Need to Know: Joel Bitonio set to play in front of his biggest fan, Pro Bowl supporter

Joel Bitonio doesn’t pay much attention to Pro Bowl voting. 

The Browns left guard thinks it’s a cool honor and sees the Browns’ campaign for their players on social media, but he’s mostly focused on blocking Broncos defenders. 

His grandmother, on the other hand… 

“My grandma really wants me to go,” Bitonio said. “She thinks I’m a good player. She votes a lot.”

Coincidentally, Bitonio’s grandma lives in Colorado and will attend Saturday’s game. Bitonio said she’s doing well and is excited to see her. 

Perhaps not as excited as she is to see him named to the Pro-Bowl roster, though. 

“She votes a lot,” said Bitonio, who was an alternate last year. “She’s retired, but she knows how to work the computer and she stuffs the ballot box.”

— Browns coach Gregg Williams’ coaching career is 13 years older than Football Outsiders, the website that created the DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average) statistic, but that doesn’t stop him from using the site’s chief metric. 

Williams spent part of his Wednesday press conference explaining what DVOA meant, all the situations it encompasses and how he implements it in his weekly preparation. 

The Browns defense has faced the second-hardest slate of offenses this season and still ranks 10th in defensive DVOA. Williams said DVOA is the most accurate one-number statistic in all of football because of the way it accounts for all external factors. 

“The last several years is when those services and stuff have become pretty accurate,” Williams said. “The things you look (for) in this area is we have already played more plays and there won’t be anybody that will catch up with us in plays this year. When you take a look at just total yardage or total plays and all of that kind of stuff, there have to be other factors to figure in.”

The Cleveland Browns play the Denver Broncos in Week 15.

— Case Keenum hasn’t changed since Phillip Gaines used to defend him during their Conference USA days. 

Gaines played at Rice and Keenum was at Houston. Gaines said the same characteristic that defines Keenum then defines him now: fearlessness. 

That fearlessness is why linebacker Joe Schobert called Keenum a “gunslinger” on Tuesday, and Gaines thinks the name suits Keenum well. 

“That means that they’re not afraid to make throws,” Gaines said. “And when you’re not afraid to make throws, you make really good plays.”

That last part — the making plays — has been harder for Keenum since losing Demaryius Thomas in a trade and Emmanuel Sanders to injury. Keenum threw for just 186 yards and one touchdown against the 49ers last week, and his best remaining receiver, Courtland Sutton, is nursing a nagging quad injury this week. 

Schobert said not to underestimate the Broncos passing game, though. He thinks Keenum’s struggles could be explained by a lack of reps between Keenum and the new primary receivers because a lot of the Broncos pass offense is based on timing. 

Schobert said Keenum often throws the ball before receivers finish their routes, which requires precise timing and well-earned trust. With new receivers still earning Keenum’s trust and honing their timing, it’d be reasonable for Keenum to suppress his risk-taking. 

Williams, however, expects the gunslinger to keep slinging. 

“We can’t be surprised that Case will throw it into tight coverage,” Williams said. “Sometimes, maybe it is a relaxation point where you think you have your guy covered and you do not have your head around, that is not right because he will put the ball in a tight window.”

—TE Orson Charles (ankle), OL Austin Corbett (foot), C JC Tretter (ankle) and DB Denzel Ward (concussion protocol) did not practice Wednesday. 

Williams said Ward’s made progress, but he still doesn’t know if Ward will play. 

Gaines (knee) and DL Larry Ogunjobi (bicep) practiced in limited fashion.

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