The fans received their first glimpse of Jarvis Landry as a leader last year on HBO’s Hard Knocks. The newly acquired receiver, fed up early in training camp with the practice habits of his teammates, went on a F-bomb laced tirade in a position meeting, letting them know the shoddy habits built during the previous seasons were no longer acceptable. It was a tongue lashing long overdue.
Landry is the heart and soul of this club. Every team needs a leader, a respected veteran who commands attention and forces others to do things the right way. Jarvis wants to win; you can see it in his eyes and feel it in his words. He knows the opportunity that exists and refuses to let his teammates take it for granted. He is what champions are made of.
Because of his slow start to the season and being overshadowed by Odell Beckham, the importance of Landry was forgotten. No longer. Jarvis’ leadership shone on Sunday, alongside his extreme talent. The Browns had every opportunity to fold in Baltimore. Playing in a stadium they had won only four times in their history and facing the heat of the national media for unmet expectations, the young Browns needed guidance. Jarvis Landry led the way.
John Dorsey has made excellent moves since taking over as general manager of the Browns, yet, other than the drafting of Baker, none have been as important as the Landry trade. Acquired from the Dolphins for a 4th and 7th round pick, he has forced the organization to shed their loser’s habits. The stench of 1-31 doesn’t disappear by firing a coach or replacing front office members. Winning requires strong habits, work ethic, and discipline. Beyond his extraordinary talent, Jarvis Landry has instilled these qualities in his teammates.
Sunday marked the first time in the 2019 season the team looked as the fans expected. The Baker Mayfield from 2018 returned, throwing darts, controlling the offense, and playing with confidence. Nick Chubb dissected the Ravens as few running backs have. Twenty rushes for 165 yards and three touchdowns are staggering numbers to hang in Baltimore. Ricky Seals-Jones was a welcome addition to the game plan this week. A wide receiver in college, the tight end’s large frame and speed makes him a tough cover for opposing linebackers. With David Njoku out until at least Week 11, Seals-Jones provides a dangerous safety valve for Mayfield. Given Njoku’s tendency to catch a case of the drops, Seals-Jones may be an upgrade.
The defense, for the third week in a row, was outstanding. The strength of the team to this point, they’ve allowed the offense time to find a groove. They contained Lamar Jackson, sacking him four times and kept him in the pocket as well as can be expected, forcing him to use his arm. Joe Schobert recorded 17 tackles and a sack; he is pushing Myles Garrett for defensive team MVP to this point in the season. Plagued by missed tackles a year ago, Schobert has recovered and is quarterbacking this defense impressively.
Overlooked by the star power surrounding him, Larry Ogunjobi has been stellar the last two weeks, recording a sack in each game and standing up opposing running backs. A third-round pick in the 2017 draft, he is one of the few picks Sashi Brown got right.
Old Browns teams would have wilted on Sunday, unable to live up to expectations. Landry has preached patience and belief in his teammates, vowing the offense would begin making plays. He led by example Sunday, enforcing his will on the game and the Ravens. Leaders know when to disengage and allow their teammates to learn lessons, just as they know when to grab a game by the throat and take it. Jarvis Landry did that against Baltimore, and it’s the reason the Browns look like the team we expected.
Back under the lights Monday night, the Browns head to San Francisco to face an undefeated 49ers team. Landry sustained a concussion on Sunday, leaving his availability in doubt. Antonio Callaway will return from a four game drug suspension, yet it’s difficult to pinpoint what he will bring to the offense. Showing up out of shape to training camp, Callaway is a fantastic talent but needs to prove he wants and deserves to be a member of this team. If he worked his way into shape during his suspension, there will be a role for him. Rashard Higgins has missed three straight games, and it’s anyone’s guess if he’ll be able to suit up Monday. The Browns receiving core will need Callaway this week, not a comforting thought.
The 49ers have shown a balanced attack on offense. Their two backs, Raheem Mostert and Matt Breida, each average over 5 yards per rush, and Jimmy Garoppolo has been solid yet unspectacular returning from injury at quarterback. Their receivers are a below average outfit. George Kittle is their only threat in the passing game. They must account for him and gang tackle after he catches the ball. He will bulldoze defenders if allowed to gain steam in the open field.
