Browns: Stock up, stock down after Week 14 defeat at Bengals

Donovan Peoples-Jones, Browns. (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)
Donovan Peoples-Jones, Browns. (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images) /

The Cleveland Browns suffered another disappointing loss on the road in Week 14, and these players saw their stock either rise or take a dip

The Cleveland Browns fell to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday 23-10, ending their five-game winning streak in the Battle of Ohio. The defeat essentially ended their playoff hopes, as a perfect rest of the season would still result in a mediocre 9-8 record.

In any case, there were some bright spots on Sunday as the Browns look to gain some team chemistry heading into the offseason. Let’s take a look at the bright spots and the disappointments from the Week 14 loss.

Stock Up: The Browns Defense

Cleveland’s defense held up pretty well on Sunday, though it was carried by Myles Garrett and the secondary. The defensive line was able to provide consistent pressure on Joe Burrow, with Garrett having a strong two-sack performance.

Additionally, the secondary had one of their best games of a lackluster campaign, as they forced Burrow into one of his worst performances on the year. The Cincinnati quarterback had a season-low in both completions (18) and Completion percentage (54.6%), as the defensive secondary was making plays all afternoon.

Outside of the blown coverage on the flea-flicker touchdown in the third quarter, the defensive backs wer able to keep one of the most lethal passing offenses in the NFL in check, which is a great sign for games to come.

The one disappointment in an otherwise strong defensive performance was the rushing defense. They allowed 136 rushing yards on more than five yards per attempt, including an unacceptable Samaje Perine rushing touchdown that resulted from a lack of defensive effort.

Stock Down: Amari Cooper

Deshaun Watson made a noticeable improvement in his second game with the Browns, but one thing that hasn’t come along is the connection between him and Amari Cooper. Cooper is supposed to be the primary wide receiver but has taken a back seat to Donovan Peoples-Jones since Watson’s return. In those two games, Cooper had only six receptions on 16 targets for 82 yards and no touchdowns.

It’ll be interesting to keep an eye on Amari Cooper’s involvement in the offense as the season comes to a close. DPJ is having the best stretch of his young career and just reached career highs in targets, receptions, and yards in Week 14. Keep an eye on how Watson spreads his targets in the weeks to come, as it is very possible that Peoples-Jones becomes his favorite receiver going into next season.

Stock Up: David Njoku

David Njoku had another great performance in Week 14, with seven receptions on nine targets for 59 yards and one touchdown. Browns fans should be pleased to see such an efficient performance from the star tight end in his first game with Watson.

While Njoku and Peoples-Jones have seemed to find immediate chemistry with their new quarterback, Cooper has struggled to do the same. A majority of Njoku’s receptions occurred during a crucial third-quarter drive, in which he had three receptions for 32 yards and the eventual touchdown reception.

This was a great performance in what has been a breakout year for the young tight end. Since Week 3, Njoku has 484 receiving yards and three touchdowns in just eight games played. That pace would put him on track for over 1,000 yards in a full season. As long as he is able to stay on the field, Njoku will be a key part of this offense for years to come.

Stock Down: The Browns Coaching Staff

As the Browns fall to 5-8 on the season, the calls for Kevin Stefanski’s job have grown louder with each passing week. No one doubts the talent on the roster, from Watson and Nick Chubb on offense to Myles Garrett and Denzel Ward on the defensive side of the ball. The Browns are likely to finish with a losing record in two consecutive seasons, leading many to believe that there is a coaching issue.

Both Stefanski and defensive coordinator Joe Woods are officially on the hot seat, but don’t expect a massive change in leadership at the end of this season. As DPD’s Randy Gurzi points out, Stefanski will likely be given one full season with Deshaun Watson before an official change is made. Browns fans will have to wait until the offseason to see if any changes are made, but in any case, the 2023-2024 season is playoffs or bust for Cleveland.