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Injuries and turnovers piling up for Browns, Tribe wins ALC: While We’re Waiting

clevelandbrowns.com

Mornin’ y’all. Hope you are finding yourselves in high spirits with the wind forever at your back as the Cleveland Browns completed their brutal first weeks of the NFL season, and the Indians have finished off winning the AL Central division title this past weekend. The Tribe won 17 games in the first 17 days in September, which was great fun to follow. It will come crashing down on Monday though- the Tribe is traveling to the West coast which means no game tonight. Let’s get right to it, shall we?

Turnover-prone rookie quarterback?

My seven words or fewer to describe my horror level of facing the Baltimore Ravens defense was “Might as well have a red balloon.” It turned out to be the correct assessment as the Ravens collected five turnovers against the Browns the week after they forced five from the Cincinnati Bengals. I came into the season believing the Ravens had the best defense in the NFL and nothing has shaken my belief there yet- though it is wise to note neither the Browns nor Bengals are expected to have an upper tier offense.

A week after taking seven sacks against the Pittsburgh Steelers, head coach Hue Jackson appeared to have instilled a sense of urgency in Kizer to release the ball quicker. The result saw a reduction in sacks to three, but the rookie quarterback struggled finding the appropriate place to throw the ball as he wound up throwing three interceptions and the Ravens finished with nine pass deflections. The offensive line also still struggled with communication on stunts as the Ravens were able to register 10 quarterback hits with Terrell Suggs leading the way with four.

It is far too early to put a label on Kizer of being a turnover-prone quarterback though as we are seeing the natural progression for a young player. He was far too conservative attempting to find receivers with tons of space in Week 1. He was far too aggressive throwing into coverage in Week 2 (nine pass deflections too). The biggest discouraging trend in Kizer’s two games was his J.T. Barrett impersonation on downfield passing. However, he won’t find out where his limits are unless he is willing to cross the line.

It is encouraging he is willing to explore this space. The question is if he can refine his reads to increase his efficiency. The Browns face far easier defenses in the coming weeks, so Kizer has the opportunity to demonstrate what he has learned thus far.

Injuries hitting at the worst spots

Kizer left the game for a spell with migraines.1 Corey Coleman might have broken his hand.2 Jamie Collins was diagnosed with a concussion. Myles Garrett remains out with a high ankle sprain.

Each of these injuries not only hit key players, but they hit the position groups where the Browns might be at their thinnest (outside perhaps the cornerback group- please stay healthy guys). No matter what you might hear this week about the limited Kevin Hogan, the drop-off behind these players is gigantic for a young team such as the Browns.

Kenny Britt and Sammie Coates have done nothing to impress upon the Browns that they will be able to be relied upon in the receiver corps.3 Ricardo Louis is a fine fourth or fifth receiver but nothing more. Kasen Williams is perhaps the deep threat who will replace Corey Coleman should he be out,4 but he does not have the refined route-running needed for much more than a nine route. Rashard “Hollywood” Higgins is the receiver with the best route-running and hands in the group. After his inexplicable exclusion from the 53-man roster in Week 1, Higgins might continue to lead the Browns in receiving these next few weeks.5 Otherwise, expect more heavy doses of Seth DeValve, Duke Johnson, and David Njoku who combined had 14 targets.

The linebacking group is in even more dire straits. James Burgess has flashed a bit of potential despite not playing a down in his rookie 2016 season after being an undrafted free agent who spent time on the practice squads of the Miami Dolphins, San Diego Chargers,6 Baltimore Ravens, and Jacksonsville Jaguars. It appears he is the defacto starter in the base defense if Collins needs to miss any time.

Burgess and Christian Kirksey were the players to sack Joe Flacco on Sunday. They are not defensive lineman. In fact, the only defensive lineman who laid a hand on Flacco all day was Larry Ogunjobi who hit him once. There is simply no generated pass rush with the front-four of the Browns defense and it will continue to be an issue until Myles Garrett returns.

