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Week 2 Game Recap: Cleveland Browns 18, New Orleans Saints 21


What you need to know

Cleveland Browns

It was certainly an eventful weekend for the Cleveland Browns. On Saturday evening, general manager John Dorsey issued a statement that the team plans to trade or release talented wide receiver Josh Gordon. Gordon missed Sunday's game against the Saints with a hamstring issue, which opened up snaps and targets for Antonio Callaway and Rashard Higgins. Both are worth monitoring in fantasy going forward. As far as the game went, Cleveland quarterback Tyrod Taylor was much-improved from the previous week, executing a ball-control game plan and hitting on several high-pressure throws in the fourth quarter. Taylor played well and the Browns deserved to escape New Orleans with a win. Unfortunately, kicker Zane Gonzalez's struggles continued. Gonzalez missed two field goals and two extra points, including a potential game-tying field goal with 0:08 seconds left on the clock.

New Orleans Saints

After being thoroughly thrashed by Tampa Bay in week one, the Saints looked to get back on track against the lowly Browns. However, they never seemed to play like a cohesive unit and the defense fell victim to the big play again this week. The final result may have been a win, but there look to be more questions than answers in New Orleans. Drew Brees was very efficient with the ball, but he lacked that little bit extra he normally has to take over a game. Couple that with costly fumbles by Ted Ginn and Michael Thomas and the overall refusal to commit to Alvin Kamara in the run game and the Saints almost gave the Browns their first victory in over a year. Michael Thomas did snare two more touchdowns this week, but the holes in the defense and lack of identity on offense is going to spell trouble for New Orleans as the season wears on. The Saints travel to Atlanta to take on a Falcons team that was able to force its will on divisional rival Carolina this weekend.

Cleveland Browns

QB Tyrod Taylor, 62 offensive snaps, Pass: 22 - 30 - 246 - 1 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 4 - 26 - 0
Taylor played much better in Week 2 after completing just 38% of his passes in a Week 1 tie. The Browns came out early in ball-control mode, running frequently in the first quarter to keep the ball away from Drew Brees. Taylor wasn't asked to pass much at the start, with his longest pass in the first quarter going for just seven yards. Cleveland opened up the offense a bit in the second quarter with Taylor overthrowing an open David Njoku on a deep pass down the left sideline. On the second drive of the second quarter, Taylor started completing some deeper passes, completing passes of nine, 14, and 22 yards. Taylor is normally known for his rushing ability but he didn't attempt a rush until the first drive of the third quarter. On the play, he picked up eight yards on a keeper and had a chance to slide but pivoted left instead, taking a big hit from a defender in the process. He got the Browns down to the Saints' one-yard line on that drive. He dropped back to pass once at the goal line but no one was able to get open so he wound up rolling right before losing one yard on a sack. Taylor came alive in the fourth quarter, connecting on several clutch throws to give the Browns a chance to win. It wasn't all good, however, as he threw an interception from his own 30-yard line, putting the Saints in scoring position which eventually lead to a New Orleans touchdown. Taylor did bounce back, throwing a beautiful deep ball to Antonio Callaway for a 47-yard touchdown. Taylor put the ball in the perfect spot in the end zone, which allowed Callaway to run underneath it for the score. On the final drive, Taylor completed two clutch passes to get the Browns into position to attempt a potential game-tying field goal, which was missed. Taylor played well enough to give his team a chance to win.

RB Carlos Hyde, 36 offensive snaps, Rush: 16 - 43 - 1, Rec: 1 - 7 - 0 (1 targets)
Hyde saw a heavy workload early in the game as the Browns ran often to try to keep the ball out of the hands of Drew Brees. Hyde saw 10 of his 16 rushing attempts in the first half, although he mostly struggled to get much going, picking up just 23 yards in the first two quarters. He caught just one pass, a dump-off at the line of scrimmage. He was able to turn that into a seven-yard gain. The Browns went away from the run a bit in the second half, although Hyde was his most productive during that time. The Browns called his number twice at the goal line on their scoring drive in the third quarter. He was stuffed on the first carry but he punched in a touchdown from the one-yard line on the ensuing play. Unlike his days as a 49er, the Browns are not using Hyde as a pass-catcher in their offense, which will limit his weekly upside. He still remains the team's preferred goal line running back.

