The Cleveland Browns believe they have their franchise quarterback in Baker Mayfield. Their opponent on Sunday will debut its sixth starter at that position since future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning retired after the 2015 season.
Brandon Allen will take his first regular-season NFL snap when the Broncos host the Browns this week, after Denver announced Joe Flacco will miss time with a herniated disc in his neck. Allen, who was drafted by Jacksonville in 2016 and also spent time on the Los Angeles Rams’ roster, got the nod to lead the 2-6 Broncos.
Allen will try to jump-start an offense that has struggled at times and had players grumbling about the play calling. Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders hinted at his frustration after a loss to Kansas City on Oct. 17; less than a week later, he was traded to San Francisco.
Flacco said he thought the play calling was too conservative after last Sunday’s loss to Indianapolis. Head coach Vic Fangio said Flacco wasn’t being benched for his comments — the change is due to his injury.
Now Allen is in the spotlight, at least until the Broncos decide if they want to give rookie second-rounder Drew Lock a chance after the Week 10 bye.
Allen’s teammates are confident in his abilities.
“First of all, Brandon is a very intelligent dude,” running back Phillip Lindsay said. “I was very shocked and surprised when he first got here how well he got the terminology so fast and how confident and calm he is. I’m excited to see what he has to offer. I think he’s going to move around a lot, and I think he’s going to take shots and stuff.”
Denver will face a Cleveland team dealing with its own adversity. The Browns (2-5) have lost three straight and are facing an uphill climb to reach the postseason. They’re coming off a 27-13 loss in New England in Week 8 and look to start a playoff push against a struggling Broncos team.
Despite Denver’s losing record, its defense has been solid for most of the year and presents a challenge. Chris Harris Jr. is still the top cornerback and will likely draw the assignment of shadowing Odell Beckham Jr., and Cleveland’s banged-up offensive line will try to stop defensive lineman Derek Wolfe and linebacker Von Miller from getting to Mayfield.
“Von Miller speaks for himself. He is one of the best in the league,” Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens said Wednesday. “The secondary is good. When they have given up 40 yards or less rushing, they have created six turnovers and they have won the game. When they did not, they lost the game, and even those games came down to a last-second field goal. This is a very, very good football team we are playing.”
Mayfield drew attention Wednesday when he abruptly left a media session after a testy exchange with a reporter.
He then posted on Twitter in response, saying, “My sense of urgency is at an all-time high. And if I offend anybody along the way... that’s too bad.”
The Browns beat the Broncos 17-16 in Denver last year, with Mayfield throwing for 188 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Nick Chubb added 100 rushing yards on 20 carries.
—Field Level Media