Myles Garrett is the Browns' Mr. October after being named AFC defensive player of the month. (Dawg Pound Daily)
Editor's note: Tony Grossi is a Cleveland analyst for TheLandOnDemand.com and 850 ESPN Cleveland.
Takeaways from Browns practice and interviews …
Where would the Browns be without defensive end Myles Garrett?
Just look back to the final six games of last season when he served an NFL suspension for bopping Pittsburgh’s Mason Rudolph over the head with his helmet. The pass rush slipped from three sacks a game to 1.3, the defense gave up 27.5 points per game compared to 22.8 previously, and the team lost four of six games.
Garrett was named AFC defensive player of the month for October. Six of his NFL-high nine sacks and two of his four forced fumbles were recorded in October. He also earned two points on a safety in the Colts game by influencing an intentional grounding penalty by Philip Rivers in the end zone.
On a defense yielding more than 30 points and 380 yards a game, Garrett has been “a game-changer,” according to coach Kevin Stefanski.
“He has changed the game many times this season,” Stefanski said. “That is those sack fumbles – he has four – that is changing the game. It is changing the outcome of games.”
Garrett has accounted for turnovers (plus the safety) in each of the Browns’ five wins.
Little wonder, then, that Garrett was given a second day off in a row with a minor ankle injury as a precaution. The Browns practiced outdoors on a very wet field on Thursday while Garrett worked with a trainer indoors. Stefanski said Garrett would be back on the field on Friday and he does not expect him to miss Sunday’s game against the Las Vegas Raiders.
“He knows that we are counting on [him],” Stefanski said. “He is a great football player, and we are going to need him for the rest of this season to continue to apply pressure to the Q. He is the straw that stirs the drink there.”
Guard Joel Bitonio said, “I think mentally he is on a mission. He has always been there, but I think with missing some games last year and being injured a couple of times, I think he wants to be on a mission to prove that he is the best pass rusher in the NFL.”
Garrett has nine sacks; the rest of the defense combined has nine. Garrett has more sacks than five teams, including the Raiders, who have seven.
Raiders coach Jon Gruden sounded in awe of Garrett on a Zoom call on Wednesday.
“Everybody counts sacks. That is like the only thing they count anymore is sacks,” Gruden said. “This guy forces fumbles. He causes other sacks for other people. He is good against the run. He bats passes down. His arms are up in the air. He forces inaccurate balls. He has a factor about him. His presence is felt a lot.
“He can play left end, right end or they can push him inside, and he is a factor wherever he plays.
“I wish we had Garrett, and I look forward to seeing him. I always look forward to competing with the best ones.”
Hunting for end zone
Filling in for injured Nick Chubb as the No. 1 back, Kareem Hunt has played through groin and rib injuries and has slipped to eighth in NFL rushing with 463 yards – 200 behind leader Derrick Henry of Tennessee. But Hunt co-leads with eight others with seven touchdowns (three rushing, four receiving).
“That is my thing. I just like smelling the end zone,” Hunt said. “If I get an opportunity to make a play in the end zone or close to the end zone, I am definitely going to try to fight my way in there, make the nice catch or whatever it is to get in the end zone. That is just because of the team needs. I would rather have seven points than three any day of the week.”
- Receiver Rashard Higgins said his high-point catch for 30 yards on Baker Mayfield’s game-winning touchdown drive was the best of his NFL career. But he said he considered it “routine” because of how hard he practices. Incidentally, Higgins said he expects to start in place of injured Odell Beckham Jr. …
- Rookie Donovan Peoples-Jones, who caught the winning TD pass against the Bengals, obviously has earned more playing time on offense. He’ll also keep the kick return job. “I do not see any problems with him handling an extra workload on offense and being the returner,” said special teams coordinator Mike Priefer …
- Kicker Cody Parkey’s missed PAT after the game-winning TD did not raise concern. Austin Seibert lost the job when missing PATs became a mental thing. “He made 30 kicks in a row for us, and hopefully, he can start a new streak this week. He has been outstanding for us,” Priefer said.