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Browns’ sophomore stand-outs, Kizer vs Watson, and Tribe train rolling: While We’re Waiting

clevelandbrowns.com

Mornin’ y’all. Hope you are finding yourselves in high spirits on this first NFL Monday of 2017 with the wind forever at your back. Cleveland sports had quite the weekend of activity as the Browns started their season off with a loss to the Steelers, while the Indians continued winning baseball games- this time against the AL Wild Card contending Baltimore Orioles. An 18 game winning streak is just three away from the all-time MLB record. Insane! Let’s get right to it, shall we?

Competitive Browns with some stand-out sophomores

If you want to bellyache about yet another loss to the hated Steelers, then have at it. Pittsburgh has the stable organization most other teams strive to be, which is especially frustrating when the Browns have to play them twice every season. Such consistent teams should be much better early in the season than those integrating a ton of new players, coaches, and schemes. Except on Sunday, the Browns and Steelers appeared to be much closer on the competitive landscape than anyone should have expected. The defense held everyone not named Antonio Brown in check despite missing rookie star Myles Garrett and DeShone Kizer gave the Browns legitimate quarterback play in his first ever start.

There were obvious issues. The offense had zero push in the run game and Kizer took too many sacks. Kenny Britt is moving closer to Dwayne Bowe territory. The cornerbacks were expected to be a weakness and they delivered to expectations in Week 1. The Steelers did control the flow of the game in the second half, yet the score remained close throughout.

The biggest reason the Browns were in a competitive football game was the 2016 NFL Draft class. After an overall disappointing rookie year from the young players, the early returns on Year 2 are much more promising. Corey Coleman (five receptions, six targets, 53 yards, touchdown) and Seth DeValve (four receptions, five targets, 42 yards) led the way in receiving. Ricardo Louis was not too far behind them (two receptions, three targets, 32 yards). Joe Schobert (nine tackles, four solo) was everywhere on defense.1 Derrick Kindred (three tackles, two solo, two pass deflections) was making plays all over the field including an important interception (Steelers could have put the game away on that drive). Emmanual Ogbah struggled getting to Ben Roethlisberger but made a key pass deflection on a wide receiver screen and also set the edge to force LeVeon Bell and James Connor to the linebackers (43 yards on 14 carries). Carl Nassib was not a major impactful player on Sunday, but he did register a sack.

None of the sophomore players have proven themselves to be a NFL star. Shon Coleman had his issues in protection throughout the day, and Cody Kessler has dropped to third-string quarterback. However, the 2016 draft class proved it is far too early to give up on them as they were the foundation of the Browns on Sunday, and they should continue to be moving into the future.

DeShone Kizer versus Deshaun Watson

Whether anyone wants it to happen or not, Kizer and Watson will be compared throughout their careers. The narrative was set once the Browns decided to trade the No. 12 draft pick used to obtain Watson to the Houston Texans, then took the next quarterback in the draft at No. 52 in Kizer. The fact that these two quarterbacks were the first two from their draft class to obtain snaps for their teams only strengthens the arc even if it took the Texans pulling a Charlie Frye on Tom Savage for it to happen.

DeShone Kizer 20-for-30, 66.7%, 222 yards, 7.4 YPA, 1 TD, 1 INT, 7 sacks for -42 yards, 85.7 QBrating
Deshaun Watson 12-for-23, 52%, 102 yards, 4.4 YPA, 1 TD, 1 INT, 4 sacks for -21 yards, 60.4 QBrating

The early returns demonstrate that Kizer outplayed his counterpart though there are mitigating factors that caution about any definitives being drawn. Watson only played the second half of a blowout game, while Kizer was in a competitive contest for four quarters. Watson had more rush game support as Lamar Miller finished with 17 carries for 65 yards (3.8 yards per carry) compared to Isaiah Crowell’s 17 carries for 33 yards (1.9 yard per carry). Also, not included in the above statistics is that Watson also lost a fumble, while Kizer scored a rushing touchdown.

Still, each quarterback displayed many of the positives and negatives of their scouting profile. Watson moved through his reads and delivered good accuracy on his throws, but his weak arm meant that the correct decision was often a shorter, timing route (Brady Quinn would be embarrassed with a 4.4 YPA). Kizer showed off the cannon on a couple of occasions, but his timing accuracy can wane and he needs to develop a better internal clock (at least three of the sacks he took were on him).

