In the first week of the NFL, my Browns love gave to me; a stinker to the Titans without glee.
In the second week of the NFL, my Browns love gave to me; our first win and a stinker to the Titans without glee.
In the third week of the NFL, my Browns love gave to me; three Mayfield sacks, our first win, and a stinker to the Titans without glee.
In the fourth week of the NFL, my Browns love gave to me; the AFC North lead, three Mayfield sacks, our first win, and a stinker to the Titans without glee.
In the fifth week of the NFL, my Browns love gave to me; Monday Night Humiliation!
the AFC North lead, three Mayfield sacks, our first win, and a stinker to the Titans without glee.
In the sixth week of the NFL…
OK, singing or playing Christmas carols in October is wrong. Just like there are many things wrong with the 2019 Cleveland Browns, so the WFNY Staff is here to answer “What is going wrong?”
Here we go.
Bode: Beckham has caught just four of 13 attempts from Mayfield over the last two games. His best plays against the 49ers were a trick play (when he threw a 20-yard pass) and a decoy (the inside trap to Chubb as Mayfield faked a toss to Beckham). Most of the year, it has seemed as if there are plays that Mayfield is going to Beckham, no matter what. Now that defenses are taking him away, perhaps the Browns should focus elsewhere first, then come back to him?
Suek: I think the problem is the offense as a whole isn’t clicking. The play calling and concepts have left a lot to be desired, Baker Mayfield hasn’t been accurate, and the offensive line has allowed too much pressure too frequently. He is still the uber-talented wide receiver of NFL familiarity. I like the way Freddie is designing specific plays to get him the ball, but those plays cannot be at the detriment of the offensive scheme and rhythm. If everyone does their job as a collective, the touches and statistics will come for OBJ.
Gilbert: The rest of the offense. The play calling is horrendous, making hard for everyone involved to succeed. The offensive line allows little time to pull off deep passes to Beckham. And, Mayfield is struggling, missing opportunities to target the star receiver. The problem is not Beckham. It’s everything around him.
Poloha: Three things: The Browns seem to be forcing the ball to him too much, which feels weird to say because he isn’t putting up his usual stats, but they just need to let the game come to him. They need to put him in more quick slants and allow him to get the ball in his hands faster, therefore giving him plenty of opportunities to make a play with the ball, which is what he does best. Lastly, he’s been an excellent decoy, but it’s time for the best receiver on the team to start putting up some numbers as well.
Gerbs: When with the Giants, OBJ was the offense. There were very few other options and so noodle armed QB Eli Manning had no other choice but to throw the rock to Beckham. In Cleveland, he’s being blanketed but the other options are stepping up. It’s telling that Jarvis Landry had a phenomenal game at the expense of OBJ against Baltimore when Beckham was getting mostly double and triple covered. There will be times when it’s smart to try to get it to him in those moments, but until then, I’m fine with letting Landry and Chubb get the brunt of the work.
Bode: Early on, everything was a mess. There were plays where three receivers would all settle into the same area the first couple of weeks. The actual usage has been better recently, but there has to be more creativity (or perhaps less) so that the actual play-makers can get the opportunities rather than nearly every pass attempt going to the Ricky Seals-Jones, Demetrius Harris, and we all know what happens when Antonio Callaway gets a wide open slant pass on the goal line.
Suek: I believe play design/concepts and personnel usage are to blame thus far. We have seen wide receivers/tight ends with a serious lack of spacing in this field zone, e.g. running into each other on routes, while limiting the already shrunk field. Further, the Browns have utilized an empty personnel set (0 RBs) at too frequent of a clip, which negates the threat of running the ball. Lastly, the target distribution has left a lot to be desired, with OBJ only receiving three targets, while Ratley, Callaway, and Harris have totaled nine.
Gilbert: Two things. One is the play calling. The Browns are running inefficient and dumb plays in the red zone. The play calls do Mayfield no favors. The other reason is Mayfield is just not playing well. He is uncomfortable in the pocket and missing possible options. He has not been bad, but just not good enough for this offense.
Poloha: Playcalling. That seems to be a common trend when talking about the Browns offense so far this season. It also doesn’t help that Baker hasn’t been accurate whatsoever inside the 20-yard line either. Both must improve sooner rather than later if the Browns want to be successful.
Gerbs: While the play-calling has been horrendous, a mixture of injuries and inefficency from receivers are not helping. David Njoku was created in a lab to be a red zone freak but has been out, and Antonio Callaway decided to try to learn how to juggle rather than catch one of the few plays devised to be ran at the front of the endzone, not the back.
Bode: I am not happy with John Dorsey ignoring the obvious offensive line needs this past offseason, however the biggest issue the Browns offensive line has been facing will resolve itself naturally. The Rams and 49ers, specifically, have fantastic defensive lines. Nick Bosa running over Joel Bitonio (a fantastic guard) demonstrates this item well.
Suek: To say left tackle Greg Robinson and right tackle Chris Hubbard have underwhelmed as of late would be a tremendous understatement. The two have allowed 16 pressures and have been called for seven penalties. In order to alleviate the pressure, the offense should focus more on quick-read, anticipatory throws, and double-teaming edge rushers at the point of attack when needed.
