INDIANAPOLIS —We've got the Cleveland Browns and the Indianapolis Colts matching up on Sunday in their 2017 Week 3 showdown at Lucas Oil Stadium.
With an inside scoop on the opposition heading into the game, we check in with Andrew Gribble, the senior writer for the Cleveland Browns and their website, ClevelandBrowns.com (follow Andrew on Twitter @Andrew_Gribble):
Walker:So we've got Colts and Browns, two 0-2 teams really desperate to get their first win of the season in Indy. What's the feeling so far in Cleveland about this Browns team? Week 1, a 21-18 loss, kind of a last-minute deal against the Steelers — definitely not something to be ashamed of — but then five turnovers in a 24-10 loss to the Ravens. Two tough games to open the season, so what's the feeling heading into this Colts game?
Gribble: **"I think if you're comparing the losses — which they're still losses at the end of the day — I think the Week 1 loss was probably still a little bit more encouraging. We saw some good things from DeShone Kizer, and the defense really bottled up a Pittsburgh offense that had given this team trouble for years. And this past Sunday in Baltimore, there wasn't too many positive things to (hold) on to. I think you're going to have some ups and downs with a rookie quarterback in DeShone Kizer; this past Sunday was one of those kind of down ones where he had too many turnovers — five turnovers — and the defense is just on the field a lot and gave up probably more rushing yards than they'd like to, and way more than they did Week 1. So I think that maybe a few years ago this team would've lost by even more in Baltimore, but I think this defense, which is much improved, kind of kept them in the game, and actually kept them within striking defense even in the fourth quarter. But it's a team that wants to get a win, and a fanbase that wants to get a win, and they're looking at this next stretch of games as hopefully one where they can get it started. This is a team that hasn't won a road game since 2015, so the thing they absolutely want most is to kind of that feeling of flying back to Cleveland as a winner."
Walker:And you mention Kizer — you can see the talent, obviously. Still, some people might be surprised he's starting this early, but you're going to get that chance with the Browns. And rough day against the Ravens like you said, but those are just the ups and downs you take with a rookie — and he went out for a little bit with a migraine and came back in. What have you seen development-wise out of him? Obviously just two games in, but he's taken the reigns of this offense.
Gribble:"Yeah, I think the big thing that stands out — and I think the stats back it up — is he's not afraid to push the ball down the field. I think he's really one of the leaders in the league in yards per attempt, yards per pass attempt down the field. So he's given the offense a new dynamic than maybe what it was accustomed to last year with the quarterbacks that were in place there. I think he does bring the mobility, though he doesn't use it all that much; I think that's by design. I think he wants to stay in the pocket and make those throws in the pocket; I think he has kind of a special awareness inside the pocket where he's able to move around and make good throws, but I think the thing he's working on a lot, and it got the best of him against the Steelers and against Baltimore, is just getting the ball out, even if it's just throwing it away. He's gotten into trouble with some sacks and then where he's held on to the ball too long, and that can lead to turnovers and the fumble that he had. So I think he's been dealt a tough hand with dealing with kind of a rotating cast of receivers based on injuries and based on kind of the roster configuration, bringing on three new guys after cut-down day. So he's had to kind of get chemistry with these guys on the fly, and he needs to get some more support from a running game that really hasn't gotten off the ground. But I think his poise and kind of his confidence is what has stood out about him where he doesn't really act like a rookie in that sense, so I think that that has kind of remained kind of a steadying presence for him, where even though he's only two games into his career, he doesn't feel like a rookie, even though he's going to have some rookie moments out there."
Walker:Sure, and he's part of this young Browns roster — youngest team by average age in the NFL — but there's an awful lot of exciting prospects getting good experience early on in their careers. One of those guys, No. 1-overall pick Myles Garrett, is yet to play this season due to an ankle injury. I know he hasn't been officially ruled out for Sunday, but, A.) Would you be surprised to see him out there against the Colts, and, B.) Whenever he does return, what are the expectations for Myles Garrett?
Gribble:"Him not being ruled out — I mean, he is an athletic freak, so if there's one person that can get back from a high ankle sprain in three weeks, it'd probably be Myles Garrett. But that's a tall task. But he has not officially been ruled out yet, and he's actually out of his walking boot, so that's a big step in the right direction. And Hue Jackson said (Wednesday) that huge progress has been made in his recovery. So maybe his timeline is sped up a little bit, but the three weeks would be very speedy for that kind of injury. But when it comes (to) his impact, he showed it, basically, from Day 1 in training camp and all throughout the preseason. I mean, he's the kind of pass rusher that is someone that has to be identified on every single play, and I think in kind of the type of snaps you get in the preseason, there were at least two or three plays where he was at least getting a sack or knocking down the quarterback and then forcing some, whether it be quick incompletions or just bad throws in general, he's someone that can basically make your entire defense better. And I think that he's mature beyond his years, and I think has an incredible work ethic, and I think that he plays like a veteran and kind of carries himself like a veteran. I think he earned a lot of respect here in the preseason, and I think this entire defense can't wait to get him back."
Walker:And speaking of respect, Joe Thomas, deservedly, getting a ton of love for logging his 10,000th consecutive snap at left tackle, which is just incredible when you think about it. He's been a Browns guy through and through throughout his career — what amazes you most about him as a player, his streak? What is it about him that's so special?
Gribble:"Well, the thing that I don't know if it even gets talked about much right now is that even in his 11th season, he's still really good. I think that's the big thing. I mean, all the advanced stats and everything show that he's still one of the NFL's best left tackles, even in his 11th season. He talks like a guy that he says it feels like he's played 11 years in this season and he's had to do a lot of different things to his body to stay healthy, but he's dealt with some injuries, whether it be in the offseason or all throughout his career, but he remains kind of in a perfect place where he can get himself ready every Sunday and kind of play at an elite level. I think that's the thing that almost gets overlooked with Joe Thomas is he's still playing at such a high level for being in his 11th season in his career. It's just something where you don't want to think about when his career comes to an end just because this has been a franchise that has struggled to win, but you've always had your answer there at left tackle. And there's just so many teams in the NFL that would love to have such stability at that position because you see quarterbacks around the league, with the way offensive lines are playing right now, they're getting crushed, and I think that the Browns, even though they've struggled, they've always had one of the best at one of the most important positions on the field."