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Browns Mailbag: How can the Browns be better in the 2nd half?

With Tuesday's big news behind us, we're diving head first into this week's questions before Mike Pettine holds his Wednesday press conference.

On to the questions!

Again, in the first half there was some offense. The second half, zero. We hear so much about "adjustments" made by teams at halftime to stop what worked for the other team all the time. Seems to work against the Browns, but I don't see the same on the other side. Why? - Elmer L., Bangor, Maine

You're right in that the Browns' problems in recent weeks have come in the second half. In the last four games, Cleveland has one second-half touchdown and has been outscored 64-9 in the final 30 minutes. That's not a winning formula, and it's a big reason why the Browns are riding a five-game losing streak into Monday's game against the Ravens.

This has been a problem more than it hasn't, but it hasn't been an every-game issue. Just look back at Cleveland's last win, the 33-30 overtime victory over the Ravens on Oct. 11. The Browns scored three touchdowns to take the game into overtime and closed it in convincing fashion with a defensive stand and effective offensive drive to knock home the game-winning field goal. It was the high point of the season to date and proved the Browns are capable of making the necessary second-half adjustments to win a game.

Cleveland's problem is the full 60 minutes, and that's been acknowledged ad nauseum throughout the season. Even in the two wins, the Browns played some regrettable quarters that nearly cost them a shot at winning.

Fixing that aspect of the Browns' struggles was the focus of the bye week for the coaches.

"We need to look at the instances of where we have had success and find a way to do that consistently," Pettine said. "We have played good football for stretches at a time – good enough to win, but again, it is the consistency, it is the complete game part of it that has been lacking."

Take a look at the Cleveland Browns roster as of September 1, 2017.

Can you shed some light on why players like Duke Johnson, Barkevious Mingo and Justin Gilbert are not on the field more often? Johnson looks like our best offensive weapon. Phil L., Wichita, Kansas

Johnson has been on the field a bunch, and coaches have made an emphasis to get him more touches in both halves of the game. The lack of a running game, particularly in the second half, has been an issue Pettine and others have said they hope to improve during this final stretch of the season. Expect plenty of Duke over the next month-plus.

As outside linebackers coach Brian Fleury explained last week, Mingo has provided the effort and coverage skills they covet at the position. The reason why his pass rush snaps have been relatively low centers on the limited number of opportunities available, and Paul Kruger and Armonty Bryant are drawing most of them.

"Only two guys are able to be there on the edge, and right now, we feel the most comfortable with Paul and Armonty really getting the majority of those pass rush reps, especially when it comes to third down," Fluery said. "Mingo is in that rotation, and we'd like to see those numbers jump up a little bit here as the season progresses, as well."

One week after seeing his most defensive snaps of the season against the Bengals, Gilbert was inactive for the Pittsburgh game. With Gilbert sidelined, rookie Charles Gaines received extensive snaps in his NFL debut.

Secondary coach Jeff Hafley explained last week how Gilbert can improve his standing in the rotation.

"Be consistent in practice with his technique. Be consistent in the meeting room. Come out every day and compete. Show us and his teammates that he deserves to be out there on the field," Hafley said. "I think what everybody has seen is that the guys that go out and practice the best and the guys we believe give us the best chance, we are going to play those guys. We have been through a lot of them this year. You have seen just about everyone in our room has played. That is the way we believe in.

"There is no magic to this game. It is not a fairy tale where you have a bad week of practice and then you play a guy and he goes in and plays great. It doesn't happen. We have to keep working to get him better. I know that. We have and we will continue to."

With the lack of offense from the WR and lack of run blocking from OL, why don't they steal an idea from the Patriots and use two tight ends more? This should improve run blocking and get E.J. Bibbs on the field. - Gary P, Bucyrus

Based on snap counts, the Browns use two tight ends roughly 35-40 percent of the time considering Gary Barnidge plays nearly every snap and Jim Dray plays roughly half of them. The Browns have activated Bibbs just once this season, and he only saw the field on a handful of plays in that game.

Tight ends coach Brian Angelichio provided a strong endorsement for Bibbs during interviews last week.

"E.J. is working hard, working hard in the classroom, learning the NFL game and all the demands that go in with it," Angelichio said. "I'm very happy with his work ethic and how he's going about his business everyday being a pro because that's the learning curve, too, for these rookies. It's a long season. We talked about it the other day. It's 14 games in when you consider the regular season and the preseason – his college season over. We have six more now, and it is just like it's Day 1 when he walked in this building. That's got to be our mindset where we're going to get better every day and take it one day at a time."

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