Browns Can Build On Several Positives After Putting Myles Garrett Situation Behind Them

Joe Schobert made a case for himself to be re-signed in the off-season.

Joe Schobert made a case for himself to be re-signed in the off-season.


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Editor's note: Tony Grossi is a Cleveland Browns analyst for TheLandOnDemand.com and 850 ESPN Cleveland.

All things pass. So, too, will the Myles Garrett fiasco.

Unfortunately, it won’t pass immediately.

There will be plenty of fines announced this week by the NFL for Browns and Steelers players who were not suspended as a result of the game-ending melee on Thursday night.

Garrett’s appeal of an indefinite suspension also will be heard and ruled on by Wednesday.

And then there will be the matter of that rematch in Heinz Field on Dec. 1. (There was a chance it would be “demoted” and flexed to 1 p.m., but the original 4:25 p.m. kickoff seems to be on again.)

Ultimately, life goes on for everyone involved. And so does the Browns’ season.

After three days through the never-ending news cycle of new media – including a strained lampoon on NBC’s Saturday Night Live – the Browns go back to work. They would be wise to dwell on the positives of Thursday’s 21-7 win over the Steelers, of which there were many.

2-0 in AFC North, with four to play

Embattled though he may be, Freddie Kitchens is the only Browns coach to defeat the Steelers and Ravens in the same season. He can double down and sweep both series with wins in Pittsburgh on Dec. 1 and against the Ravens in the home finale on Dec. 22. It is the clearest path for this 4-6 team to reach its goal.

The Browns’ division record is their valuable hole card in the uphill playoff pursuit. The win in Baltimore was their ace. Now they have a pair of aces.

Kitchens and his staff have managed to produce the team’s most physical performances against the two most physical teams on the schedule.

Against the Ravens, the Browns gashed for 530 yards offense and 40 points and the defense produced three takeaways. Against the Steelers, the 21 points easily could have been/should have been 30-plus, and the defense pummeled Mason Rudolph for four interceptions and four sacks.

These games are examples of what a Browns playoff team looks like.

Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt

In their second game together, Chubb surpassed 1,000 yards in his 10th game with 92 against the Steelers. Hunt had only 12 rushing but was 6 of 8 on receiving targets for 46 yards.

So in two games together, Chubb has 208 yards rushing on 47 attempts (4.4 average), and Hunt is 13 of 17 as a safety valve receiver for Baker Mayfield. In total, the two backs have produced 315 yards total offense.

Kitchens had Hunt positioned everywhere – backfield, slot, tight end, wide receiver – and still has untapped options involving the two backs to baffle defenses going forward.

3 for 3 in red zone

Surprisingly, Chubb and Hunt were on the field together for only one red zone foray – the first one, which resulted in Mayfield’s 1-yard sneak over the goal line.

The succeeding two red zone trips were typically difficult for the offense, though they eventually succeeded.

On the second series, a Joe Haden pass interference against KhaDarel Hodge in the end zone gave the Browns first-and-goal at the 1. Mayfield passed to wide open Jarvis Landry for the touchdown.

On the third series, dubious play-selection – a fade for Odell Beckham Jr. on first down from the 4, then a no-chance inside handoff to Chubb with no lead-blocking – set up third down from the 8. Undrafted rookie tight end Stephen Carlson then bailed out the offense by picking a Mayfield laser throw under duress off the helmet of Mark Barron at the back of the end zone.

The days of Kitchens simply hammering Chubb-Hunt from inside the 10 are still not here, obviously. So that’s something to look forward to.

Joe Schobert

The linebacker had perhaps the finest game of his career -- much less the season -- with two interceptions, two additional passes defensed, one sack, and 10 tackles, including two for losses.

On a team that does not display mature decision-making often, Schobert is the smartest player on defense.

With Garrett suspended through the remainder of this season, at least, Schobert may emerge as the most valuable player of the defense. I can’t believe the Browns would let Schobert leave in free agency after this season, but it could happen if they don’t re-sign him before the final six games.

KhaDarel Hodge

The second-year receiver/special teamer was the immediate beneficiary of the long overdue release of John Dorsey pet Antonio Callaway – not Rashard Higgins.

Although Higgins caught the winning touchdown on his only target in the Buffalo game, his snaps were reduced against the Steelers from 33 to 29 and, incredibly, his targets were reduced from one to zero.

Hodge, who has been an ace on special teams since the Browns claimed him off Rams waivers in September, received an increase in offensive snaps from seven to 10 and in targets from zero to two.

Hodge made two big plays on the second touchdown drive -- a catch-and-run of 41 yards, and a strong post-up in the end zone to draw the interference on Haden.

The Browns’ hang-up with Higgins remains a weekly mystery. But at least in Hodge they are replacing Higgins with a hard-working, on-time, physical receiver who is making more positive plays than negative ones.