Another week, another loss.
The 2019 Cleveland Browns continue to find new ways to disappoint the fanbase though as the team dominated the Denver Broncos in most statistical categories. However, a complete lack of competence in the red zone had the team add another ‘L’ to the ledger when the clock showed 0:00.
The issues are plentiful, so the WFNY staff is here to give their thoughts on what might be at the root of them.
Here we go.
Bode: Skill positions such as running back, wide receiver, defensive end, free safety, and cornerback would be rated high. Meat and potato positions like offensive line, defensive tackle, linebacker, and strong safety would be rated low. Where Baker Mayfield ranks is probably the most difficult one to discern. Such is the roster Dorsey configured, which probably makes it average overall in the NFL.
Gilbert: I believe the Browns are a top-10 team based purely on the talent on paper. Sadly, we don’t play on paper.
Suek: I would go as high as top-five based on talent alone in total. Too bad the win-loss column is all that matters, wherein the team is currently bottom-five.
Gerbs: Based on talent? Top 10. But we can see what bad coaching a lack of cohesion can do.
Poloha: Top-10, easily. That’s what makes this 2-6 start that much worse.
Bode: General manager John Dorsey has been unafraid to take risks on players with red flags. Head coach Freddie Kitchens has had a player-friendly approach. The Jermaine Whitehead situation is just the most recent example of the dangers of this type of combination. It can still work, but there must be accountability somewhere in the system.
Gilbert: Freddie Kitchens is the man that this should fall on. It is the coaches’ responsibility to instill discipline and the attention to detail in their players. If the players are not responding, then there needs to be consequences to the continually failed problems in these areas. So far, I have not seen any sort of things from Kitchens, leading to continual failures. The players are to blame, too, but the buck stops at Kitchens.
Suek: See Gilbert above. Attitude reflects leadership and I am afraid there is seemingly no leadership to be had at the current time. From the outside, there appear to be no internal disciplinary actions for players that continuously commit egregious penalties. Running laps? Whoopty-hell. Lining up correctly is football 101 and you still see the team wasting timeouts or running the play clock down to next-to-zero in order to just get players in the correct position. You can forget about audibles with that nonsense happening.
Gerbs: Some of it falls on the players and a lack of drive to get better, but for it to be this bad, it is on the coaches. You have to be able to rally your team together, get some sort of grip on the roster and punishment for what has been a nightmare of a season.
Poloha: Everyone. While Freddie Kitchens and the rest of the coaching staff have to do a better job of making players accountable, the players have to be better and smarter as well. Just so many stupid, self-inflicted mistakes that have continued to haunt this team so far this season.
Bode: The coaches have already teased the Hunt-Chubb tandem in some type of Wildcat-Wishbone formation, but the main thing Hunt can and should do is replace Hilliard as the third-down back. He can catch well alongside his running abilities. Having someone capable in that role will improve the offense quite a bit.
Gilbert: I hope they take away all of Dontrell Hilliard’s playing time and do not affect Nick Chubb’s playing at all. The Browns should use both guys together on the field at the same time. Kitchens’ utilized the wishbone last season, so a return to some of that would be smart to utilize Chubb and Hunt together. Both guys are capable receivers and blockers, so they can line up in other positions besides running back to help the offense and allow them both to play at the same time.
Suek: I foresee a fair amount of “21” personnel (2 RBs, 1 TE, and 2 WRs), which would put your five best playmakers on the field at the same time. Hunt could also be used in the slot in “11” personnel (1 RB, 3 WRs, and 1 TE) in place of WR Antonio Callaway, as he led all running backs in yards after the catch per reception in 2018. Special shout-out to WR Rashard Higgins, who obviously doesn’t even figure into the “11” personnel discussion at this juncture.
Gerbs: Hopefully in the same type of way they used Hilliard against the Broncos: third-down back, in space runner, and maybe better than Chubb (who is REALLY good) at pass protection? Who knows. I have lost some faith in Kitchens and this coaching staff so it’s hard to be optimistic.