Tribe’s question marks

The Indians sit on the other end of the competitive spectrum as they shut down the Royals to win the four-game series despite Kansas City messing up their winning streak on Friday night. The Tribe now is guaranteed a postseason slot and sit 1.5 games up on the Houston Astros for the No. 1 overall seed in the AL.7

There are still question marks for the team to figure out in the next couple of weeks as they must figure out how to put together their postseason roster.

The first issue will be determining which players are healthy enough to contribute. Bradley Zimmer will be out until at least the World Series. Lonnie Chisenhall needed to leave another game due to his aching calf muscle. Michael Brantley remains unable to run. Andrew Miller and Jason Kipnis have returned recently but need to come back up to full strength (and the team wants to figure out of Kipnis can play in center). Danny Salazar is a wild card entrant to the bullpen- he could become the right-handed version of Andrew Miller or have his elbow issues return to make him a non-factor.

The next item is figuring out which if the rookie ballplayers are capable of contributing. Greg Allen and Giovanny Urshela have legitimate defensive prowess, but both have just as many issues at the plate. Yandy Diaz appears to have assured himself a postseason spot with a .316/.435/.408 slash line since returning to the team in late August (24 games, 92 plate appearances). Francisco Mejia appears to have guaranteed himself a trip to the fall leagues as his bat hasn’t shown up in MLB yet.

Then, there is the bloodbath of good relievers attempting to make state their case to be included. Miller (if healthy), Cody Allen, and Bryan Shaw are the only guarantees. Salazar might make four. Dan Otero, Nick Goody, Tyler Olson, Joe Smith, Zach McAllister, Craig Breslow, Shawn Armstrong,8 and even Josh Tomlin- fighting to be the long-man- make eight relievers fighting for maybe four spots.

While the wait for the postseason can be frustrating, the Indians need these two weeks to see how they want to manage this team. It’ll be fun to see what happens next.

  1. My chief worry with the migraines is not that he left the game, but I am worried about any NFL player with head issues as they might be due to hits taken. It is only something to track for the moment. []
  2. It should be said he did so on a day where he caught one pass for nine yards on seven targets. A horrendous day all around for Coleman. []
  3. Coates never was open enough to even have a target thrown his way and Britt now has two receptions for 15 yards on the year (on five targets). []
  4. Currently on the practice squad []
  5. Seven catches for 95 yards on 11 targets. []
  6. Yes, last year they were in San Diego. []
  7. Important because the No. 1 seed gets to play the AL Wild Card game winner, who will likely need to burn their best pitcher to win that game. []
  8. Well, Armstrong won’t make it. []

  • Gage Will

    I think we can include Tyler Olson in the guaranteed bullpen spots.

  • BenRM

    I am doing my best not to overreact, but beat downs like this weekend lead to those sorts of feelings.

    I’m not sure what Hue is doing on offense.
    I’m not sure why this team has so little depth at certain positions. I understand not having talent at positions because of the rebuild, but actual human bodies to play the position(s) should be on the roster.

    Also, I feel really bad for Coleman. That sucks.

  • jpftribe

    And Smith. Can’t imagine either of them being left off.

  • RGB

    But, we have a huge amount of cap space. Woohoo!

  • jpftribe

    I was positive Ravens were overrated and Browns would win. Went to the Indians game and didn’t see the Browns. Turned on the DVR last night, then turned it off after the first series. I’m hoping the Indians play a lot more Sunday afternoon baseball.

  • mgbode

    I agree w/ both of you. It would take them falling apart these last two weeks for it to be a real question.

  • mgbode

    I wish I wasn’t putting a feather in my cap for trying to warn you. But, a feather is being put in my cap nonetheless.

  • JM85

    A part of me wants to say same old Browns and a part of me says they weren’t supposed to win those games.

  • CBiscuit

    I know it is low hanging fruit and he did not play well but: Far too much put on Kizer in terms of blame. Yes he is due some but deflected balls/ tipped balls should be an asterisk in the INT column…or at least noted. But beyond that, no playmakers really showed…no WRs flashed (is Britt sleep walking?), the O Line is not doing him big favors nor is the play calling, the running game was crap, penalties constantly put us in 3rd and long and obvious passing situations. We need to be honest and realistic in assessing his performance…yes he still holds too long and did force a couple, but he was not in a position to suceed yesterday…espec against a good D.