RB Duke Johnson, 23 offensive snaps, Rush: 3 - 3 - 0, Rec: 2 - 7 - 0 (2 targets)
Johnson went underused for the second consecutive game, as the Browns elected to give just five touches to their electric play-maker. That being said, Johnson got the ‘start’ as he was on the field for the first offensive play. He was involved early, lining up out wide before coming around for a sweep play. He wound up gaining just two yards on the play. Johnson did have a shot at a bigger game as he drew an end zone target from Tyrod Taylor in the third quarter. It was a good pass but Johnson had no chance at making the catch as a Saints defender pulled him down, drawing a defensive pass interference penalty which put the Browns as the Saints' one-yard line. Johnson was lined up in the slot on that play. The Browns have been moving him around when he's on the field but the ball just isn't coming his way often. He will be hard to trust in fantasy until he starts to see more usage.

RB Nick Chubb, 3 offensive snaps, Rush: 2 - 14 - 0
Chubb continues to play behind starter Carlos Hyde and only seems to get work when Hyde needs a breather. Chubb saw two carries in Week 2, picking up six yards and eight yards. His eight-yard run showed his acceleration as he raced toward the left sideline. Chubb is just a handcuff at this point of the season.

WR Rashard Higgins, 46 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 47 - 0 (7 targets)
Higgins saw an uptick in targets following the Browns' decision to move on from Josh Gordon. Higgins tied for the team lead with seven targets in the game. His first catch went for a seven-yard gain on a slant, although he fumbled at the end of the play. Fortunately for him, the fumble went out of bounds, allowing the Browns to keep possession. His biggest play came in the third quarter on a 16-yard reception off of a play action pass. At the beginning of the fourth quarter, Higgins saw three straight targets but was unable to connect with Tyrod Taylor on any of them. He punctuated that series with a drop on the final target. Higgins should see more work with Gordon out of the picture, although he is likely to be third in the pecking order behind Jarvis Landry and Antonio Callaway.

WR Jarvis Landry, 59 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 69 - 0 (7 targets)
Landry didn't see the target volume that he did in Week 1, although that was partially due to a ball-control game plan that the Browns used during most of the first half. Landry remains Tyrod Taylor's favorite target, tying for the team lead with seven targets. His first catch was a three-yard reception. He then ripped off consecutive 14 and 22-yard receptions in the second quarter. He drew another deep target in the third quarter, roughly 12 yards downfield, but Taylor threw too high. Landry provided a clutch reception at the end of the fourth quarter, picking up a 25-yard gain which helped put the Browns in position to attempt a game-tying field goal. In Todd Haley's offense, Landry continues to be used downfield more than he was with the Dolphins, which raises his weekly ceiling.

WR Antonio Callaway, 50 offensive snaps, Rush: 2 - 7 - 0, Rec: 3 - 81 - 1 (4 targets)
Callaway stands to be one of the main beneficiaries of the Browns' decision to move on from Josh Gordon. Callaway turned in the signature splash play of the game, hauling in a beautifully-thrown 47-yard touchdown strike from Tyrod Taylor to tie the game at 18-18 in the fourth quarter. Callaway got a step on his man downfield and Taylor put the ball right in his hands in the end zone for the rookie's first NFL touchdown. He also drew a pass interference penalty in the third quarter when he was hooked by cornerback Marshon Lattimore on a short slant. Callaway drew the start with Gordon out and should become a major cog in Cleveland's offense going forward.

TE David Njoku, 46 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 20 - 0 (7 targets)
It was a quiet day for Njoku, who tied for the team lead with seven targets but only wound up with 20 yards to show for it. His first target didn't come until early in the second quarter. He had a step on his defender but he was overthrown by Tyrod Taylor down the left side. Through the first two weeks of the season, there have been plenty of chances for Njoku to break a big gain but he and Taylor have just had some trouble connecting. Stay patient with the athletic tight end as he has been getting open down the field. Once he and Taylor start connecting he will start delivering big plays for the Browns.


New Orleans Saints

QB Drew Brees, 66 offensive snaps, Pass: 28 - 35 - 243 - 2 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 1 - -1 - 0
After the Saints relied so heavily on the run game last season it looked like Brees was not going to have to be the QB who threw for 300 yards and 3 scores every week to be successful. However, that has not been the case this season and Brees had had to dig deep to try and keep the team in games. This week Brees did just that, but also seemed to be missing that spark he has had in the past. A prime example was an over thrown ball to tight end Benjamin Watson in the end zone. The Saints were in a power run set and Watson broke free on the play action. Brees simply laid the ball too far out in front of him and missed the chance for an easy touchdown. There was another missed opportunity on a touchdown that was called back to Alvin Kamara. Brees hit the second year back for an easy score but the play was called back due to offensive holding. Brees did continue his hot streak with Michael Thomas and connected for another 2 touchdowns. The first came on a 2-yard screen to Thomas. Brees took a short drop and threw the ball to Thomas 2 yards behind the line of scrimmage and his top receiver did the rest of the work. The second touchdown was a quick out to Thomas from 5 yards out. Thomas beat his man to the outside and Brees delivered an accurate throw for his second touchdown. This game did not go quite as planned, but Brees clawed and fought for the victory. HE overcame two costly fumbles and put the team in a position to win.