Poloha: Hopefully Hunt takes carries away from Dontrell Hilliard and not Nick Chubb. I don’t care how they use him in the offense but it’s clear what his strengths are. It’s on Freddie to bring out the most in the backfield that consists of Chubb and Hunt.
Bode: Mayfield is learning the NFL is difficult. He needs to have a better understanding of NFL defenses and his own offense so that he is able to discern where the easier throws are for a specific play. It would also allow him more ability to check into better plays. In the end, this sophomore slump might be the most beneficial thing that could have happened to Mayfield as failure demonstrates a need for improvement more starkly than anything else. Not that it is a fun process for those of us watching though.
Gilbert: Mayfield is second-guessing things and not reading the field correctly. This is all mental. His second-guessing is causing him to be late on throws, which can lead to him rushing his mechanics and throws to make up for the late decision. He is also not seeing the open opportunities in the offense at times. He has almost completely stopped throwing deep passes. What he needs right now is help from his teammates and coaches. Both have failed him. The players around him are dropping passes, running the wrong routes and losing blocks. The coaches have yet to show the ability to put him in better positions and make things easier. The coaches need to actually help develop and get Mayfield back to his successful ways.
Suek: He has no confidence and, as Gilbert mentioned above, continues to be hesitant with quick, anticipatory throws. What happened to the offense that led the league in deep call efficiency and production from Weeks 9-17 of the 2018 season? What happened to put players in the best position to succeed? What happened to the red zone dominance? Do you want the answer to Baker’s problems? There you go. The offense is a train wreck with no identity. Wide receivers aren’t getting separation from cornerbacks. Defenses have called-out the predictability from a playcalling perspective. Fix the offense and Baker will be fixed accordingly.
Gerbs: Time is the fix, in various ways. He needs to get the ball out quicker, understands he has time at times, gets more reps with OBJ and Higgins, take the extra time he has available before the snap to identify coverages and defenses against him. Use time.
Poloha: He has so many of his bad habits returning to the surface, as others have already said above. Whether it’s because he doesn’t trust his offensive line or is just trying to do too much, it seems to be getting the best of him. Just relax and do your thing, Baker.
Bode: The playoffs are a possibility, but, really, the Browns need to restore our hope that the franchise is finally on the correct path to provide stability and continuity with the present group of players and coaches. Winning games, eliminating self-inflicted wounds, and showing an ability to highlight some of the skill players would go a long way.
Gilbert: I think to save this season the Browns need to show it in their play. The increase in play should lead to winning. I want to see if Kitchens can show that he is capable of doing this job and leading the franchise into the future. I want to see Mayfield return to his 2018 and college form where he is threatening the entire field with big plays and good accuracy. I want to see the whole team show development and the ability to fix their issues. Monumental improvement is what I want to see because we have yet to see any sign of improvement from this team through eight games.
Suek: It’s funny how we are now searching for silver linings with this team, when, in reality, there should be a raucous atmosphere around the city of Cleveland talking about a winning team with playoff hopes. I understand the schedule theoretically eases up, but if the Browns continue the lack of execution and discipline, the wins will be hard to come by. The Bills are 6-2. The Steelers are 4-4 with a second-string quarterback. The Dolphins are, somehow, playing competitively. The team better get their act together or 5-11 is in the cross-hairs. The record is all that matters at the end of the season. Somehow get to 8-8 and you “may” have salvaged the season.
Gerbs: Showing the hype was real would go a long way to win back fans who thought the curse was over and that we had a “new” team in town. Making the playoffs isn’t the goal anymore; it’s looking like a legitimate football team.
Poloha: Unless the Browns somehow go 8-0 in their final eight games and make the playoffs at 10-6, this season will be a disappointment. Even if they dominate this second-half of the schedule, many will take notice of the really bad teams that played, just like the end of last season as well.