I love hearing how the other team feels about the 49ers. I’ve been listening to podcasts, check out articles, to see how Browns fans are coming into this game. You won’t find a more measured analyst than Brendan Liester. Brendan’s been a good friend of mine for a handful of years now. He’s called plays at the college level, he works for PFF, and he’s a very informative guy. I reached out to him with five questions regarding tonight’s game.
We’ve talked a lot about how Baker Mayfield has struggled with “creeper blitzes” and pressure in general. Has Baker lived up to the hype coming into this season?
Baker Mayfield has not lived up to the hype to this point in the season. The first three games he was holding the ball, running from clean pockets, & hesitant to pull the trigger on passes to the intermediate level that he was often hitting on time last year. There seemed to be a lack of trust in his protection as well as his receivers & he didn’t seem completely comfortable with the reads he was making within the structure of the offense.
Everyone is talking about how the 49ers CB Emmanuel Moseley will hold up against the Browns wide receivers. I think it’s his tackling in the open field, and against Nick Chubb that matters. What’s Cleveland’s biggest advantage in this game?
Antonio Callaway brings a unique element as a deep threat & they have missed that to this point in the season. For all his inconsistencies as a route runner & pass catcher, he can take the top off the defense & take it to the house any time the ball is in his hands.
Rashard Higgins is a great route runner in the short to intermediate levels of the field & can play inside or outside. I would have expected him to start at Z & be a major upgrade from Damion Ratley, who has filled in for him since he injured his knee in the 2nd quarter week 1. Mayfield hit Higgins in scramble drill situations many times for big plays last season & all signs throughout camp & preseason pointed to Higgins thriving opposite OBJ & Landry in the Browns offense. Unfortunately, Higgins won’t suit up tonight. He is arguably the second-best receiver on the team.
Landry has been making big plays downfield, with teams focusing so much on OBJ. I think Ricky Seals-Jones will continue to make an impact and grow into a bigger role in the offense as a receiving threat tonight.
These are two of the best defensive lines in football. If you could have one player for the next four years, would it be Myles Garrett or Nick Bosa?
I would choose Myles Garrett because I believe his physical upside is higher & he has already played at an extremely high-level multiple seasons in the NFL. You can’t go wrong with either player.
What’s the Browns biggest disadvantage from your point of view?
The Browns’ biggest disadvantage is definitely on the offensive line. Eric Kush has been up & down at RG & has struggled the past two games. Chris Hubbard had a good game last Sunday at RT but needs to show he can do it consistently. Greg Robinson has improved on last season but is still a below-average starting option at LT. The 49ers have the best pass rush unit the Browns have faced this season by far & the three players, as mentioned above, will need to turn in solid performances for the Browns offense to produce at a high level.
Score prediction, and why.
The Browns build off their strong defensive performances the past two weeks & hold the 49ers to 2 TDs & 2 FGs. Jimmy Garoppolo throws two interceptions & doesn’t show the patience needed to execute consistently against the soft coverage in Steve Wilks’ secondary.
The Browns offense builds off their performance last week as Baker Mayfield takes turns throwing to Odell Beckham when he’s in single coverage & finding his other receiving weapons when the 49ers dedicate extra attention to OBJ. Chubb doesn’t break any TD runs beyond, but he consistently finds seams in the 49ers front & finishes the night with three rushes of 15 or more yards. Landry, Higgins, & Callaway each make an impact as each finishes the night with multiple catches. The Browns offensive line turns in a solid performance all around against the 49ers front & while they get beat at times, none of the pressures they give up makes a significant impact on the result.