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*Prelude from the writer: I apologize for not having the weekly notes for week 4. While I enjoy doing these, work always comes first, and with a coworker at one of my other jobs, just didn’t have the time to put into research and writing game notes, especially given how poorly the Cleveland Browns played. Mix in getting ready for a family wedding, and other life duties, and you lose track of time. That said, let’s get on with this week’s segment. *
Following one of the ugliest beat downs in the Hue Jackson era of Cleveland Browns football, the Browns hosted the New York Jets who were on a two game winning streak. While there were signs of life shown by the orange and brown, the game yielded the same result, Cleveland losing, 17-14. There were some highlights, and some bright spots in this game.
1. Doomsday Device
Despite playing a limited amount of snaps, Browns’ defensive lineman and first overall pick in this years’ draft, Myles Garrett, shined in his NFL debut. On the first play of his young career, he sacked Jets quarterback, Josh McCown. Later in the game, he would record his second sack as well.
In doing so, Garrett made history, becoming the first number one pick, to record multiple sacks. He also became the first number one pick to record a sack since 1992 when Indianapolis Colts defensive lineman, Steve Emtman, did it. He is also the first Browns’ player to record multiple sacks in an NFL debut since defensive lineman, Charles Buchanan did it in 1988, when he recorded 2.5 sacks.
If this is a sign of things to come, the Browns made the right move in taking Garrett rather than quarterbacks Deshaun Watson or Mitchell Trubisky.
2. Hogan’s Heroes
After being pulled at the start of the second half, fans’ support for quarterback DeShone Kizer started to wane. In that half of football, Kizer threw for 87 yards and an interception.
His performance was rough enough that head coach Hue Jackson couldn’t commit to starting Kizer after the game, with early rumblings speculating that back up quarterback Kevin Hogan could be named the starter later in the week.
Against the Jets, Hogan threw for 194 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Should Hogan get the start, it may be the right decision. One of the biggest knocks on Kizer to this point is that he’s shown that he’s not ready to start in the NFL.
While he’s shown he has the arm talent and the football knowledge to change plays, his inaccuracies and problems with his timing have affected his ability to perform at this level. Hogan is not the answer to the Browns quarterback problems, however he could provide relief for now, as long as the team knows that Kizer can come back in when needed.
The only downside to this idea, it could destroy the young quarterbacks confidence going forward. Jackson will either have to find a way to suck up his pride and play Hogan while finding a way to keep Kizer’s composure in check, or he’ll have to find a way to explain to the media and the fans why he stuck with Kizer should they lose.
3. The Option
This was a terrible play call, not made by coach Jackson, but by Kizer. The play, for those who missed it, was a basic option at the two yard line, which would fall apart after Kizer attempted to pitch it back to the half back, Isaiah Crowell.
The ball hit Crowell’s hands and fell to turf before being recovered by the Jets. Similarly, this same play was run by the Carolina Panthers against the Detroit Lions this week, and it worked as quarterback Cam Newton pitched it to half back Christian McCaffrey for a touchdown.
The reason why it worked for Carolina and not for Cleveland, timing. When Kizer pitched the football, it was too early. Kizer and Crowell were not on the same page. While the ball was pitched well to Crowell, he didn’t close his hands fast enough and it dropped to the turf.
4. Deadlocked Defense
What was perhaps the weak point of the Cleveland Browns last year, has slowly become the strong point of this team.
While there are clearly still holes on this team, they held the Jets to under 194 yards passing and 34 yards rushing, as well as forcing two turnovers.
Cleveland’s defense has the potential to be among the elite, as they have some of the top defensive talent. The big problem though, injuries have plagued this team. It took five weeks before Garrett made his debut, linebacker Jamie Collins has been out since week two and defensive lineman Caleb Brantley has also missed a few games with injury, all of which are essential pieces to defensive coordinator Gregg Williams’s plan.
The Browns are currently fifth in yards allowed per game (304.8), seventh in points allowed per game (24.8) and ninth in forced fumbles (seven). They could be one more piece away from being an elite defense, definitely something that the front office should be proud of.
5. Bad News For Britt
One of the biggest problems with the Browns this season has been drops. This week, wide receiver Kenny Britt was out with a groin injury and while it’s no secret that Britt has been the biggest culprit with dropped passes, it was never more apparent than this week as several Browns helped Hogan complete all but three passes.
Britt has been a disappointment to a majority of the fans this season. So seeing stats like this, he may want to worry about how long he’ll be employed by this team.
6. The 4th Down
Kicker Zane Gonzalez has not been successful when kicking deep field goals. This game was no exception as Gonzalez missed two field goals: one from 57 yards and another from 39 yards. Both had the distance but they curved at the end.
These kicks would lead Hue Jackson to make the decision in the fourth quarter, trailing 10-7, to go for it on fourth down. This decision, while questioned, may have been the right move as it would have put pressure on the Jets to score again.
However, the question isn’t should they have gone for it but rather, did they run the right play and that would be no. The play ended up being a run by Crowell up the middle, which gained two of the yards needed for a first down.
In this situation, you need to either run to the outside or run a short pass play. This play was added to many fans’ laundry list of problems that want him to be fired.
7. New Sheriff In Town?
The new rumor around Cleveland is that future hall of fame quarterback, Peyton Manning is choosing his future as a general manager (GM) or front office personnel between three teams, Tennessee Titans, Los Angeles Rams and the Cleveland Browns. This would be a good idea for the basic reason, the Browns don’t have a GM.
Sashi Brown currently holds the executive vice president and Paul DePodesta is the chief strategy officer but they act as an impromptu GM. Adding Manning to this staff could help finish off the rebuild and create an effective offense to go with an ever growing defense. Considering how much money Browns’ owner Jimmy Haslam donates to the University of Tennessee football team, it wouldn’t be surprising to see this happen.
8. Looking Ahead To Next Week
The Browns head down to Houston to take on the man who they could have taken with the 12th overall pick, quarterback Deshaun Watson and the Texans. The big battle comes in running the football as the Texans are fourth in yards per game while the Browns are fifth in stopping the run.
Houston’s pass game hasn’t been the best considering they are 21st in the league in passing yards per game. However, the Browns are 19th in passing yards allowed per game. Cleveland will to need to have a good balance of passing and running the football if they’re going to have any success. Houston’s defense is 13th in yards allowed per game, and allow over 200 yards passing and 100 plus yards rushing per game.
They’ll need to also put pressure on Deshaun Watson. One of the biggest knocks on Watson coming out of college was that he can be baited to make bad decisions, especially when pressure is applied. With the Browns coming back to full strength on defense this week, if they can pressure Watson into making bad moves, there is a chance to win. This game is considered by most to be a trap game, and as such, could be a chance for Cleveland.