This week, the Cleveland Browns faced off against the Los Angeles Chargers, the team that the Browns defeated last year for their only win so far in the Hue Jackson era. The biggest story coming into this week was the return of the often suspended wide receiver Josh Gordon. While Cleveland stayed in the game for most part, this was one that was riddled with mistakes from both coach and quarterback. Let’s take a look at this week’s Cleveland Browns’ Notes.
1. Jackson’s Jekyll and Hyde: The theme of this season has been Cleveland’s lack of talent at the skill positions. Prior to the game, head coach Hue Jackson sounded off about some of the decisions made by the front office, including trading the second overall pick to the Philadelphia Eagles; which ended up being used on quarterback Carson Wentz. Jackson has stated previously that he preferred Los Angeles Rams’ quarterback Jared Goff, and that he was telling Houston Texans’ quarterback DeShaun Watson to get ready for Cleveland to draft him. While the front office has come under much scrutiny for lack of talent, Jackson has come under fire this season for bad play calls. Since taking over the Browns, Jackson has lead the team to a 1-27 record. This mark is now the worst by a coach in his second year, a mark previously held by former Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach John McKay in 1977. Two years later McKay led the Bucs to the NFC championship game, but Jackson may not get that opportunity.
2. Two Steps Forward, One Step Back: It’s been a roller coaster ride for rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer.He seems to go on a two game streak of good performances, then follow it up with a game that has people question if he should be the starting quarterback. This week was the latter as Kizer didn’t have a great game. He would throw for 215 yards, including a touchdown for tight end David Njoku. He was also intercepted by safety Adrian Phillips and lost a fumble. He targeted Josh Gordon too much. In this game, Gordon was targeted 11 times. The next highest was Njoku with six. That kind of differential is really unacceptable, especially when Gordon only caught four of the passes. One of the biggest problems Sunday was that Kizer constantly overthrew targets as well as under threw them. When you overthrow speed receivers like Corey Coleman and Gordon, you’re throwing too hard. Most importantly, he needs to hold onto the football. The fumble was his seventh of the year. This is in addition to his 15 interceptions. Kizer may be just 21 years old, but when you commit that many turnovers, the fans will turn on you quickly.
3. All Hail Chief Njoku: Rookie tight end David Njoku caught his fourth touchdown of the year, which set a Browns record for touchdowns by a rookie tight end. He is second in touchdowns by rookie tight ends this season, only trailing the New York Giants’ Evan Engram. Njoku has been one of Kizer’s most consistent targets and for good reason. Whenever he’s been near the goal line, he’s been reliable. Though the son of a Nigerian chief has a lot to learn, he is making the strides to be a great.
4. Defenseless: The Chargers’ numbers should say it all: quarterback Phillip Rivers passed for 355 yards. Halfback Melvin Gordon ran for 77 yards. Wide receiver Keenan Allen had 105 receiving yards. The defense this week was just bad. They tried to play a “bend but don’t break” style, and it didn’t work. While Cleveland only allowed one touchdown and four field goals, they gave up over 400 yards. While the injuries have continued to pile up, including defensive tackle Danny Shelton and safety Jabrill Peppers in this week’s game, you have to be able to work with the pieces on your depth chart.
5. Looking forward to next week: Cleveland comes home to face the Green Bay Packers. Good news, quarterback Aaron Rodgers won’t be playing in this game. Bad news, it’s still the Packers, who just squeaked by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in overtime. On defense, Cleveland will need to get to Brett Hundley. He’s been sacked 17 times, and when pressured, thrown seven interceptions. Kizer will need to attack through the air. The Packers are 24th against the pass, meaning that if Kizer can control his arm and have one of his better games, he can light up the cheese heads, as they’ve allowed 244 yards per game. This will be Jackson’s chance to show what this offense can do, and if successful, they can pull out the win.