Unbeatable Indians

Cheering for the 2017 Cleveland Indians has been great fun. Even so, winning 18 games in a row is unfathomable especially considering three of the teams swept during the streak (New York Yankees, Kansas City Royals, Baltimore Orioles) are fighting to get into the AL Wild Card game. The Tribe’s run has pushed them ahead of the Houston Astros in the MLB standings (crazy) and are within five games of the Los Angeles Dodgers for the best record in all of baseball. If the Indians sweep the Detroit Tigers, then they tie the all-time MLB record for wins in a row (Do not count the 26 game “winning streak” cited by ESPN on Sunday Night baseball as the New York Giants mixed in a tie during that streak. Most wins in a row is 21.). I’m sorry, let us properly emphasize the possibility.

THE CLEVELAND INDIANS CAN SET THE ALL-TIME MLB RECORD FOR MOST CONSECUTIVE WINS IF THEY COMPLETE THE THREE-GAME SWEEP OF THE DETROIT TIGERS THAT STARTS MONDAY NIGHT!!!

There has been some thought floated that the Indians are peaking too early. Let us squash any such thought before it becomes a thing. A huge winning streak does not mean the Tribe is destined to win the World Series nor does it portend doom for somehow playing their best before October hits. The MLB postseason is a great reset on the MLB regular season with momentum heading into it playing as big of a role as the ranking of the ballpark concession stands.

The important items to line up for October are health and acquiring enough information to make competent roster decisions. Let us remember the Indians are on this streak without Andrew Miller, Jason Kipnis, and Michael Brantley (plus, plenty more have missed significant time during it).

It now appears they might have to complete the season without Bradley Zimmer after he broke his hand sliding into first base on Sunday night. MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports he sustained a fracture of the fourth metacarpal, which is below the palm and underneath the ring finger. The Tribe must once again move to their Next Man Up philosophy and determine if Greg Allen is ready to be a postseason contributor or if it is more intelligent to go with a rotation of Austin Jackson, Abraham Almonte, Brandon Guyer, and Tyler Naquin to complement Jay Bruce and Lonnie Chisenhall. With Brantley also possibily returning, the outfield has plenty of options. It is now up to the Indians to figure out which options will benefit the team the most.

Meanwhile, they just keep on winning. Keep on winning. Keep on winning, winning, winning.

  1. Major props to Joe Gilbert who has continued to praise Schobert’s development. []

  • Chris

    The sacks were beyond frustrating. I’m sure someone with deeper knowledge of football could point to the intricacies of each play, but probably four of those appeared to be on Kizer.

    That said, teaching someone to not hold the ball for 7 seconds is probably a bit easier than teaching someone how to convert third downs, how to throw beyond 15 yards downfield, or how to not host team parties Saturday night before a home game.

    Kizer was encouraging, but it is way WAY too early to look 5 years down the road. Let’s just look towards next week.

  • MartyDaVille

    The cornerbacks were expected to be a weakness, you say? And they were, you say?

    Hmmm, if only the Browns had had a veteran former Pro Bowler and team leader who’s finally healthy and had a great camp according to his coach to start at CB. Oh well, I’m sure Sashi looked high and low for one.

  • mgbode

    In totally unrelated news, Kizer was 6-for-8 when targeting Joe Haden for 80 yards. The two incompletions (Kasen & Duke) were both overthrows to open receivers.

  • MartyDaVille

    I see. Did he give up a game-clinching 38-yard pass with 2:26 left?

  • JM85

    The Sunday night baseball crew could cure insomnia.

  • BenRM

    I understand the snark. And I didn’t like that they cut Haden either. But Haden was abused all game, and it is understandable (but not justifiable in my opinion) that the Browns moved on.

  • MartyDaVille

    Ben, if it’s understandable but not justifiable, that means that the HBT made a bad decision.

    In fact, https://www.cbssports.com/nfl/news/hue-jackson-irate-with-haden-release-as-tensions-rise-between-front-office-coaches/

    This is all I’m saying. They made a bad decision for no reason other than to hoard cap space, and Sashi took a lead pipe to Hue’s knees in blind allegiance to Moneyball.

  • JM85

    4 tackles isn’t exactly a star performance.

  • BenRM

    Right. It is bad. I don’t think they needed to save that much against the cap. It wasn’t necessary. That said, I think if the Browns were starting Haden, a lot of people would become very upset with him very quickly.

  • mgbode

    Jessica Mendoza was throwing in good info throughout the night. The rest… bleh.

    Also, the ESPN streaming feed is horrendous. I am so, so spoiled to have MLB.tv because it is crystal clear and rarely has issues.

  • mgbode

    I was fully on board with Haden being released and he proved to me on Sunday why the Browns did it.

    I loved Haden when he was good. He is no longer good. He is bad. If we are going to have bad cornerback play, then we should at least be pretending to develop kids for the future.

  • MartyDaVille

    Well, coach disagrees with you.

  • JM85

    She did a solid job. Those other two were awful.

