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Burning Questions

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Burning Questions: Three questions for the Browns ahead of Week 6 matchup vs. 49ers

Browns are coming off their bye week and face San Francisco at Cleveland Browns Stadium


QB Deshaun Watson will miss his second straight game with a shoulder injury. HC Kevin Stefanski confirmed Friday that QB P.J. Walker will start after receiving first-team snaps at practice this week.

"P.J. knows the situation he is going into and will be ready, as always," Stefanski said. "I communicated that with the guys early in the week and think he had a good week of practice."

Now, the Browns head into their Week 6 matchup against the undefeated 49ers. Here are three burning questions heading into Sunday's game.

Will the run game come back alive?

In the season's first two games, the Browns rushed for 206 yards in Week 1 and 198 yards in Week 2. In the next two games, they struggled to reach 100 yards.

There are a few reasons why the Browns offense has changed through the first portion of the season. One is that their star RB Nick Chubb got injured in Week 2. Another reason is that there have been fewer carries per game. The Browns had 75 rush attempts and 69 pass attempts in the season's first two games. Then in the next two games, the Browns had 69 pass attempts again in the next two games and 56 rush attempts.

"We need to be efficient in the run game," Stefanski said. "Explosives happen when you are efficient, so it's really incumbent on having 11 guys doing their job. It's as simple as the quarterback booting away after he hands it off. That's all part of the run game. So, I just think it's 11 guys doing their job and making sure that we're being efficient and explosive."

Will the defense continue to show they are one of the best?

The Browns defense is still top tier in all defense categories despite having their worst game of the season against the Ravens.

"We did miss a lot of tackles," DC Jim Schwartz said. "I think we had about 120 yards after missed tackles in that game. And I bear some responsibility, that's not all players. I can get them closer to the play, and I think that can help them."

The Browns have a chance to reset as they face the 49ers, who have a one of the top offenses in the league. According to Pro Football Focus, the Browns defense leads the league in average yards per play with 3.7. The 49ers' offense scored 30-plus points in nine straight games, making them the fifth team in history to do so. The 49ers rank third in rushing yards and first in passer rating, making their offense multi-dimensional and complex to stop.

The Browns have maintained their position as the top team in completion percentage, holding opposing offenses to a rate of only 53.8 percent. They are also first in the league at stopping the run by holding rushers to 3.2 yards per carry.

"They say to be the best, you got to beat the best," DE Myles Garrett said. "We're going to go out there and heads held high, full of confidence, ready to rock."

Will Dustin Hopkins continue his success in making field goals?

Through the first four games in the season, K Dustin Hopkins has showcased the power of his leg.

Hopkins has made eight of nine field goals, with his longest being 55 yards. He also three made over 50-yard kicks in the last three games.

Browns are hoping Hopkins can stay consistent moving forward out of the bye week, especially heading into Week 6 against the 49ers. As the Browns face a tough 49ers defense, Hopkins could play an important factor for their success on Sunday.

"He's done a good job," special teams coordinator Bubba Ventrone said. "He, Corey (Bojorquez) and Charlie (Hughlett) have gotten on the same page fast. The operation has been really good. That always helps the kicker whenever the operation can be smooth. And to his credit, he's done a really good job of finishing on the ball, getting through the kick and he's got plenty of leg strength to hit it from any distance."

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