  • jpftribe

    As long as they are parrot feathers, I’m ok with that.

  • Garry_Owen

    Generally agree, but with one counter-point: On more than one play yesterday, Britt was open but Kizer absolutely missed the throw. You could tell that the two of them were frustrated with each other. Tough to know who was right/wrong. Just ugly all around.

  • Garry_Owen

    I hear you. My overarching feeling yesterday was just abject frustration. It seemed as if every improvement we have been excited about over the last 6 months was completely wiped away. This team looked no different yesterday than they did all last season. Barf.

  • mgbode
  • mgbode

    How about the defense? The Ravens O is trash, but the defense still held that trash in check despite our offense doing everything they could do to help the Ravens along.

  • Garry_Owen

    I’ll have to reconsider, I’m sure. I didn’t see anything yesterday that impressed me the way that I have been impressed since Williams came on board. They only thing I’d say is that I thought we sorely missed Myles yesterday and that I thought it might have been a different game (not different result) if he had been there. That’s progress, I guess.

  • mgbode

    We are not getting to the QB w/ our DL. I’m worried there.

    GW is instead playing Martyball w/ the defense (sort of) and has been able to limit the first two opponents as a result.

  • jpftribe

    Even if Garrett doesn’t make a noticeable impact in Game 1 & 2, getting him reps and up to speed now is a huge missed opportunity. Not blaming anyone, it is what it is.

  • Garry_Owen

    We aren’t getting to the QB, but then again, it was the Steelers and Ravens with two guys that are pretty good at avoiding hits and/or getting the ball off well. I’m anxious to see how we do against more middle-of-the-road guys (and yes, I think Joe Flacco is “elite”).

  • BenRM

    Whereas the game against the Steelers looked like an NFL game, this looked like those mostly incompetent Browns teams we watched under Shurmur/Chud/Pettine.

  • BenRM

    Kizer is missing a handful of throws. And he’s missing them high, as well. Not sure how I feel about that. Maybe film study later in the week by a more savvy football writer will educate me.

  • Garry_Owen

    Romeo, Butch, Palmer . . .
    Who did we miss?

  • Garry_Owen

    My biggest concern was him missing behind the receiver, which resulted in 2 of those INTs, at least. (That one in the end zone?? Mercy.)

  • jpftribe

    Robot umps and Tyler is out of that inning. Instead, Angel Hernandez and two runs score.

  • BenRM

    Sometimes the Romeo and Butch teams looked like real football! I think I must have wiped the Palmer years from my mind entirely.

  • mgbode
  • mgbode

    Yeah, the endzone INT was a wide open play if he throws earlier… yuck.

  • tigersbrowns2

    definitely a step back for Kizer … now i’m wondering if migraines will continue to be an issue for him … i don’t remember him ever having a problem with this.

    while turnovers were a big issue yesterday , i still think the play-calling is ultra-conservative on 1st down … where oh where is the run game ?? Too many penalties & the QB’s need to do a better job of watching the play clock … while i wasn’t predicting a win , i expected us to be a little more competitive.

  • Garry_Owen

    As soon as the ball was snapped, I was yelling, “Touchdown! It’s a touchdown!!” Then . . . “What the @#$@%^ was that??”

  • tigersbrowns2

    hi JM … i agree. next 3 games are at IND , then home against CIN & NYJ … if they are going to win some games , this would be the time to do it.

  • CBiscuit

    Yeah I hear you. And I don’t want to come off as a blind apologist. But the main narrative that was planted after the game was our rookie QB was awful and to blame–and I thought that was a bit unfair.

    Plenty of ugliness all around as you said. And I don’t want to lose sight that he’s a 20 yr old second round pick, who was supposed to be a “project”…but instead was thrown to start against Pitt and Balt. Anyway, hopefully he will cure those obviously ugly moments on his end.