Cleveland Browns Week 15 Stock Report
The Cleveland Browns are heading into a tough matchup against the Seattle Seahawks with a bit of momentum on their side, having dispatched the San Francisco 49ers, 24-10, in Week 14. The win brings the Browns' record to 3-10 on the season.
As a result of the win, some Browns players have seen their stocks rise. But there are others whose stocks are on the decline, despite the victory. Here's the Browns' Week 15 stock report as the Seahawks' contest looms.
Stock Up: The Front Seven
Cleveland's defensive front could do little right this season, ranking last in stopping the run and totaling only 17 sacks through the first 12 games.
But that all turned around against the 49ers in Week 14, and whether or not it's the start of a trend, it was at least a good sign that the defense still has more than a little fight left in it.
Cleveland's defense sacked Niners quarterback Blaine Gabbert nine times (with linebacker Nate Orchard and hybrid linebacker-end Armonty Bryant each registering two). The defense also had 11 combined quarterback hits on the day.
Even more impressive is that the Browns defense gave up only 71 rushing yards on the Niners' combined 17 attempts and had eight tackles for a loss in the game. As such, San Francisco's offense only reached Cleveland's red zone once.
This was the defense that head coach Mike Pettine and his coordinator, Jim O'Neil, had been waiting for all season. While it took long enough to get to this point, the performance of Cleveland's front seven against the Niners does mean this team has the talent to execute the coaches' vision.
Stock Down: WR Dwayne Bowe
It happened again. Browns wide receiver Dwayne Bowe was yet again a healthy scratch in Week 14 against the San Francisco 49ers, even with Andrew Hawkins and Taylor Gabriel sidelined with concussions. The last we've seen him on the field was in Week 12, when, according to Pro Football Focus, he played four snaps. He's up to 38 snaps on the season and has three catches on nine targets for 31 yards.
Bowe expressed his frustration with his lack of playing time on Tuesday, saying to Cleveland.com's Mary Kay Cabot that: "I've never been through anything like this in my life. It's the ultimate challenge. ... It's hard because I feel like I can contribute. ... Of course I can still play. I show it every day in practice. I feel like if they put me in there and threw the ball to me, I would've made big plays."
On Wednesday, Browns head coach Mike Pettine said of Bowe's situation (also via Cabot) that he knows that Bowe is "frustrated" and noted that because Bowe is only an "X" receiver (a wideout who runs deep routes), his usefulness is limited this year.
Still, that type of receiver can help out the Browns when they try to stretch the field; instead, though, they'd rather do it with after-catch yardage and speed, such as what Travis Benjamin, Duke Johnson and Gary Barnidge bring to the passing offense.
No matter the real reason why Bowe cannot get on the field, even with myriad injuries in Cleveland's receiving corps, it's obvious that he's not going to contribute to the level of his payday this season.
Stock Up: WR Terrelle Pryor
There is a reason to believe that Mike Pettine's explanation for not needing Dwayne Bowe's "X" receiver services isn't the whole story behind Bowe's multiple healthy scratches, mainly because that was the role fellow receiver Terrelle Pryor was tapped to play against San Francisco.
Prior to Sunday's game, Pettine said that Pryor had "trained primarily this week as the split end, the X receiver," though he did add, "we can move him around some," according to Cabot. Ultimately, Pryor played 16 of a possible 81 offensive snaps in Week 14 and didn't have a single pass target, per PFF.
Still, for Pryor—who only switched positions from quarterback to wide receiver earlier this year—to get those 16 snaps that could have otherwise gone to Bowe means that Cleveland's coaching staff views him highly. This seems to point to Pryor being on the team's game-day roster against Seattle, with Bowe again not dressing for action.
Stock Down: CB Johnson Bademosi
Browns cornerback Johnson Bademosi played only two defensive snaps in Week 14, according to Pro Football Focus, but those two snaps were poor ones for both him and Cleveland's defense.
On those two plays, both in coverage, Bademosi was targeted twice by Niners quarterback Blaine Gabbert. Receiver Jerome Simpson caught both of them for 20 total yards and one touchdown, the only six-point play of the game for San Francisco.
Charles Gaines then took over for Bademosi for the remainder of the contest. This year, Bademosi has had to step in on multiple occasions, thanks to the concussions and other injuries suffered by cornerbacks Joe Haden, Justin Gilbert and Pierre Desir. But after two negative plays in Week 14, his time was up. It's unlikely he'll get many more cornerback snaps this season, barring any additional injuries in the secondary.
Stock Up: QB Johnny Manziel
Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel didn't exactly dazzle in his return to the field, but he didn't shrink under the pressure, either, and helped the team along to a big win.
Against the Niners, Manziel completed 21 of his 31 pass attempts for 270 yards, one touchdown and one interception while being sacked twice. He also ran seven times for 15 yards and extended plays, whether to gain yardage or simply to slip a would-be sack in order to throw the ball away.
He made plays both inside and outside the pocket and continued to show development. Manziel remains Cleveland's starting quarterback heading into Sunday's meeting with the Seahawks, an opponent who will give him a major test, particularly on the road.
But these trials by fire are necessary in order for Manziel to make progress as a professional quarterback. And so long as he does show that progress, his stock will continue to rise.