Skip to main content

Know Your Opponent: Cleveland Browns (Week 5)


NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Cleveland Browns come to LP Field this Sunday for only the second home game for the Titans this season. The Browns are coming off of a Week 4 bye with a 1-2 record. The win came in Week 2 at home against the New Orleans Saints, sandwiched between two losses by a combined total of five points.

Mike Pettine is in his first season as Browns head coach after spending the 2013 season as the Bills' defensive coordinator. Pettine also served as the Jets' defensive coordinator from 2009-12 after claiming several roles in the Ravens coaching staff from 2002-08.

The quarterback battle between Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel encompassed a vast majority of the Browns preseason storylines. Hoyer came out victorious and still owns the job, while Manziel waits in the wings.

Both Pettine and Hoyer joined Titans media on Wednesday's weekly conference calls  – here are the major topics of conversation regarding the Browns.

Offensive Efficiency

The Cleveland Browns are the only NFL team without a turnover this season. Hoyer has obviously been a large part of that, throwing for 716 yards and three touchdowns without a single interception. The Browns QB has made five consecutive starts without throwing a pick.

"I think once the quarterback thing settled down, he's been able to get into a groove and have specific game plans each week for him to sink his teeth into and go out and execute that he's just gotten better every day," Pettine said of his QB. "To me, he took a lot of heat early on, didn't play particularly well in the preseason, but he still was just enough ahead to win the job."

Hoyer is nearing the one-year anniversary (for lack of a better term) of the ACL tear that ended his 2013 season . He followed his rehab with the most highly-profile position battle of training camp with Johnny Manziel.

"What a lot of people don't realize, Brian (Hoyer) had a lot on his plate, not just the pressure of here's the first time in his hometown being named the starter, whereas before he kind of came from the third spot," Pattine said continuing on Hoyer. "He's also coming off a season-ending knee injury from the season before and hadn't really gotten that many live reps throughout the spring because of it. Then throwing in the whole (Johnny) Manziel thing, he had a lot that he was dealing with. I thought he handled it well. It's been a noticeable difference with him. Once he was named the starter, he's just gotten better each week."

Replacing Josh Gordon

It took Browns receiver Josh Gordon just 14 games to lead the NFL in receiving last season, logging 1,646 yards and nine touchdowns. His suspension for violating the league's drug policy has been reduced, but he'll still miss the majority of the 2014 regular season.

In Gordon's absence, Cleveland has turned to veterans Miles Austin and Andrew Hawkins as their receiving threats on the outside. Hawkins has been the most productive of the two, catching 21 passes for 244 yards through three games. Austin only has 115 yards on 14 catches, but does have two receiving touchdowns.

"Those guys have been great. To have two veteran guys like that come in who are the ultimate pros, they work really hard," said Hoyer of his receivers. "They might not be the most skilled or the biggest-named guys, but they go out there and work their butts off. I have a ton of trust in them because I know they're going to do exactly what we ask them to do and do it 100 percent. They've done a great job."

Getting Healthy During the Bye

Most players will tell you they don't want a bye week so early in the season. Three games is just a lap in the marathon NFL season, and byes are often best served late in the year when the body is really wearing down. That's how Hoyer summarized his week off.

"It was good," he stated. "Obviously, you don't want to have your bye week in Week 4. You don't really, at least I didn't myself, need the recovery. It's good to take a few days off and kind of evaluate where you're at and what you need to improve on. Getting Ben (Tate) and Jordan (Cameron) back, we've had two great days with them out there, so it's a good thing to see those guys back."

As Hoyer alluded to, the Browns' offense will get back two weapons who were nursing injuries. The week off has them ready to return against the Titans Sunday.

"Even though it was early, it was a good spot for us," said Pettine. "We were a little nicked up. We've got a couple of guys back. It was a good time for us to kind of sit back and see where we are this early in the year and formulate a plan for moving forward."

Tight end Jordan Cameron has been dealing with a shoulder injury that has limited his snaps and cost him a full game. Right now Cameron only has three catches for 70 yards to show for his 2014 season. The second-year tight end was a Pro Bowler as a rookie in 2013 after posting 80 catches for 917 yards.

Running back Ben Tate signed with the Browns during the offseason after three seasons with the Texans. Tate, who struggled with injuries while in Houston, injured his knee in Week 1 and hasn't seen the field since.

If Tate can go on Sunday, he'll probably wind up being the Browns' starting running back. Rookies Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell are also sure to be in the mix. Crowell has 141 rushing yards and three touchdowns with West adding 204 yards and two scores.

"That was a big thing for us," Pettine started on his two rookies. "Obviously, we targeted (Terrance) West in the draft and were able to take him and then were very fortunate to pick up Isaiah (Crowell) post-draft. Isaiah, especially, has been a guy that very early on in the spring, when we first got him, it was, 'Hey listen, we need to find a way to have this kid around for a year. He truly needs a redshirt.' Just the progress he made, the more play, the more confident that he got, he really bought into what we were doing and figured out very quickly what it meant to be a professional and how to take care of himself and get into the playbook and all of that. His learning curve accelerated very quickly and has been able to contribute right away.

"Terrance has been as advertised for us that he's a guy that is a bigger back, but still has ability to make you miss," Pettine continued. "Both of them, they know they have a long way to go, but we're very pleased with where they are at this point."

Missing Ray Horton

Last season under Titans defensive coordinator Ray Horton, the Browns were the 9th overall defense in the NFL. Through three games this season, Cleveland's defense has been a struggle, ranking 29th against the rush, 27th against the pass, and 30th overall.

"We know that this system is tried and true," Pettine said about his defensive scheme. "It's been played other places, whether it was Buffalo, whether it was New York or even back in Baltimore. We also know that there needs to be a sense of urgency to get it done and get it corrected, that our guys need to know that they need to do their jobs first. If there's any one theme that we've had, sometimes you get some guys that come out of structure; they want to do too much. It's our mantra all along on defense. Do your job, good things will happen."

Related Content

Fan Zone

Titans + Nissan Stadium App presented by Verizon

Titans + Nissan Stadium App presented by Verizon

Stay up to date with team and stadium news, concert and event announcements, stream live Titans games and more!

Tennessee Titans Marketplace

Tennessee Titans Marketplace

A one-stop shop for Titans memorabilia, autographed items and more!

Tennessee Titans Email Newsletter

Tennessee Titans Email Newsletter

Get Titans news sent straight to your inbox.