Browns Mailbag

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Browns Mailbag: Has offense around DeShone Kizer changed in recent weeks?

It’s a bye week edition of the Browns Mailbag, and we’re answering four of your questions with an eye toward the second half of the season.

It seems our offensive sets are pretty basic with limited motion, straight dropbacks, single back, limited misdirection, etc. Is this because we have a rookie QB? Seems like Hue could be a little more creative in getting our skill players into open space. -- Greg K., Atlanta

You can call the Browns offense a lot of things, but I don’t think I’d use basic to describe any of it. Cleveland has a lot pre-snap motion, players lining up all over the field -- Shon Coleman was in the slot for a play last week -- and plenty of variations you’d expect from an NFL offense. Over the past two weeks, though, it’s been clear that the offense has been modified a bit. That’s by design for multiple reasons and also includes some smarter decisions from rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer.

Early in the season, the Browns were trying to push the ball down the field with more regularity. Ultimately, this is what Hue Jackson wants the offense to become. It challenged Kizer, and he responded at times, making some of the “wow” throws that made him such a coveted quarterback prospect. But the turnovers piled up and remained a constant problem, and the Browns saw running backs and tight ends, not wide receivers, emerge as their most consistent playmakers. And then Joe Thomas got hurt, leaving a Hall of Fame-sized void to fill on Kizer’s blindside.

All of that, combined with a constantly learning and maturing Kizer, has led to more plays that require, short quick passes. Just don’t expect it to be that way forever.

“He is diagnosing things a little quicker. I have made it a conscious effort, as I said, I want to do everything I can to protect him that way and put him in great situations. Not that we weren’t in the beginning,” Jackson said. “I think as you can see, you can’t score points sometimes by just nickel and diming it down the field – you won’t score enough points, I should say – but you have to have a chance to have an explosive play as an offensive football team to score points in the National Football League. We have to continue to get better in that area. I think he is doing things differently. I think we are doing things differently. I think you are seeing a better version of DeShone.”

Browns should move Shon Coleman to left tackle and Spencer Drango to right tackle. -- Tom L., West Liberty

Is there a reason that Drango is starting at LT instead of Zach Banner? I thought Banner was a tackle and Drango is a guard. I know Drango is versatile, but it wouldn't make more sense to play a tackle in a tackle position! And if it has to do with the talent level, why is he taking up a roster spot? He's been on the inactive list all year! -- Rick A., Huntington, West Virginia

Starting with the first question/statement, the Browns are leaving their options open as they continue to live life without Thomas. Drango held his own in Cleveland’s first full game without the future Hall of Famer and earned another shot to do the same when the Browns come out of the bye next week against the Lions. Coleman has plenty of experience at left tackle and said during the preseason he still felt most comfortable at the position. But would moving him to the left and Drango to the right make the line that much better? And would it be worth it to disrupt the chemistry he’s developed with right guard Kevin Zeitler? Those are the questions the Browns coaches would need to weigh if they made that kind of switch.

As for the question, the Browns have positioned Drango as their first lineman off the bench since the start of the season. It’s why he was the one to work at left tackle during the practices at which Thomas watched from the sidelines. Drango played the position throughout his decorated college career. He’s plenty comfortable at the position, even if it’s not the one draft prognosticators expected him to play in the NFL. You’re right that Banner has been inactive for nearly every game this season, and that could very well continue. The same thing happened to Coleman last season, and he’s now an effective starter at right tackle. Sometimes players need a year in the league simply to prepare themselves to one day play, and the Browns clearly value Banner’s upside.

Why hasn't Matthew Dayes been given a chance to show his running back skills? He looked good in preseason. -- Dominic R., Parma

Dayes was one of Cleveland’s stars in the preseason but his opportunities have been minimal since the season started. Maybe that changes during the second half of the season, but the two players in front of him, Duke Johnson Jr. and Isaiah Crowell, haven’t given the Browns any reason to decrease their snaps. Dayes has made his mark on special teams, returning a kick last week for 71 yards and providing energy on the other units.

“Right now, Matt is doing a really good job working during the work week. He is doing a good job of what we ask for him to do on Sunday, which is spot play when someone needs a spell, but there are no designed packages right now,” running backs coach/run game coordinator Kirby Wilson said. “Matt knows the game plan. At any time of the game, he can be inserted. We have confidence that he will be able to excel at a high level once he is inserted, but right now, that is not his role. Could that change? Possibly, but right now, that is not what we are asking of him.”

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