What role will Cleveland Browns TE Pharoah Brown play in San Franciso?

TAMPA, FL - AUGUST 23: Pharaoh Brown #86 of the Cleveland Browns comes up with a first down catch in the second quarter of the preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium on August 23, 2019 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Will Vragovic/Getty Images)
TAMPA, FL - AUGUST 23: Pharaoh Brown #86 of the Cleveland Browns comes up with a first down catch in the second quarter of the preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium on August 23, 2019 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Will Vragovic/Getty Images) /

What role will Pharoah Brown play for the Cleveland Browns on Monday Night Football as they face the San Francisco 49ers?

Pharaoh Brown is doing his best to make an impact for the Cleveland Browns, and the unheralded tight end may make his presence known against San Francisco on Monday Night Football. The Browns have wide receiving talent galore, with OBJ, Jarvis Landry, Hollywood Higgins, Damion Ratley and Antonio Callaway presenting enticing targets for the Ultimate Gunslinger, Baker Mayfield, and his coaches.

The buzz is that offensive coordinator Todd Monken and coach Freddie Kitchens are going to overwhelm the 49ers and the rest of the NFL with multiple wide receiver sets, especially now that Higgins is back at practice and Callaway is coming off a drug suspension.

That may well be the case. However, don’t overlook the 6-foot-6 258-pound Pharaoh Brown, who is steadily getting more playing time. Brown is a blocking tight end, one of the least glorious positions in the NFL, but his bone-crushing blocks are resulting in major opportunities for Nick Chubb. It is hard to believe that anyone that big can sneak up on anyone, but very few people have noticed the big tight end so far.

Nevertheless, the use of two tight end formations has actually risen after starter David Njoku went on Injured Reserve. Readers of Dawg Pound Daily may be aware that Leon West identified Pharaoh Brown as a key player against San Francisco, noting that the big man played a part in Chubb’s 88-yard touchdown run. In fact, West points out that the Browns ran to Pharaoh’s side for 154 of Chubb’s 167 yards rushing. Now that is an impressive stat.

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Of course, somewhere in the Old Testament, it is written that one game doth not a season make. That is understood. But he results, though preliminary, are so good that the Browns will be motivated to continue to use the same formations in the near term and probably against San Francisco.

The Browns also got an outstanding performance from Ricky Seals-Jones, the Arizona castoff. Against Baltimore, he pulled down three passes for an eye-popping 82 yards. That’s rather healthy production for a third-string tight end.

Seals-Jones was deemed expendable because the new Air Raid offense from coach Kliff Kingsbury de-emphasizes the role of the tight end. Seals-Jones started five games last year and had 343 receiving yards, despite a few drops along the way. If the Browns can help him outgrow that problem, he might be a very good complement to Brown.

Sixth-year man Demetrius Harris figured to be the primary backup for Njoku, but he is losing playing time to the two younger players.

Because of the devastating effectiveness of the tight ends versus Baltimore, it may seem like a no-brainer to stay with the same mix versus San Francisco.

On the other hand, the Browns will have two additional weapons this week in Hollywood Higgins, who is coming off an injury, and Antonio Callaway, coming off a substance-abuse suspension. Jarvis Landry is also out of concussion protocol, and OBJ and Damion Ratley are also healthy and dangerous.

It’s totally possible that the Browns could play four wide receivers, which used to be called the Run and Shoot formation, or Chuck and Duck if you are a defensive coordinator.

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The 49ers top corners were graded very highly by Pro Football Focus, but they will probably be missing starter Ahkello Witherspoon who they graded as 11th highest corner in the NFL. They still have super-mouth Richard Sherman to match against Odell Beckham Jr.

Those two will keep the Monday Night Football busy all night. Former Brown K’Waun Williams is the slot corner and will be assigned to cover Jarvis Landry most of the time. Backup Jason Verrett was also placed on Injured Reserve.

Without Witherspoon, do they have the speed and savvy to cover OBJ, Jarvis Landry, Hollywood Higgins, and Antonio Callaway at the same time? Or if the Browns use speedster Damion Ratley in place of Higgins, the 49ers will have to find an extra. The temptation to see what will happen may be too strong for Freddie Kitchens to resist.

Cleveland has the personnel to go, either way, two tight ends or run and shoot. They will probably probe the 49ers with both extremes.

Recent talk about needing an “identity” may be overblown.  Clark Kent and Peter Parker need an identity. The Browns don’t need identity.

They need to move the ball and score using whatever works. The Patriots get all kinds of positive press for morphing into a different team from week to week, rightly so. Cleveland has the personnel to do the same thing.

The prediction here is that Pharaoh Brown is going to get at least as many snaps as Ricky Seals-Jones at tight end, and the Browns will continue to use the two tight end formation extensively.

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However, do not be shocked if you see several sets with zero tight ends and four wide receivers in order to test San Francisco’s undermanned secondary.