Olivier Vernon never came off the field Sunday in New England. That wasn’t by design, defensive coordinator Steve Wilks said, but it certainly wasn’t a bad thing, either.
Vernon, acquired during the offseason in a blockbuster trade with the Giants, has been solid all season for the Browns and has been particularly effective in Cleveland’s last two games.
“Things are really clicking for him right now,” Wilks said Thursday. “He has had two outstanding games from the standpoint of pressuring the QB. But again, most importantly, really stopping the run.”
Vernon’s efforts against the Seahawks weren’t enough to prevent Seattle from having a big day on the ground (170 yards and two touchdowns on 38 carries) but he played a big role in limiting the Patriots to 79 yards on 27 carries -- by far the team’s best effort against the run all season.
Vernon had a season-high six tackles and his second sack of the season. He forced a fumble against the Seahawks.
According to Pro Football Focus, Vernon has posted a 92.9 grade against the run in Cleveland’s games against the Seahawks and Patriots -- the second-best of any NFL player during that stretch. His 10 tackles against the run during that period are tied for the most of anyone in the league.
Browns coach Freddie Kitchens agreed with the assessment that Vernon’s past two games were his best so far.
“I think he’s been in position to make some plays,” Kitchens said, “and he’s made the plays.”
Check out photos of the Browns preparing for their game against the Broncos Sunday by team photographer Matt Starkey
-- The Browns used punter Jamie Gillan on the team’s first attempted onside kick of the season against the Patriots. He deployed a drop-kick that scooted on the ground and eventually bounced out of bounds.
Browns special teams coordinator Mike Priefer said both Gillan and kicker Austin Seibert have the ability to do onside kicks, which have become incredibly difficult to recover after the implementation of new NFL rules.
“They both practice different type of kicks – Austin not so much the drop kick but the normal traditional onside kick. He can do different things as well,” Priefer said. “I gave them a homework assignment over the summer. I said, ‘Come back with three of four different kicks that you are really good at.’
“(Gillan) kicked it probably a little bit too hard and the ground was wet and we had a little bit too much of a spin, but it was great attempt. It was a good first attempt for him. Now, we just have to improve from there.”
-- Safety Damarious Randall (hamstring) remained sidelined for a second consecutive day of practice. Randall missed last week’s game and hasn’t practiced since suffering the injury against the Seahawks in Week 6.
Nickel cornerback Eric Murray did not practice because of an injury suffered at Wednesday’s practice. Kitchens said the team was awaiting test results on Murray’s injury.
-- Offensive coordinator Todd Monken liked what he saw from quarterback Baker Mayfield in New England despite the end results.
Mayfield completed 20-of-31 passes for 194 yards and his sixth touchdown pass of the season. He threw his 12th interception on a shovel pass attempt to Jarvis Landry that was immediately disrupted by Patriots defensive end Lawrence Guy.
“From then on in the rain, I thought he threw it pretty well,” Monken said. “You would have not have looked at it and said, ‘Boy, we did not give ourselves opportunities here.’ I thought he played really well. I thought he competed really well. To be where we were and to battle back and get us to 17-10 and still have some opportunities there, I thought he played really well."