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Locker Room Report: Donte Whitner coming up big for the Browns


Donte Whitner has been coming up big for the Browns

  • Go back and look at the film of the Steelers-Browns game and watch at who set the tone in the first quarter for the Cleveland defense. It was safety Donte Whitner. He was flying around in the run game. In particular on the Steelers' second possession of the game, where they drove the ball inside the 5-yard line, it was Whitner who leveled Le'Veon Bell on second-down. The Steelers ended up settling for a field goal and it altered the rest of the game.
  • "There aren't a lot of safeties in this league that would have made that tackle and kept him out of the end zone," said defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil. "Whitner stuffed him – hit him right at the three-yard-line and he went down right at the three-yard-line. That was a big play for us defensively early in the football game."
  • It's also the little things Whitner is doing that only the coaches notice. The Browns' improved play on defense has to do with these subtleties.
  • "He's one of those guys who can put out a lot of pre-snap fires for us, and he'll alert a lot of the other guys on the defense," said O'Neil. 'Hey, let's be alert for this.' He's real good on the sideline. He's been a force as far as a tackling machine out there on the field. I'm very happy with the way he's playing."
  • "I have embraced that leadership role," said Whitner, who attributes his impactful ways to the time he spent in San Francisco. "We need to keep doing extra on the football field, do extra work before you leave the facility. You have to understand you aren't going to physically feel your best every day, but still give it 100 percent mentally."
  • Whitner's 38 tackles are good for second on the Browns.

Jacksonville committed to stopping the Browns' running game

  • Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said the Jaguars put eight men in the box "95 percent of the time." Similar to Cleveland's style of defense, Jacksonville puts a ton of pressure on their secondary in one-on-one matchups. Just because the Browns know the Jaguars are going to stack the box, doesn't mean Shanahan wants to abandon the running game.
  • The Jaguars are ranked 19th in the league in rushing yards allowed per game (117.2) while the Browns rank third iwith 146.4 yards per contest.
  • "They're a very sound defense. It's very similar to Seattle," said Shanahan. "They do make it tough to run, but they play a pretty deep safety, too… We've got to stick with [our game plan]. Hopefully we can get first downs, and the more you can do it the more you've got a chance to break a long one."
  • Want to know how intense and competitive Shanahan is? Read this answer to a question about how much fun he's having coaching the Cleveland Browns compared to the Washington Redskins.
  • "I don't have much fun to tell you the truth," said Shanahan. "I think I've been in this league long enough to realize that this is Week 5, and there's a long, long way to go. I enjoy myself after the year. I usually relax a little bit after the season. I kind of unwind and look back at the year, but I definitely don't ever feel comfortable in the season."

Mike Pettine designed the Johnny Manziel trick play

  • On Thursday coach Mike Pettine revealed it was his idea for Brian Hoyer to throw the trick pass to Johnny Manziel during the Week 3 game against the Baltimore Ravens. The play ultimately was called back on a penalty, but it's interesting to see the defensive minded head coach getting involved in the creative design of the offense.
  • It's not unusual for Pettine to drop in on an offensive meeting and listen to Shanahan install the game plan for that week.
  • "I've suggested a few [plays]," said Pettine about the offense. "Hopefully by the end of the year I can get a few in because there are some that – even if I'm not saying, 'Hey, run it,' – I'll just tell him, 'Hey, what you're doing here, this causes major problems defensively.' That's where I think I can contribute."
  • Pettine said he meets with both of his coordinators on Tuesday night to start formulating the depth chart, which players might be inactive and which players special teams coordinator Chris Tabor will have to coach up. As someone who has covered other teams, Pettine's honesty is amazingly refreshing.

News and nuggets

  • Updated injury report: Tashaun Gipson (thigh, limited practice), Paul Kruger (back, limited), Nick McDonald (wrist, limited), Ahtyba Rubin (ankle, limited) Rodney Smith (hamstring, did not practice), Billy Winn (quad, did not practice), K'Waun Williams (concussion, did not practice).
  • Pettine said if Gipson can't go the team feels comfortable with either Jim Leonhard and Jordan Poyer at safety, depending on the look from the Jaguars. Both players are interchangeable. If Williams can't go, Buster Skrine will slide over as the nickel back and rookie Justin Gilbert will play outside cornerback in certain situations.
  • The sack numbers don't show it, but Barkevious Mingo had one of his best games against the Steelers. Behind John Hughes and Desmond Bryant, rated Mingo as the third most effective pass rusher. Both times Ben Roethlisberger was sacked, Mingo was leading the charge, flustering the veteran quarterback.
  • "Hopefully it did give him some confidence," said O'Neil. "We'll see more of that. We'll get him getting the quarterback on the ground some more in more of the games to come here."
  • Shanahan spoke very highly of Paul McQuistan. John Greco has been receiving a ton of praise for how he stepped in at center, but if McQuistan played poorly at right guard against the Steelers, it could've unraveled the offense.
  • "[Paul] contributed a lot with Seattle last year, and that's why we brought him here," said Shanahan. "We knew he could help us if we ever had an injury whether it's at tackle or guard. He stepped in at guard and got us through that game. I expect him to continue doing the same."
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