San Francisco’s offense destroyed both Cincinnati’s and Pittsburgh’s defenses, though 5 turnovers in the Steeler game kept it close. The Browns defense must continue to pressure the quarterback, forcing Garoppolo to rush himself in the pocket. He will turn the ball over if he’s uncomfortable.
Offensively, Odell Beckham will need over 2 catches and 20 yards Monday night. Despite the numbers, Beckham was an important part of the offense on Sunday, drawing double coverage and opening space for Landry, Ricky Seals-Jones, and Nick Chubb. If Landry and Higgins miss Monday, however, Beckham will need to be more than a decoy. If Baker and the offense have turned the corner, the Browns should begin a winning streak on Monday night.
The Whip Around
1. Though Tom Brady and the offense have received most of the praise during their Super Bowl ring collection, this year’s defense may carry the team. They gave up their first touchdown of the year on Sunday and have looked dominant each week. Jamie Collins, back with the team after collecting massive checks from the Browns for subpar play, has been rejuvenated, racking up 3.5 sacks and picking off 3 passes. Brady is being carried by the other side of the ball for the first time since his sophomore year in the league.
2. I’m in love with trips bunch, a set in which three wide receivers line up on the same side of the ball, in a triangle formation. The options are infinite. Already at a disadvantage, defensive backs’ chances of covering all three are nil. Week after week, offenses make huge plays out of these sets. Use it more, offensive coordinators.
3. Another week, another referee complaint. The officials are letting turnover plays go, regardless of what they seen the field, so they can review the play. The problem, once they go to the replay booth, is they rarely overturn what is called on the field. Ezekiel Elliott’s fumble on Sunday night football is a perfect example. While a close play, his elbow was down before the ball popped out. Called a fumble on the field however, the refs decided it was too close to overturn. Forget the “not enough evidence to overturn” nonsense. You have two working eyes, presumably. Get the call right, instead of relying on replay.
4. The Eagles victory at Lambeau Field last Thursday night was impressive for Philadelphia. Torching the improved Green Bay defense, Philly pulled within a game of the division leading Cowboys. Carson Wentz rebounded from a spotty performance against Detroit, throwing three touchdowns, and the Eagles rushing game flexed its muscle, accounting for 176 yards. If Wentz can stay healthy, I believe the Eagles are a threat to play in the Super Bowl.
5. Washington, Cincinnati, Miami, and the Jets have made life easy for anyone in a Survival Pool. The garbage these teams litter NFL fields with each week is an abomination. If you combined their rosters, you still could not construct a decent club.
6. The Cowboys took a chance drafting Jaylon Smith at 34 in the 2016 draft after he tore his ACL and MCL in the Fiesta Bowl, but it is paying dividends now. He’s a tackling machine, tied for fourth in the league, and is the anchor to a superb Dallas defense. If the Cowboys advance in the playoffs, it will be on the back of Smith, Leighton Vander Esch, Robert Quinn, and DeMarcus Lawrence. They will need to carry the water when Dak inevitably struggles in key moments.
7. The hit Marcus Peters took on his pick 6 of Jameis Winston was brutal. No flag thrown? The NFL bends over backward to ensure no quarterback is even looked at cross; flags fly if a receiver brushes pads with a defender. That a defender was crushed, helmet to helmet no less, in that matter is bush league. Donovan Smith should be fined exorbitantly and suspended for a game.
8. What’s left to be said? Gardner Minshew is a magician. Prepare his bust in Canton.
9. Another pet peeve: returners bringing the ball out of the end zone. They rarely get back to the 25 yard line and they’re taking a chance on a turnover or penalty. I’m baffled special teams coordinators aren’t beating it into these guys’ brains to take a knee. The days of returners housing kickoffs are over. Save yourselves the embarrassment, and me the energy I use yelling at the television.
10. Russell Wilson was glorious Thursday night, leading the Seahawks to a huge division victory against the Rams. Wilson, perennially underrated by fans and media members alike, is requiring us to consider him as an early MVP candidate. Overcoming a shoddy defense, Rusty’s Seahawks are inching toward contender status. The quarterback has joined Patrick Mahomes in the “Must See TV” category.