Gilbert: The tackles are absolutely bad. They are two players who are below average and struggling to do their job. But, the play calling is also putting a lot of pressure on the offensive line. With a line struggling and two holes on the edges, the play calling needs to lessen the stress on the extra blockers, quick passes, and other alleviating techniques. That is not happening right now.
Poloha: There’s a reason the offensive line looked so good during the win in Baltimore and has looked average at best in every other game. We all know that the group isn’t that good, but the playcalling can help with that as well. Rather than having long, deep routes by the receivers, why not have short ones where Baker can get the ball out of his hands much faster? It makes a huge difference, as we realized in the latter half of 2018. That type of playcalling from Freddie needs to return.
Gerbs: A return to running the ball and the West Coast style of play that the team ran in Baltimore is the best way to use the offensive line as currently constructed. Quick slants that get the ball out quickly and bouncing Chubb outside to the edges is what has been the most effective for this offense. When Mayfield has to take five- and seven-step drops to complete a pass, it all goes up in flames.
Bode: The defensive ends need to have a better plan of attack. Myles Garrett is either attacking without thought to the run or sitting back and has allowed backs to break contain. The other defensive lineman have had similar issues, so it might be about scheme. Mack Wilson’s over-pursuing is a common rookie attribute that the 49ers exploited as well.
Suek: Miscommunication, lack of gap integrity, and missed tackles. The team needs to re-focus on fundamentals and technique and stick to their individual assignments and everything will be fine.
Gilbert: As I illustrated in my film room this week, there are many things going wrong with the run defense. Confusion and over-aggressiveness are two reasons. But, the biggest reason is that the Browns are just losing the one-on-one battles and not getting free blocks quick enough to make plays.
Poloha: Miscommunication and inexperience. Also, without their top two cornerbacks, they have to put more players on the field that will help ease that burden in the passing game, therefore making the run defense suffer a bit. Greedy and Denzel returning to the field will obviously help the pass defense, but it will also help the run defense immensely as well. It goes hand in hand.
Gerbs: Overaggressiveness. Too much trying to win the game with a big stick for a fumble or turnover or sack which leads to undisciplined plays from linebackers, edge rushers, defensive backs. It all works together: if the offense produces well enough, the defense can stay in their lanes and attack without trying to do too much. When they are playing from behind, they get gassed from trying to do too much.
Bode: Throwing the opposing quarterback off their timing is the most important component of pass defense, which the Browns have been able to do. Sacks and turnovers can be the result of the pressure causing that timing disruption. There has been a problem against the run and opposing teams have had shorter distances to gain, which leads to longer drives and needing those drive-changing plays. So, it goes back to stopping the run.
Suek: All defenses and teams obviously benefit from sacks and turnovers, whether it be advantageous field position for the offense, a momentum shift in the game, or a possible game plan shift for the opposing offense. The prospective return of Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams should benefit the group as a whole, wherein the passing game should be shut down if the secondary reaches its full potential. Consequently, the team would be able to adjust the defensive scheme to focus on stopping the ground game.
Gilbert: I think the defense’s biggest problem is the run defense. The pass defense will get better once the secondary gets back to full health and won’t have to rely on sacks or turnovers to be successful. But, the run defense needs to step and win the one-on-one battles more often. I think the run defense may get a boost when the secondary is healthy because they focus more on the run rather than helping out the hampered secondary. Nonetheless, the Browns run defense must get better for this defense to return to the level I think it has given the talent on that side of the ball.
Poloha: The two above did a great job in answering this. Part of it might be that the defense is trying to make up for Baker Mayfield and company struggling offensively, whether it be trying to get turnovers and give the offense good field position or just trying to do too much as a whole.
Gerbs: Not to be that guy, but see previous answer from me. Keep inside the gameplan and nobody gets hurt.
Bode: New coaches, new schemes, and enough new starters on both sides of the ball– and some injuries– have definitely been a factor. The inability to alter gameplans during halftime though has been somewhat concerning. Freddie Kitchens is a rookie head coach, but he does have a veteran staff. He must find the balance between trusting what he has seen on tape and adjusting to what the other team is doing. It’s early though.
Suek: Right now, I am chalking this up to normal growing pains for a first-time head coach, coupled with a second-year quarterback that is adjusting to a fused offense with new playmakers and a questionable offensive line. We have seen how this group can perform with an advantageous game plan (Week 4 vs Ravens) and when firing on all cylinders. If we are still asking this question after Week 8, this team is in for a world of trouble.
Gilbert: Freddie Kitchens needs to develop as a coach and learn to admit when something is not working. He has yet to show the ability to change what he was doing to move the offense in a better position. Kitchens needs to relay the ability to change and adjust to what is going wrong to the rest of the coaching staff and team. The ego needs to get out of the way for this entire team.
Poloha: Freddie’s inexperience has been obvious. It also doesn’t help that the Browns have dealt with so many injuries early on. Hopefully, they will figure this out very, very soon, and turn this ship around in the right direction. There’s still plenty of season left, one that features a nice schedule in the last eight games as well.
Gerbs: Outcoaching is a serious issue.