On paper, the Cleveland Browns are one of the most talented teams in the league. With a few All-Pros, as well as potentials, this team is stacked.
Here are five players to watch (and what we’re watching for) in Week 2 against the Browns.
1. RT Dawand Jones
Welcome to the NFL, rookie. 2023 fourth-round pick Dawand Jones will be thrust into the heat of the battle this weekend against the Steelers. At 6’8 and 375 lbs, Jones is a monster. A dominating tackle for the Buckeyes on the right side with significant upside, but in his first career start. he will see T.J. Watt often. How he does in this matchup could be huge to the outcome of the game.
Much like the Steelers' own rookie OT Broderick Jones, he is a player who used his size and physicality in college but still needs to learn the nuances of the position as well as become a cohesive part of the offensive line.
Watt has been known to take over games, and after last week, he and the Steelers are going to right the wrong direction. Going against Watt with 3.0 sacks in the season opener is going to be a tough task for the rookie.
2. QB Deshaun Watson
Watson looked good in week one. Nothing to write home about going 16 of 29 for 154 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT. His elite playmaking on the downfield throws isn’t what it used to be, but before his suspension, Deshaun was at the top of the quarterback power polls. He’s a winner. More so than his arm, it’s his legs the Steelers need to be careful of.
Watson is a solid veteran and former All-Pro who understands game concepts, when to tuck and run or when to throw it away. Last week, Watson took off five times, rushing for 45 yards and a score in the Browns' win against the Bengals. It’s not just about the yards he gains, however — it’s about the moments in which he gains them, with three of those runs being for first downs.
The Browns passing attack is not at an elite level as of yet but in back-to-back weeks, the Steelers face “the other” best rushing team in the league. They run the ball extremely well behind Nick Chubb and Watson will make you pay if you take your eyes off of him.
3 & 4. DE Myles Garrett and Za’Darius Smith
This is a two-for-one special, as this tandem is looking to establish itself as one of the premier pass-rushing duos in the league.
Everyone knows Myles Garret. His comparison and competition with the likes of T.J. Watt and Nick Bosa for the moniker of “The Best” edge player in the league means he’s really, really good. Considered one of the most freakish athletes to step into the league in the last 15 years, he can take over a game, just like Watt. Whether Garrett’s up against the run or the pass, Pittsburgh knows what to expect.
Za’Darius Smith has been around the league and has made his mark at each stop. After being let go by the Packers, he signed with Minnesota and made a living in the opposing team’s backfield. He brings pressure every single down just like Garret. Although he doesn’t possess Garrett’s athleticism, he looks to be the perfect dance partner for the All-Pro.
Broderick Jones may get his first start as the team has Chucks in the concussion protocol. So still unsure of exactly what the offensive line will look like to start the game Monday night.
Overall, this week’s matchup isn’t much of a reprieve from what the team saw last week out of the San Francisco defense, and these two are a big reason why.
5. S Grant Delpit
Grant Delpit is going into his third season, which for many players is when they hit the ground running. The game has slowed down; the player has made mistakes and learned from them as they begin to play fast without having to think as often. This looks to be the path Delpit is taking.
A second-round pick for the Browns and highly touted coming out of LSU, Delpit is climbing the ranks as one of the better safeties in the league. At 6’3 and 210 lbs, running a sub 4.4 40, Delpit is all over the field. Starting the year with 8 tackles as well as a pass defense, Delpit was a huge key in shutting down Joe Burrow’s attack last week.
If Kenny Pickett is smart and we all assume he is, he will have to move Delpit with his eyes as well as know where he is on the field at all times or it could be another long afternoon for the Pittsburgh playcaller.
Although it’s only Week 2 and according to Kyle Brandt of Good Morning Football, “Week 1 is a liar,” the reality is that the Browns defense still shut down the prolific Bengals offense using the same “bullish” philosophy the Steelers are trying to employ.
If the Steelers can keep these players in check, they have a great opportunity to even up at 1-1 on the year.