The Cleveland Browns lost to the Houston Texans, 29-13, in a game where the team and their fanbase received a sort of reality check. The Browns were completely trounced in the first half, causing Cleveland to have to play catch-up in the second half, though the deficit was too much. The game was a rough one for pretty much the entire team. There were a lot of negatives, but also some positives that came out of this loss. What can we gleam from this loss to the Texans? Well, here are the lessons I learned about the Browns from this loss.
- The number one lesson is about quarterback Baker Mayfield. We have a good one, Cleveland. In the first half, we found out that, yes, Mayfield is a rookie and prone to struggles. He threw three picks in the first half with two of those three picks coming on defenders undercutting the pass. He really struggled against the Texans defense. But, the biggest thing from Mayfield was his response. Mayfield did not sulk over his struggles. He came out of halftime aggressive and playing with a high level of confidence. He did not get gun shy. He learned from his mistakes in the first half and adjusted to a level where he was really playing well against a really good defense. The quarterback showed leadership in consoling Antonio Callaway after his fumble and during the post game press conference, he took the blame for putting the team in a hole. He showed the leadership and talent that leads me to believe that this is the guy. I leaned the lesson that Mayfield is a rookie, but a rookie who can be our franchise quarterback.
- Another lesson I learned in the loss is that this team is not yet ready for the prime time and the playoff discussion. The Browns struggled with penalties, turnovers and other mistakes that good teams simply do not suffer from. I thought the Browns had a chance to win before the game, but the Texans showed that they are on a different level from the Browns. However, Cleveland is not as far off as they once were. The Browns are building and getting there.
- I learned that the Browns offensive line problem is not even close to the biggest problem on the team. Having a quarterback and offensive coordinator, who can help elevate the stress on the blocking, can make an offensive line play at a better level. The Texans are one of the best defenses in terms of rushing the passer. But, the Browns blocking did not allow one single sack versus this dangerous pass rush with only a single quarterback hit. Many of the early struggles of the line can be blamed on the young, struggling left tackle Desmond Harrison. The installation of Greg Robinson has improved the overall performance of the line. But, more importantly, the change at offensive coordinator is the biggest culprit of the new and improved pass protection. Freddie Kitchens is putting the line in positions to succeed rather than leaving them out to dry.
- Another lesson that became even clearer during the loss is that the biggest weakness on the team is on the defensive line. The Texans were able to hurt the Browns using both the run and pass game. The defense was gashed between the tackles by the Houston run game, while quarterback Deshaun Watson was able to withstand the pressure on the edge because of the lack of pass rush from inside. With Larry Ogunjobi injured, the Browns had no one to rush from an inside position. The Browns need an interior defensive to both improve the run defense and pass rush.
- The last lesson from the game is that I am still not on the level of comfort to keep Gregg Williams around in any capacity. As I have said many times before, Williams is not a head coach in this league and he should not be given the chance to be the permanent coach of the Browns. But, I am also at the point still where I am not comfortable bringing him back as defensive coordinator. I just do not like his scheme and defensive philosophy. The constant blitzing and weird player usage (like dropping Myles Garrett into coverage) are just some of aspects I do not like about Williams as a defensive coordinator. The defense plays hard and is a quality unit in creating turnovers, but when the unit cannot call up a turnover, it struggles to get off the field. I am just not there yet with Williams.