Evaluating the Browns at the bye week


It is going to be a long two weeks. After losing a close game at home to the Seahawks, the Browns are on a bye week. There is going to be a ton of questions about the performance of the Browns players and coaching staff. 

Baker Mayfield has struggled so far 

Baker Mayfield has obviously struggled this season. Mayfield is having a hard time finding comfort in the pocket. This is due to some questionable play calls and a terrible offensive line. Any grading system that grades the Browns line as good (outside of Joel Bitonio and JC Tretter of course), can be disregarded entirely. Cleveland’s line is bad and there is no debating that. Their shortcomings are definitely having an impact on Baker Mayfield’s ability to make plays in the passing game. 

Baker Mayfield leads the league in interceptions (11). Not all of them are his fault. Several of his interceptions have been the result of a pass bouncing off the hands off his receiver and ending up in the hands of a defender. Maybe the passes have a bit too much on them. Maybe Baker Mayfield has the ability to put a bit more touch on them and he should do that. The reality is at the end of the day that the Browns receivers need to catch the ball if it hits them in the hands. 

Baker Mayfield is also responsible for his play as well. A large amount of the blame belongs to everything around him, but he also has a sizable share. Mayfield bails the pocket too quickly and has made some poor decisions when trying to extend plays when it is not necessary. Instead of putting on his Superman cape and trying to do everything himself, he needs to realize it is better to see another down rather than try and force something that is not there. If he is able to do that he can turn around his lackluster start to the 2019 campaign.

Freddie Kitchens needs to get it together

A new coach running into adversity and not doing the best job of handling it is a tale as old as time. Freddie Kitchens certainly has had some rough spots in his first six games as the Browns head coach. This is all part of the learning curve with a new head coach. Very rarely does a new head coach not have to deal with issues. 

Kitchens is no exception. 

Talk of the Browns needing to fire Freddie Kitchens is absolute nonsense. This is pure fanspeak and is in no way being considered by the Browns. If a discussion is going to be had about his future, it will happen after the season and not during. If there is going to be a shakeup on the coaching staff, changing the offensive coordinator feels much more likely. The offense that Kitchens ran last year and what Todd Monken has ran previously are not necessarily complimentary to one another. That is a problem.

Execution has struggled all around 

The key to success in the NFL is execution. The best teams in the NFL excel at the little things consistently. A team with more talent that fails to execute will lose to a team with less talent that does execute more often than not. The Browns have failed to execute in nearly every game. It’s mostly on the offensive side of the ball. The failures by the offense has routinely put the defense in a bad spot. Cleveland needs to execute better offensively in order to set up their defense for success. Until that happens things will continue to be more difficult than they have to.  

Keep things simple on offense

Building off of failure to execute and the shortcomings of Freddie Kitchens thus far, the Browns need to keep things simple offensively. When Cleveland runs simple straight forward concepts the offense moves the ball down the field.  When more complex concepts are being utilized that is when the offense stalls. 

There is nothing wrong with keeping things simple. As long as it wins games nobody cares about how simple the offense appears to be. Until there is a time that the Browns are able to run more complex concepts, they need to keep it simple so they don’t overthink themselves into a loss. 

Eventually there will be a time for complex concepts offensively. That appears to be next season. For the time being, run a simple offense in order to keep the team in the game.

Returning players may provide a boost

The Cleveland Browns have been without Rashard Higgins, David Njoku, Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams for the majority of the season. Their absence has obviously played a part in the early season struggles. Missing two of the best corners on the team will always impact a defense. Same can be said for Baker Mayfield not having two of his better receiving options.

David Njoku is still recovering from his wrist injury and should return later this season. The trio of Rashard Higgins, Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams are expected to return after the bye. Adding three players of this caliber to a team that seems close to putting it together may help them in their quest to turn this season around.

Two weeks to prepare for New England 

Cleveland has two weeks until their next game. The Browns face the Patriots Sunday October 27 at 4:25 P.M. Cleveland will have more than enough time to prepare for their toughest matchup of the season. New England is the best team in all of football. Cleveland will need to play a perfect game if they want the game to be close, much less win it. Having as much as time as possible to get ready for a difficult game is the best case scenario for the Browns. Cleveland should be able to work out some of their issues and put together a gameplan than will at least make their game against the Patriots competitive. 

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