Browns Mailbag

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Browns Mailbag: Which newcomers stood out in the season opener?

Senior Writer Andrew Gribble answers your questions every week

We're on to the Texans.

Nine months of buildup for Week 1 leads into six days' worth for Week 2. That's how it works in the NFL, and it's especially true in Cleveland as the Browns look to rebound from Sunday's disappointing loss in Kansas City with a strong showing in their home opener against the Texans.

Before we get ready for practice and interviews Wednesday, we're knocking out three of your questions on this warm and sunny Tuesday at the CrossCountry Mortgage Campus. 

Why in the world did the Browns kick an extra point after Hunt's fourth quarter touchdown? I was screaming hopelessly at my television to go for two points!! The extra point made no difference, but a two-point conversion would have meant that the Browns would have only needed a field goal to tie instead of a touchdown to go ahead. — Bob K., Akron

I'm going to have to disagree with you on this one. The extra point in this situation very much mattered. Kareem Hunt's touchdown with 10:24 to play in the fourth quarter put the Browns ahead, 28-20. By kicking the extra point, the Browns officially made it a two-possession game, meaning the Chiefs would need to possess the ball at least twice to reach or surpass 29 points. Had the Browns gone for two and not converted it, Kansas City would have gotten the ball back with a chance to tie the score on one possession with a touchdown and a two-point conversion.

How can you explain one sack from a veteran defensive line against THREE ROOKIE linemen. I didn't see stunts, I didn't see arms up from the tackles in the red zone. I saw Malik Jackson knock one down. I want to see this Browns defense EAT! — James H., Nashville

The Browns had two sacks Sunday, for what it's worth. Joe Jackson got the Browns' first of the year and Myles Garrett delivered a potential game-changing play when he dropped Patrick Mahomes on third down late in the fourth quarter to give Cleveland's offense one more shot. It's also important to remember the opponent. Yes, the Chiefs were breaking in a brand new offensive line that featured three first-year players. But there's something about Mahomes that has made him tough to sack no matter who's blocking for him, and the Browns actually exceeded the average number of sacks Mahomes typically takes in a game. From 2018-2020, the Chiefs surrendered an average of 1.56 sacks per game. In each of those seasons, Kansas City ranked in the top five for fewest sacks allowed in the NFL. Mahomes is shifty, gets the ball out fast and, simply put, makes a lot of magic happen when the ball is in his hands. 

It's not all about sacks, of course. According to Pro Football Focus, Mahomes had an average time of 2.64 seconds to throw Sunday. His average time to throw for his career is 2.84 seconds. Mahomes, though, was just exceptionally good even when the Browns brought pressure on him Sunday. The D-line will look to bring that same kind of heat and more Sunday when they get back on the field against the Texans.

"I think we just have to be honest and transparent with the players in our assessment of the game, and that is what the coaches are meeting on as we speak – point out each play what we did well and what we could have done differently," Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said. "Whether you win, lose or draw, you have to learn from these things. That is what we are working on very hard right now."

Check out the best photos from the Browns game against the Chiefs yesterday by the Browns photo team

Several new players give the Browns an entertaining and improved team. It was nice to see them have a good performance. How about Njoku, Schwartz, McDowell, Jackson, and Newsome? — Rob M., Charleston, West Virginia

I'll highlight a couple from this list, starting with Anthony Schwartz, who had a very nice NFL debut. It's even nicer when you consider all of the practice time he missed because of a hamstring injury. He looked as if he hadn't missed a single one, as he caught three passes for 69 yards and added a nice run on a reverse. Schwartz has special speed, and the Browns already showed they're excited to utilize it within the offense.

"I'm proud of him," WR Jarvis Landry said. "I'm proud of the way that he came in and his eagerness to learn and the training camp he had. You guys were there, you saw the training camp he had when he was available, and to come out here on probably one of the biggest stages of the season so far, being the first game. Either way, he did what he was asked to do. He made tough plays, blocked and was where he needed to be when we needed him there. He's going to be a guy we continue to lean on."

Then there's Malik McDowell, who made his NFL debut more than four years since the Seahawks selected him in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft. McDowell not only played, but he also started – an incredibly rapid rise for a player who hadn't played the game in years when the Browns signed him during the spring. McDowell was one of the Browns' most active defenders and received the team's top player grade from Pro Football Focus. He was also the website's fourth-best interior defender in the entire NFL in Week 1.

"I thought he did a really nice job," Stefanski said. "You saw it on the very first play of the game. He was disruptive and made a play. We are counting on him to be that type of guy. I thought he did a nice job.

"He has worked at it. We have talked about it, he has been through a lot, but since he has been here on campus, the guy works. He does a nice job in the meeting room, the weight room and out on the grass. He takes this very seriously."

Greg Newsome II played all but two snaps to lead all Cleveland defenders Sunday. The first-rounder out of Northwestern wasn't targeted that much and appeared to hold his own against Mecole Hardman and the rest of Kansas City's wide receivers not named Tyreek Hill. It's the kind of performance Newsome can build upon as he continues through his rookie season.

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