Baker Mayfield enters week 5 25th in PFF passing grades (69.1), supporting a 65.5 completion percentage (1.5% above expectation) while gaining 8.5 yards per attempt. Mayfield had a decent start to the season but is coming off by far his worst game of the year, where he averaged just 4.5 yards per attempt on the road against the Vikings. He's struggled immensely under pressure -- his 35.2 PFF grade in such situations is 3rd worst in the league. That's at least somewhat reason for optimism since under pressure stats tend to be volatile and prone to large swings with small sample sizes, and the fact that the Browns have a very solid offensive line. Pressure, therefore, isn't something Mayfield typically deals with, he's been under pressure on just 30.9% of dropbacks, 8th lowest in the league. The lone concern on the offensive line is the left tackle position -- Chris Hubbard will miss his 4th straight game after injuring his triceps week 1, and 2021 10th overall selection Jedrick Wills Jr is very questionable after injuring his ankle last week. He did not practice at all this week. The top receivers by expected targets is Odell Beckham Jr, TE Austin Hooper, RB Kareem Hunt, and Rashard Higgins. It's a less than ideal group with Jarvis Landry (knee) on IR, but still a group that can get open. In the backfield, Nick Chubb and Hunt make up one of the more impressive running back tandem in the NFL. The Browns offense has been smack dab in the middle in terms of efficiency, ranking 14th in EPA/play. The defense is solid, allowing a combine 13 points in the last two weeks and ranking 9th best in EPA/play. The pass rush is led by Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney. Both are questionable (knee and elbow, respectively) but are both expected to play. At the linebacker position, rookie 2nd rounder Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah has been solid both in coverage and run stop. He teams up with Malcom Smith to make an impressive 1-2 punch at linebacker. The secondary is led by Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams at corner, with John Jonhson and Ronnie Harrison at safety. Ward and Smith are also questionable, but both got in limited sessions on Friday, a sign that they should be good to go.
Justin Herbert is off to a fine start to his sophomore campaign, ranking 4th in PFF grades (87.0) while completing 68.9% of his passes (3.2% over expectation) and gaining 7.2 yards per attempt. Herbert's success has come off of taking very few shots down the field -- his 7.7 aDOT is 9th lowest in the league, and only 7.9% of his passes have gone beyond 20 yards, lowest in the league. It's not as if screen passes are artificially deflating these numbers either -- the Chargers have run a screen pass on just 8 plays this season (4.5% of drop backs), which is 2nd lowest in the league. Part of the formula is slot man Keenan Allen, who sits at 3rd in the NFL in targets with 42. Mike Williams is enjoying his best season to date as the deep threat and number 2 receiver, while TE Jared Cook and RB Austin Ekeler round out Herbert's favorite weapons. The offensive line, though historically poor, is much improved after drafting LT Rashawn Slater 13th overall and signing C Corey Linsley from the Packers. If the Browns want to attack the Chargers line, they should do it on the right side -- RG Oday Aboushi and RT Storm Norton are without question the weak spots. The defensive front 7 is led by Joey Bosa, who has an exceptional 90.2 PFF grade and leads the team with 23 pressures, which is 5th most in the NFL. The problem is there is virtually zero pass rush behind Bosa -- Uchenna Nwosu and Jerry Tillery are 2nd on the team in pressures with 9. Rookie Asanet Samuel Jr has been a bright spot at corner, allowing just a 61.8 passing grade when targeted, while safety Derwin James will shift around to wherever is needed, in the box, at free safety, or slot corner. The Chargers are 10th in EPA/play allowed on defense, but given all the weaknesses I don't expect that to continue.