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|By Mike Young|
It might be delusional or, at best, misguided, but Browns left tackle Joe Thomas wants to remain in Cleveland. He hasn’t missed a snap in his 10-year career and doesn’t plan on taking one with a real playoff contender until the Browns turn their luck around.
Elizabeth Merrill wrote an in-depth profile on Thomas for ESPN.com this week, and asked the same question everyone wonders after every season he suffers through: “why stay in Cleveland?”
Thomas answered admirably, as he usually does.
“I’m a Clevelander. I’ve spent the majority of my adult life here. Every day when I come to work, it’s ‘Let’s turn this team into a consistent winner,’” Thomas told Merrill. “It’s so important for me to be here for the turnaround. I don’t want to just get a Super Bowl ring [by] being traded to a dream team. It would feel unsatisfying. Unfulfilling.”
What Went Right Two Weeks Ago
As is typical of this year’s Browns, you can point to Terrelle Pryor as the only consistent positive. The team’s top receiver caught six passes for 131 yards against the Giants, including a season-long 54-yard reception from Josh McCown while backed up to their own end zone.
Giants cornerback Janoris Jenkins hilariously lashed out at Pryor after the game for seemingly no reason, to which Pryor responded in kind — not even mocking Jenkins’ weak hashtag game:
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) November 28, 2016
What Went Wrong Two Weeks Ago
Not even the other team could make a Browns game compelling. It started off ugly.
For the first eight drives of the game, the two teams combined for 37 plays, 68 yards, 7 punts and a fumble.
That Isaiah Crowell fumble could be considered the turning point of the game.The only Giants scoring threat prior to it flamed out at the Browns 47 yard line after nine plays.
Crowell lost control of the ball after a Damon Harrison hit and it was recovered by New York linebacker Devon Kennard at the Browns 31 yard line.
After that, Eli Manning hit Pickerington Central grad Roger Lewis for an 18-yard gain and then completed a touchdown pass to Dwayne Harris. The Giants scored on their next offensive drive and entered halftime leading, 14-6.
Once again, the Browns’ opponent teed off on whoever was under center for Cleveland.
Josh McCown attempted 43 passes and was sacked seven times. McCown completed only 38.5 percent of his passes and produced 45 yards when pressured, according to Pro Football Focus.
It’s not necessarily the offensive line’s fault, as Pryor suggested after the week 11 loss to the Steelers.
Both McCown and Cody Kessler have poor pocket presence and repeatedly take hits that you can blame on the QBs rather than the guys in front of them. For example, take a look at this Twitter thread:
the OL play the browns have put out there is “dangerous” and hurt Cody Kessler. this is the pocket from his first concussion. pic.twitter.com/ax2mnCj2bm
— luke (@LakeEffectBro) December 8, 2016
What Does This Mean Moving Forward
Speaking of quarterbacks who take unnecessary hits, Robert Griffin III is back and will start Sunday’s game against the Bengals.
Griffin has been practicing with the team the past few weeks after being activated off injured reserve. He injured his shoulder in the season opener in Philadelphia and hasn’t taken a snap since.
Practices aren’t physical for quarterbacks at any level of football, but Griffin feels confident he can handle whatever contact he’ll take, Sunday.
“I had a couple slides here and there, but no 350 pounders have landed on me yet. It is just something you have to be ready for,” Griffin said, Wednesday. “Football is a very physical game, and they are not going to shy away from trying to hit me. I just have to make sure I protect myself.”
First Thoughts on Next Game and Opponent
The winless Browns take on the Bengals (4-7-1) in a rematch of a 31-17 Cincinnati win in October. The Bengals aren’t technically eliminated from the playoffs, but it would take a miracle for them to get in. So, this game isn’t really worth watching.
Cincinnati running back Jeremy Hill has been particularly effective against the Browns this season and his career, overall, despite largely struggling otherwise.
— Jim Owczarski (@JimOwczarski) December 7, 2016
And 20% of Hill’s career rush yardage and 15% of his career TDs have come against the #Browns
— Jim Owczarski (@JimOwczarski) December 7, 2016
Cleveland suffered another season-ending injury after rookie safety Derrick Kindred broke his ankle during the bye week. The circumstances surrounding the injury remain a mystery but head coach Hue Jackson claims it occurred during prep for the return to game action.
Otherwise, Browns cornerback Jamar Taylor (groin) was limited in practice this week and Kessler returned to practice after exiting the concussion protocol.
Star wide receiver A.J. Green will likely miss Sunday’s game due to his hamstring injury. The Bengals might also head into the game without center Clint Boling (shoulder) and safety George Iloka (groin), who were limited in practice this week. Tight end C.J. Uzomah (calf) and cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick (illness) have not practiced at all.