Browns potential breakout Player in Week 5: Donovan Peoples-Jones

Browns receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones signals a first down after a catch during the first half Sunday, Dec. 12, 2021, in Cleveland.Browns 5
Browns receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones signals a first down after a catch during the first half Sunday, Dec. 12, 2021, in Cleveland.Browns 5 /

The Cleveland Browns are looking for Donovan Peoples-Jones to break out this week.

This could be the week that Donovan Peoples-Jones puts together a big game for our Cleveland Browns. The former Wolverine is certainly overdue.

Thus far, he has been okay, just okay, with 12 catches in 24 targets and 141 yards while playing in 242 offensive snaps. That’s full-time employment, and a quality NFL receiver should be racking up close to a yard per snap.

Of course, we need to manage our expectations because the Browns are playing with a second-string quarterback, and they have the second-leading ground game in the NFL. Nevertheless, it’s about time for Peoples-Jones to have a breakout game. There are at least five factors pointing in his favor this week.

For one, Amari Cooper is taking the heat from the other team’s best cover corner on the other side of the field, leaving DPJ to contend with the second-best cover corner most of the time. That is all too obvious. Cooper has asserted himself as the man in the wide receiver room already after four games. That’s an opportunity for other wide receivers to get open, especially in man coverage, which happens a lot when your team has Nick Chubb in the backfield.

Second, the Browns might like to throw to the tight ends, but they have no healthy tight ends at the moment, other than Miller Forristall, who has 13 NFL offensive snaps to his name. David Njoku (knee) and Harrison Bryant (unspecified illness) are both questionable and Jesse James is on IR (biceps).

Cleveland likes to play two tight ends, but they didn’t bother to acquire depth at the position this offseason and now they are sorry. This week their solution was to sign Pharaoh Brown, a former member of the glorious 2019 Browns team under Freddie Kitchens. This is a bit of a head-scratcher because the reason for his release from the Texans was his injuries.

He may or may not be able to play this week and in any case, doesn’t know the offense. Why didn’t they sign Nakia Griffin-Stewart (who starred in the Browns’ pre-season) from the Colts’ practice squad? However, the point is, they may have to target other wide receivers including Peoples-Jones because the tight ends may not be on the field. There may be no choice but to turn loose Jacoby Brissett and have him try to hit a more diverse wide receiver set.

Related Story. Three areas where the Browns must improve vs Chargers. light

Third, the Chargers find themselves in a predicament of their own and may not have the personnel to stop Peoples-Jones. They signed star cornerback J.C. Jackson from the Patriots this offseason, with the idea that he would team with former Ohio State standout Asante Samuel to give the Chargers two shutdown corners. However, Jackson wound up having ankle surgery in August.

He came back last week but didn’t play at a high level. Is he all the way back now? Maybe.

What about Derwin James? While it’s true that he is more than capable of covering DPJ if called upon to do so, the strong safety may be assigned most of the time to try to slow down Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. DPJ should be matched against someone he can beat most of the time.

The Chargers’ defensive game plan will probably emphasize stopping Chubb as their top priority, meaning they will offer Brissett an eight-man front most of the time, with James committed to the run more often than not. Their second priority is stopping Cooper. There is room for DPJ to assert himself.

Fourth, Brissett is in his first year with the Browns and is learning a new system. Game reps do matter, and if you look around the league, quarterbacks like Russell Wilson, Baker Mayfield, Carson Wentz, and Matt Ryan didn’t have automatic success starting in Week 1. For that matter, Tom Brady didn’t really jell with Tampa Bay until around November 2020. It takes a while. The eyeball test says that Brissett has been steadily improving. Perhaps he is not ready to be Joe Namath, but providing a big day for his number two wide receiver is not out of the question at this point in his development.

Fifth, let’s not overthink this. The Chargers have given up the third most points in the NFL with 105 in the first four games. They have the 16th-ranked pass defense in the NFL. They’re operating without Joey Bosa, their best player, meaning that Brissett should have time to throw if he can stay away from Khalil Mack’s side of the field.

You know the old cliché, a fair quarterback becomes great in the NFL if he gets time to throw. This is not to say that the Browns are going to have an easy time of it because the Chargers can score points also and are very capable of winning this game, but it could be a tough day at the office for the Chargers defense.

As always, everyone with a uniform number is a threat. But if someone at your local Browns Backers club shoves you against the wall and demands a prediction for a breakout player for week five, this would be a great opportunity for Donovan People-Jones to come out of his slump.

Related Story. Browns focus on defense in 2023 NFL Mock Draft. light