then puts their coverage players on too much of an island. Myles Garrett has played in three games and will be back again this week, and his impact has been evident.
4. Who is the best player on this Browns team that isn't currently injured, and how would you describe him as a custom pop from one of those Coke Freestyle machines?
Unfortunately, I can't answer the second part of your question. I've always hated pop, and the only canned drink I enjoy is Country Time, so I wouldn't even know what you mean by the Coke Freestyle machines, lol. As far as the best player on this team who isn't injured, I ran a Top 20 power rankings post during our bye week based on performances this season exclusively, and veteran cornerback Jason McCourty came out on top.
5. Going 0-16 is very hard in this league, and while I have confidence the Browns might pull it off, I'd like to know who you think is most likely to trip up and give the Browns a tasty W. Please don't say the Lions. Okay, you could say the Lions if you really think that, I won't be offended.
I still see plenty of opportunities coming up against the Bengals, Chargers, Ravens, Packers, and Bears. I'd be very surprised if the team went 0-16; as you said, it's very hard to do in this league, and Cleveland will be getting receiver Corey Coleman back next week and receiver Josh Gordon back for the final five games. The Chargers might be the most interesting one to circle: they gave Cleveland their only win a year ago, so maybe they'll feel some type of unmeasurable pressure.