Kevin Stefanski is having fun with Jarvis Landry and more observations rewatching Browns vs. Giants
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CLEVELAND, Ohio — The things Jarvis Landry does in this offense are so important. It starts with his reliability and ability to catch everything thrown his way, but it continues with all the different ways the Browns can deploy him.
Just look at the start of the game. On the Browns’ first play, a 4-yard run by Nick Chubb, Landry lined up outside in a tight formation and came in motion wide behind the formation. Defenses have to be wary of this because the Browns have thrown back to Landry before.
The next play, he lined up inside and gave Baker Mayfield a quick, easy target on second down against the Giants’ zone. Then, on the next first-down play, Landry motioned into the backfield with Chubb and ran back out wide again. He makes the defense move presnap and adjust right up to the snap.
On top of his seven catches on eight targets and everything else he brings to the receiver room, Landry’s versatility and how the Browns have used him all year causes problems for a defense when you start mixing in his presnap motions. Those little plays where he comes behind the offensive line and sneaks out to run a route are killers.
“To have a versatile player at that position that you can move around speaks to his skillset, but I also think it speaks to his intelligence,” Stefanski said on Monday. “He is a guy who can handle that. There are some guys who would not be able to handle moving around the formation, lining them up in the backfield and those type of things. You see a veteran player who is very, very smart and understands the game so he gives me great confidence as we design plays and gameplans to move him around the formation.”
The Browns even lined him up at quarterback at the end of the first quarter as time was expiring to try and get some free yards from the Giants. Based on what we’ve seen from Landry so far this season, I wouldn’t rule out seeing them run a play with him lined up at quarterback before the year is over.
One Landry wrinkle in particular I liked: Lining Landry up in the backfield next to Mayfield in the shotgun with Kareem Hunt split wide. It resulted in an 18-yard completion to Donovan Peoples-Jones but I’m just saying there’s some potential here for chaos: Landry ran towards the sideline and there’s some double pass potential to be had here some day.
We talk so much about Stefanski’s situational awareness and sometimes it’s the little things. Harrison Bryant caught a third-down pass in the red zone in the second quarter down to the Giants’ 7-yard line, a yard short of a first down. Instead of taking a shot to the endzone, Stefanski called a QB sneak and picked up a first down. Now the Browns had three — or potentially four — more shots at the endzone just by the simple act of moving the chains on third down. They scored three plays later on a throw to Austin Hooper.
The broadcast showed a stat during the Browns’ first red-zone trip: the Giants were allowing a league-best 4.5 points per red zone trip. The Browns averaged 6.6 on Sunday night.
The thing that made me happy in this game: the Browns, facing a third-and-22 on their first drive of the second half from their own 32, threw downfield. No draw play, no giving up on the down just to safely punt. No, they took a shot at converting. It didn’t happen — Peoples-Jones caught the ball for 18 yards — but I love the idea of being aggressive and putting pressure on a defense to make sure they get a guy down near the sticks. As long as you trust your quarterback to not throw a pick and get rid of the ball if there’s nothing there — which we can safely say the Browns can do now with Mayfield — take a shot on a defender slipping or missing a tackle.
Mayfield isn’t going to wow you with his legs, but he’ll kill you with them — or as Cris Collinsworth said on the broadcast, he’ll break your heart. A third-and-four scramble in the third quarter from the Browns’ 11 turned what would have been a punt into the 14-play, 95-yard, 8:04 drive, which essentially put the game away.
More aggression from Stefanski: on 1st-and-goal from the Giants’ 21 after the clipping penalty on Jack Conklin, the Browns ran downfield routes resulting in a 17-yard completion to Rashard Higgins. It’s not always about getting everything back, sometimes it’s about getting a good chunk back, and they did to set up a more manageable goal-to-go situation.
This was not a night for Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt and the run game, but Chubb’s 15-yard run on that long drive into Giants territory was a reminder it only takes one carry for Chubb to do some damage. No, it wasn’t one of his ridiculous, long touchdown runs, but it was a solid run.
His touchdown run on the drive, which was negated by a penalty, was a tough run through contact for six yards. His one-yard run was just pure power up front.
Chubb was north/south on Sunday night, rating as the league’s fourth-most efficient runner in Week 15, according to Next Gen Stats.
Mayfield’s time to throw on Sunday night: a crisp 2.84 seconds. He jumped to 3.15 Monday night against Baltimore — and, hey, he was effective — but he had been starting to get that number under three seconds consistently, which seems to indicate he’s in a really nice rhythm.
Mayfield had eight dropbacks on Sunday night under pressure, according to ProFootballFocus. He threw five passes and completed three. The two incompletions were throwaways. His rating under pressure was 104.2, ninth-best in the league in Week 15. This is a good thing.
This game might mark the first time I’ve ever seen a flea flicker to a screen, which is what the Browns did on second-and-7 on their first drive on a throw to Austin Hooper. It gained four, but if the timing would have been just a little better, it might have been a big-gainer.
The story with this defense is always going to be about opportunity. Don’t let the Giants get you on a weird fake field goal attempt. When they go for it on fourth-and-2 from your 6-yard line, get off the field.
Giants coach Joe Judge said after the game the Giants weren’t going to win with field goals, which tells you what he saw when he watched the Browns offense — they needed to be aggressive and keep up. The Browns defense isn’t built to shut opponents down entirely, but they can always be opportunistic and allow their offense to counter empty possessions by their opponent with scores of their own.
In the case of the second quarter stop on fourth down with 5:16 on the clock, the Browns not only responded with a touchdown but made sure the Giants didn’t get the ball back until there were 21 seconds on the clock.
As for the Giants’ aggression, I agree with something Collinsworth said in the fourth quarter. You’ve got a backup quarterback, a different playcaller and a week stunted by COVID issues — and your best cornerback was out — going against a hot offense. You better force the issue and try and score some points. We can certainly quibble over some of the methods, but the mindset was a good one.
When do we start getting nervous about Cody Parkey? He’s missed two of his last eight extra points — yes, one was a 48-yard try instead of 33 — and missed his only field goal attempt the last two games, a 39-yarder, against Baltimore. There’s time to get right, but this can’t keep trending in this direction.
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