RB Alvin Kamara, 51 offensive snaps, Rush: 13 - 46 - 0, Rec: 6 - 53 - 0 (6 targets)
It is baffling that the Saints will not commit to Kamara in the offense. He played second fiddle to Mark Ingram last season and now that he gets his opportunity for the bulk of the work due to Ingram's suspension, the Saints refuse to use him. Kamara only had 5 more carries than back up Mike Gillislee. There is no reason he should receive less than 20 touches per game, especially when he is one of the Saints best weapons. Kamara had an early touchdown erased after an offensive holding call, and his only other real opportunity was a two-point conversion he converted right up the middle. Brees wanted to get the second year back going in the passing game and threw 6 targets his way. Kamara fell a yard short of 100 combined yards this week and was never given the chance to get going. The Saints are going to have to reassess their usage of Kamara going forward or they are going to continue to struggle against teams like the Browns. It will be interesting to see how his usage is affected when Ingram comes back from suspension as well.

RB Mike Gillislee, 9 offensive snaps, Rush: 8 - 18 - 0
In a surprise turn of events, the Saints gave Gillislee 8 carries after his costly fumble last week. He took away touches from Alvin Kamara and did not do very much with them. He also played next to no role in the passing game but was still used in clear running situations and in the red zone. Gillislee's longest rush was 4 yards and his presence seemed to slow the rhythm of the Saints offense. The league seems to continue to rely on two running backs more and more but Gillislee does not compliment what the Saints want to do on offense and only took more opportunity away from Kamara. The Browns have a stout rush defense and they showed that holding Gillislee to under 20 yards.

WR Michael Thomas, 58 offensive snaps, Rec: 12 - 89 - 2 (13 targets)
The Saints did everything they could to replicate the success that Thomas found last week. He was targeted a team high 13 times and caught all but one of those targets. Thomas did not find the same success down the field or room to run after the catch, but he still cashed in two touchdowns on the day. The first was a 2-yard screen that he caught in a goal to go situation and the second was a 5-yard out where he simply beat his man to the outside. Thomas had one other big play with a 25-yard reception deep down the left sideline. This set the Saints up on the 5-yardline, but they were unable to come away with any points after a missed field goal. Thomas received a high volume of targets again this week, but it seems to be at the expense of Alvin Kamara and the run game. Thomas has a juicy matchup against a banged-up Atlanta secondary missing two of their star players next week. Look for another big game from Thomas against the Falcons.

WR Ted Ginn, 30 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 55 - 0 (7 targets)
The final stat line may not show it, but Ginn did not have a great game. Brees narrowly missed him on a shot down the field for their first attempt, and then Ginn fumbled the next pass that came his way right at the line of scrimmage. This was early in the second quarter and right around mid-field. The rest of the game was full of failed shots down the field, a few quick outs, and one big play. That big play came in the form of 42-yard completion where Ginn caught the ball 16-yard down the middle of the field and then ran another 26 before being tackled. This was a huge moment in the game as it came right after the Browns had tied the score and it helped set up the eventual game winning field goal for the Saints. Ginn overcame his early fumble and made a play during crunch time. There has been no clear cut second receiver thus far for the Saints, but in regard to production it has easily been Ginn.

WR Cameron Meredith
DNP Meredith was held out again this week as he gets up to speed with the offense. He was a healthy participant all week, but the Saints feel he needs more practice reps in the offense before playing on Sundays.

TE Ben Watson, 54 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 19 - 0 (5 targets)
Brees has had a hard time connecting with his tight ends since Jimmy Graham left and that continued today with Watson. The entire offense struggled but these two really did not connect. A prime example is their failed touchdown connection in the first quarter. The Saints lined up in a power running set with an additional lineman reporting as eligible. Watson leaked through the blitzing linebackers into the end zone after they bit on the play action. All Brees had to do was float the ball to Watson but he over threw his tight end on what should have been an easy touch down. There is no visible yelling or discord between the two on the field or sideline, but there is clearly a disconnect between the two. Coby Fleener was run out of town after last season when he could not connect with Brees and Watson does not seem to be too far off that early this season.