‘Use my [players], I beg you’ – Andrew Berry probably
New additions M.J. Stewart (0 snaps) and Ronnie Harrison (2 snaps) will hopefully be ready to play much bigger roles on Thursday, because they are desperately needed. Joseph and Sendejo played every defensive snap, and special teamer Tavierre Thomas was constantly picked on in the slot. Second-year man Sheldrick Redwine also did not see the field for some reason. Defensive coordinator Joe Woods’ defensive line rotation was pristine. His secondary rotation was the complete opposite.
Stewart was a 2018 second-round pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and while he’s been average at best through two seasons, the Bucs decided it was time to move on. The Browns claimed him off waivers to provide depth in the slot, but he wasn’t tasked with replacing the injured Kevin Johnson. Stewart has been dealing with a hamstring injury, but was healthy enough to play special teams (12 snaps) on Sunday.
Losing Delpit meant that Woods wasn’t going to be able to play his “big nickel” defense, and that was evident in Week 1 as he mostly deployed regular nickel. Linebackers piled up 144 total snaps, more than anticipated. Sione Takitaki and B.J. Goodson played nearly every down, Jacob Phillips was injured, and Malcolm Smith and Tae Davis rotated in.
On Thursday, the LB snaps need to go down, and if Phillips is unable to go (and it doesn’t appear like he will be able to), they almost certainly will. Harrison is the most versatile (healthy) player in that secondary right now, and he needs to play if the Browns have any hope of slowing down opposing passing games. He has the physical profile and the skillset to provide some of what Delpit was going to.
The Bengals may have been the NFL’s worst team last season, but it would not be a surprise to see them push for 30 points against Cleveland. Until injuries heal and players gel with the new system, that’s just the reality of things.