  • mgbode

    Let’s go to Hue Jackson’s words himself rather than second or third hand sources.

    Hue Jackson post game about Joe Haden & the article about him being upset about releasing him:
    “That did not come from me. I think you guys know me well enough that if I feel something, I am going to say it. I don’t run from that. Me and the executive team are working lockstep, hand-in-hand. I don’t know where that came from. I trust (Executive Vice President of Football Operations) Sashi (Brown) and I trust our executive team to make the right decisions for this football team. I stand behind that whole-heartedly.”

  • Natedawg86

    On a related note, the O Line was giving him tons of time on a majority of the passes. Very promising.

  • mgbode

    Agreed. I did like that they were integrating many of the peripheral and Statcast stats into the broadcast. I generally don’t bother with SN Baseball (since I have MLB.tv) and was surprised how nonchalant they were about just dropping them into their conversations.

  • MartyDaVille

    OMG, I really didn’t think it was necessary to ask you not to bring that up. I thought it was obvious.

    mg, what did you expect him to say? “Yes, I was outraged”?

    Come on.

  • Jeremy Humbert

    It is, however, unfortunate that the receivers were not getting separation and giving Kizer a target. The redeeming grace there is that it was against the Steelers, who are really (really) good at football.

  • mgbode

    OK, so let’s summarize this thread.

    1. Some were upset that Haden was released. Others were not because he was playing bad.
    2. Reports said Hue upset about release. Hue said he wasn’t.
    3. Haden played absolutely horrific and was constantly abused despite meager WRs & a rookie QB being the opposition.
    4. Some are still upset Haden was released. Others are not because he is still playing bad.

    I get that there is an emotional tie to Haden because he is such a great guy and he was one of our few worthy Pro Bowl players of the last 20 years. That level of player is gone though. What is left is not going to help the Browns. Let’s all move on and be happy the team played above expectations in Week 1.

  • Jeremy Humbert

    It makes a ton of sense in given that pretense.. We are developing the future Browns, the rookies, the sophomores, the juniors. And really, the only exceptions to that rule appear to be Thomas and Collins, who have been and continue to be solid at their positions.
    Love Haden, and wish him the best, but want to see the guys on this roster prepared to mentally and physically peak in 2-3 years. Only way that happens, is if they play.

  • mgbode

    Exactly. We might have three different cornerbacks in two years (I do like Jamar Taylor though), but we need to give them every opportunity to develop and become part of our future or play their way out the door.

  • CBiscuit

    He would have given up 2 tds in the first half instead 😉

  • BenRM

    Maybe I am not remembering correctly, but I don’t recall separation as being a big issue this weekend.

    There was separation on the deep routes (that Kizer overthrew).
    There was separation on the stuff Kizer underthrew and guys had to go to the ground immediately.
    There was enough separation on the ones that guys dropped that they should have had them.
    And on the closer stuff, guys got their bodies in position to catch the ball in front of their defender.

    I don’t think our receivers are good, but I didn’t think “OH MY GOD NO ONE CAN GET OPEN” like I did when Robiskie was here.

  • Sam Gold

    Just curious how others here feel about Hue Jackson the OC/play caller? I understand that DK held the ball too long and contributed to, if not being outright responsible for, the sacks he took. My issue is why does his OC continue to call for longer developing plays for the rookie QB? Why isn’t he setting up more easier to complete crossing routes and slants and letting guys like Coleman produce YAC, something he was known for coming out of Baylor? Bell wasn’t producing in the running game but Pitt still kept at it until he finally broke a bigger run in the fourth quarter. Hue just seems so intent on creating the huge splash play that he abandons every other opportunity as the game goes on and just like last year the run game almost completely vanished in the second half. As a head coach that rally’s the team and gets everybody to buy into the vision he’s among the best. As an in-game strategist I have my concerns.

  • MartyDaVille

    Hey, I’m just having some fun arguing with a very smart and very stubborn guy who won’t even consider the possibility that maybe I have a valid point.

    I don’t care if Haden is here or not. It just strikes me as a bad decision.

    Also, I find it instructive that you believe Hue’s denial, which he had no choice but to make, and completely discount his praise of Haden just before he was cut. That seems unworthy of an honest discussion.

    But again, it doesn’t matter.

  • mgbode

    I’m not sure it was on the play calling. Take a look at how many extra-wide sets we ran, how much pre-snap motion we were running. It was all designed to make it easier for Kizer to read the defensive alignments and know where to go with the ball. Some of those, Kizer has to learn to throw the receivers open. Some of it has to be the Browns needing to go deep to try to open up the atrocious run game. It’s a delicate mix but I don’t think it was too bad this week. Definitely worthy of tracking and seeing where we go from here though.

