It sure feels good to start a season 1-0.
The vibes at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus have been good all week because of the big win in Charlotte, but the focus has shifted to next Sunday's also-important game against the Jets. The Browns are gunning for their first 2-0 start since 1993, so the celebrations from the thrilling victory were short-lived.
The Mailbag, though, carries on. We're answering five of your questions as we move closer to the Week 2 home opener.
Kareem Hunt is the quintessential Cleveland Brown in all his roles as fullback, running back and receiver since the days of Ernest Byner. The Browns will keep Hunt and Chubb healthy this season to win? - Rob M., Fairmont WV
Health is always important for those two guys, and the Browns are obviously hoping they stay fully healthy all season. They need them, too, if they want to execute their offense's greatest strength for all 17 games.
Specifically to Hunt, the Browns are going to use him in several positions on offense this season. That was apparent Sunday in Carolina, where he was used as a normal tailback, a fullback and a slot receiver.
Screen plays, normal run plays and fullback blocks are all plays in Hunt's tool belt, and the thing that might be most exciting about him this year is that he'll likely be used simultaneously with Chubb more than we've seen in previous seasons. The Browns used that look six times on Sunday, including their first touchdown of the season when Hunt caught a 1-yard pass from Jacoby Brissett. Hunt lined up as a fullback on the play, and he was wide open because the entire Panthers defense bit on a fake-handoff to Chubb.
"Really, we're just trying to put your best guys out on the field," offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt said. "Obviously, Kareem and Nick are two of our best players on offense. Philosophically, we didn't put them out there a lot the last two years. Moving forward this time, if it helps our package and if that package of the two backs is beneficial for us offensively, we will go ahead and put those guys out there. Both individual runners are tremendous runners. If't is a mismatch for the defense, then it's something that we can use."
Can you see the Browns bringing in Dobbs as a change of pace QB for the Browns, similar to what Tysom Hill does in New Orleans when the offense gets stagnant? - Howard C., Covington, GA
Do you think Kevin Stephanski will use Josh Dobbs, for some plays? - Hubert D., Macon, France
Ever since the Browns dropped their 53-man roster with Dobbs as the backup, there's been a lot of questions like this in the Mailbag — and they're good ones.
The short answer to these Qs is "yes." It's definitely possible Dobbs sees action on certain plays at some point this season. The Browns love the athleticism he showed throughout the preseason as both a runner and passer. He's smart, fast and isn't afraid to shoulder up or attempt a juke on a defender.
We didn't see Dobbs at all in Week 1, but that doesn't mean the plan is for him to sit on the bench all season as the Browns navigate things with Brissett. Van Pelt was specifically asked last week if the Browns have any packages including Dobbs. Here's what he said:
"We will always try to put our best players on the field. In situations, a lot of teams have guys who come in in certain roles, and Josh Dobbs can definitely fill that role."
Check out photos of players and coaches working to prepare for the teams regular season game against the New York Jets Sunday
Anthony, does it seem like with all the talent on both sides of the ball there seems to be a lack of detail or killer instinct. On offense when we get a lead we seem to go into a relaxed mode and on defense especially in pass coverage there seems to be a lack of communication which was apparent in games last year. This will need to be addressed early this year or it could be a detriment to winning season, your thoughts? - Chazz B., Chambersburg, PA
I don't think a lack of "killer instinct" was why last the game was closer than we all would've liked — if it weren't for a few broken coverages by the defense, the Browns would've won on a much more comfortable note.
Those plays were a 50-yard pass from Baker Mayfield to Ian Thomas that set up a 1-yard Panthers touchdown and a 75-yard touchdown from Mayfield to Robbie Anderson. They accounted for 125 of the Panthers' 261 net offensive yards, and it was an otherwise dominant game from the defense that provided plenty of reasons to believe they'll be one of the best units in the league this year. They expect to clean those communication errors up this week.
"Game two, we'll definitely be ready to go," CB Greg Newsome II said. "Like our coach told us, there were really two plays where we gave up maybe 150 yards. If you take away those two explosive plays, which were literally eyes and communication, they would have had less than 10 yards through the air. I think we'll definitely be ready going into game two."
As for the offense, the Browns weren't taking their foot off the gas in the second half. It's just always going to be a battle for them to score more points when they have a lead in the second half because of how predictable their game plan will be — the defense knows the Browns will run the ball a ton if they have a lead, so they'll stack the box to prevent big plays.
Chubb and Hunt had 17 carries for 74 yards in the second half, an average of 4.3 yards per carry. That's well below the 5.6 yards per carry mark they averaged for the whole game. The Panthers loaded up near the line of scrimmage to stop them and force Brissett to throw, and the best they could do was find three field goals (the last of which, of course, was the clutch game-winner).
They know they have to be better not only in the second half, but in all four quarters to avoid those stomach-turning close finishes.
"I would assume that it will be a much cleaner game from our standpoint," Brissett said. "We addressed a lot of the problems that caused a lot of those communication errors and those things. Looking forward to obviously going into this week of practice and preparation to correct those things so that on Sunday, they're clean."
Have the Browns considered a third-quarter song to get the crowd fired up, similar to "Renegade" in Pittsburgh? Having been at Steelers games, it creates a powerful atmosphere. And given the Rock-n-Roll HOF, it seems like a no-brainer. Personally I would love to see a new tradition started and suggest, "I won't back down," by Tom Petty and can imagine a full stadium singing the chorus together. Thanks for the consideration. - Chris L., Cincinnati, OH
You're in luck, Chris. The team announced this week they'll be doing a weekly fan poll to vote for a song played at the end of the third quarter. Tom Petty unfortunately isn't on this week's list, but you can still make your pick between Elton John, Billy Joel, Oasis and Zac Brown Band here. New songs will be rolled out for the vote all year, and the winner each week will be on the ballot the following week, too.