The Cleveland Browns have an important game in Week 8 against the Pittsburgh Steelers. In the past, after Week 8 would lead to a lot of "halfway" evaluations of where a team stands. Unfortunately, a 17 game schedule makes that math more complicated.
Fortunately, we can just make up the rules as we go in a 17 game schedule and gather information at different times. Including after Week 7.
Taking a look at the Browns Pro Football Focus grades can provide a lot of interesting information. PFF does a good job of trying to quantify what we see on the field beyond just the boxscore. They are by no means perfect but can provide interesting context.
Just this week, we covered that D'Ernest Johnson had PFF's highest-graded performance by a running back this season. PFF also has Cleveland as the second-highest graded team overall for 2021 despite their 4 - 3 record.
Now we take a quick look at the top five offensive and defensive players in their grades so far this season. We will only credit the players who have had enough snaps to count in their league-wide rankings but note those who have high grades but don't count due to low snap counts, so far.
Top 5 Offensive Players
(AP Photo/Kirk Irwin)
The Browns offense is a run-first one and the top PFF scores show just that.
First, Johnson and Demetric Felton have the team's highest overall grades (90.6 and 90.4) but do not have enough snaps (70 and 58) to qualify. Jarvis Landry would also be in the top five (78.9) if he had enough snaps (91).
Instead, three offensive linemen, a running back and a tight end take the top five through seven games:
Joel Bitonio - 89.7 - Bitinio is the third-ranked interior offensive lineman in the NFL so far this season and remains consistent.
Wyatt Teller - 83.4 - After a seemingly rough start to the season, Teller is the fifth-ranked interior offensive lineman in the NFL and has been at his best in run blocking (85.8) compared to pass protection (63.4).
Jack Conklin - 82.8 - Similar to Teller, Conklin has been great in run blocking (88.4) but not as good in pass protection (69.5). He is ranked as the third-best offensive tackle so far by PFF.
Kareem Hunt - 79.0 - While he will be missing some games, Hunt has done well as a runner and receiver for the Browns, grading out eighth in the NFL through seven weeks.
David Njoku - 75.6 - The 11th ranked tight end, Njoku has worked on his ball skills and blocking over the years and is starting to put it all together just in time for free agency.
JC Tretter and Austin Hooper are just decimal points behind Njoku for that fifth spot.
Top 5 Defensive Players
(Elizabeth Flores/Star Tribune via AP)
Surprisingly, linebackers Sione Takitaki and Mack Wilson would grade out in the team's top six if they had enough snaps. Instead, the Cleveland edge-rushing monsters and two rookies take four of the top five spots along with a nice comeback story.
Myles Garrett - 90.8 - Just behind Maxx Crosby (91.4) for the top edge spot, Garrett has been amazing in rushing the passer and is still good against the run.
Jadeveon Clowney - 82.1 - The over eight-point drop from Garrett to Clowney says a lot about Garrett's great year so far. Clowney has been an excellent pickup for the Browns with good grades against the run (79.0) and rushing the passer (75.0).
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah - 81.1 - Like Hunt, Cleveland will be without JOK for a few games. The rookie linebacker is the third-ranked player at his position with grades above 70 against the run, rushing the passer and in coverage. Great overall performance for a second-rounder.
Greedy Williams - 77.0 - A great comeback story so far for Williams. His rookie season was a struggle and he missed all of last year with an injury. This year, he has stepped in when a corner ahead of him has been hurt. We mentioned him as a trade candidate because his snap count is low when Denzel Ward, Greg Newsome II and Troy Hill are all healthy. With Ward out for Week 8, Williams will be needed again.
Greg Newsome II - 71.2 - The other rookie on the list has missed time with an injury but has played well at a very difficult position for a first-year player. It will be interesting to see if he is matched up with Chase Claypool and Ja'Marr Chase in the next two weeks. If so, how will he hold up? A good start for the team's top draft picks.