  • tigersbrowns2

    hi MG … i still thought Hue was a little too predictable … maybe passing more on first down would’ve helped open up the running game … then again , 1st game for a rookie QB.

  • mgbode

    That’s fair. We each read into the quotes with our biases. I’m not immune to it.

    Here’s my take on it more fully:
    I do think Hue would have liked Haden on as a CB option, but I think the FO realized how bad his play has been and that we needed to move on. I don’t think Hue was upset about the release- just that he would have preferred to keep him. So, both the nugget of info from JLC’s report after you remove all of the spite & snark he writes with (Hue wanted to keep Haden) and Hue’s quote (that he trusts the FO and they worked in lock-stop on decisions) are both factually correct.

  • mgbode

    Yeah, I’m being more forgiving a bit because of that last part. Will be interesting to see where we go from here.

  • tigersbrowns2

    considering the current state of the Tigers , the Indians shouldn’t have much of a problem going for the record.

  • BenRM

    It seemed to me that 5 or 6 of the 7 sacks were caused by Kizer holding onto the ball too long or not checking down.

  • mgbode

    You and your jixes. Baseball is a funny sport though. We’ll see what happens.

  • scripty

    Tretter got worked a # of times and his breakdowns caused a few of the bad plays. He got pushed back and Kizer had to keep adjusting too much, causing some sacks. Tretter gets a D or F.

  • scripty

    I think when Louis got worked, that quarter was a mess b/c with all the new WR, he couldnt do much b/c the new guys dont know the plays.

  • tigersbrowns2

    man , if i’m not trippin’ , Joe Schobert factored-in to some of the biggest plays yesterday … i thought he got his hands on a few passes , including the 50-yard-plus play by Antonio Brown & just missed getting his hands on both of the TD throws to Jesse James … didn’t hear Jamie Collins’ name too much yesterday.

  • Garry_Owen

    I know this is oversimplifying things (but that’s what you do on a Monday morning), but if the other team doesn’t block a punt on the first series for a TD, the Browns win.

  • Chris

    Or the Steelers score a touchdown on the punt return / following drive making the entire point moot.

    Please don’t go down that road, especially on a play two freaking minutes into the game.

  • Garry_Owen

    I said, “I know this is oversimplifying things.”

  • Chris
  • Garry_Owen
  • Sam Gold

    From what I saw and reading across a few analytical sites, it seems that most agree that at least 3 were clearly Kizer’s fault alone. The others were a combination of elements and not completely on Kizer’s shoulders but him not recognizing the dump-off option or knowing to simply throw it out of bounds put it back on him Again I ask though, why is his OC calling for his rookie QB playing in his very first game to attempt so many long developing throws and process that much more info and in-play diagnosis then more quicker if this, then that quick hitters. Save the plays with more layers of complexity, or at least minimize them, for a few games further down the road.

  • scripty

    I would say he missed the checkdowns on 1st down a few times. Those were his issues. Some of the “holding onto the ball” issues were on those 3rd and 15s when they got backed up. That happens to all teams on those downs, not unusual when any NFL team gets themself into that down/distance.

    Tretter getting shoved back like Care Bear also makes him go to his 2nd read when you cant keep your eyes downfield.

  • Garry_Owen

    I would bet, without having done an analysis, that on each of those long-developing plays there was a short, quick read route. Kizer, as a semi-competent rookie that did not appear to be at all rattled, may not have wanted to take the easy out and was looking for the big play. The big play happened, though, for the other team.

  • Garry_Owen

    I never thought I would ever think this, let alone say it, but I feel bad for the Tigers. That’s a hot mess up there in that state up north.

  • Sam Gold

    And I know he’ll learn but it just felt, especially toward the end of the game, that HJ was trying to cram a little too much learning into game 1…

  • scripty

    I would say the play when Watt got the INT, that looked bad. PIT ID’d some basic browns strategy as conservative a few times and blew up some 1st down plays (1st series and after the 1 turnover) and made us pay. I hate to, but PIT deserves some credit on defeinsive strategy and also their DL collapsed the pocket consistently.

  • scripty

    They should have been a deep playoff team for over half a decade but felt relief pitching wasn’t necessary and then replaced a HOF manager with Brad Ausmus. Screw em.

  • Garry_Owen

    Yes. Thanks for shocking me back into sensibility.

    https://i.makeagif.com/media/8-10-2014/m1UbYq.gif

  • jpftribe

    I liked her a lot. Way better than Boone.

  • Harv

    um, Steelers took a knee in Browns territory at the end rather than take an easy score, thus enraging bookies and encouraging oversimplification.