Browns: 3 things to watch against the Vikings
By Thomas Moore
The Cleveland Browns are in London to take on the Minnesota Vikings. Here are three things to watch as the Browns look for their first win of the season.
If there was ever a team in need of a bye week it is the Cleveland Browns.
Unfortunately, the Browns have to get through one more game before they get a break.
That game will take place on Sunday when the Browns face the Minnesota Vikings at Twickenham Stadium in London, the final game in the NFL’s four-game series in England’s capital city.
The Browns enter the game 0-7 on the season and 1-22 under head coach Hue Jackson as they battle for the No. 1 overall selection in the 2018 NFL Draft. The Vikings come in at 5-2 as they battle for the No. 1 overall seed in the NFC.
Cleveland is banged up as defensive end Myles Garrett did not make the trip as he is dealing with a concussion. Several other defensive starters may be limited by injury, including linebacker Jamie Collins, cornerbacks Jamar Taylor and Jason McCourty, and safety Jabrill Peppers.
The biggest loss for the Browns, of course, is at left tackle, where Joe Thomas is now out for the season after suffering a triceps injury last Sunday against the Tennessee Titans.
With that in mind, here are three things to watch against the Vikings.
Spencer Drango vs. Everson Griffen
When Thomas went down against the Titans, Spencer Drango took over and it was not pretty as the Titans immediately attack Drango and harassed quarterback Cody Kessler.
More from Dawg Pound Daily
- Cleveland Browns critics continue to misplace their judgement
- 3 Cleveland Browns players who don’t deserve another season in 2023
- How the Browns could maximize Nick Chubb in 2023
- Can Deshaun Watson get to Patrick Mahomes level for Cleveland Browns?
- 3 Cleveland Browns who should see an expanded role in 2023 and 1 who should not
It doesn’t get any easier for Drango this week as he is going up against Everson Griffen, who has nine sacks on the season.
Drango admitted to being nervous, but is hoping to use that to his advantage, he told clevelandbrowns.com:
“I’m excited, nervous, all of (the emotions). I think it is good to be nervous. Even Joe told us he still got nervous before games. It is something that I think it is important to be a little. You have to embrace it and use that as fuel.”
It would seem wise for the Browns to give Drango so help on Sunday, which could explain why the team signed 6-foot-7 and 265-pound tight end Matt Lengel off the practice squad for this week’s game.
Vikings run game vs. Browns run defense
Minnesota has the game’s ninth-best rushing attack, averaging 124.6 yards per game and 4.3 yards per carry despite losing running back Dalvin Cook to a season-ending knee injury.
The Vikings have adjusted, however, as Jerick McKinnon and Latavius Murray have combined to rush for 440 yards in the past three games.
The Browns will counter with a run defense that is giving up a league-best three yards per carry.
If Cleveland can keep the Vikings running game in check and force quarterback Case Keenum to beat them, they might have a chance.
The return of DeShone Kizer
Quarterback DeShone Kizer has had the type of season that most people expected from a rookie quarterback who should still be in college.
Jackson seems to still be a bit surprised by Kizer’s inaccuracy, slow internal clock and propensity for turning the ball over, which has led to the head coach benching Kizer midway through two of the past three games and for a full game.
Kizer is back in the starter’s role this week, but how long that lasts is one of the game’s biggest unknowns. Jackson has stated that turnovers are unacceptable when it comes to Kizer, so an interception or two could lead him back to the bench.
Next: DPD Podcast: How to replace Joe Thomas
The Vikings present a big challenge, as they are allowing just 3.2 rushing yards per attempt, are giving up just 17 points a game (the Browns are averaging 14.7 points per game) and have 21 sacks.