The bye week couldn’t come soon enough for a Browns roster that has been battered by injuries over the past few weeks.
The Browns Mailbag, meanwhile, is as healthy as it’s ever been. We’re tackling four of your questions in this week’s edition.
It was fun, wasn’t it? Too bad the ending was what it was. Still, there was a lot to love about the package, and it went beyond what happened on the field during that series. It showed creativity from Cleveland’s new offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens and an ability to build something around a strength of an offense that has sputtered at times this season.
The Browns unveiled the package, which featured running backs Duke Johnson, Nick Chubb and Dontrell Hilliard all lined up behind Baker Mayfield, early in Sunday’s second quarter. In six plays, the Browns picked up three first downs. The biggest play was a 17-yard pass to Breshad Perriman. The most electrifying was a late lateral by Johnson to Chubb that turned a 3-yard loss into a 5-yard gain. And then there was the ill-fated interception thrown by Hilliard, who was looking for Mayfield down the left sideline. Still, the package largely worked, and it will keep opposing defensive coordinators on their toes as they prepare for the Browns over the next six weeks. Who’s to know how many more plays the Browns are able to run from it? If anything, it will cause another team to devote practice time toward stopping it.
“He’s going to run it,” Johnson said of Kitchens’ philosophy. “He’s going to run it in different ways and options. Whatever his flavor of the week is, he’s going to run it. He just trusts us to go out and execute it.”
You’re darn right it was huge. Had the Falcons scored on that possession, the Browns’ lead would have been as few as 10 with a boatload of time left in the fourth quarter. Even though the Falcons sputtered in Sunday’s fourth quarter, they’ve been proficient in the final period all season. What made that goal line stand special was the Browns made three great plays in a row to keep Atlanta out of the end zone. Jabrill Peppers knocked Tevin Coleman flat to the ground on a second-and-goal run that would have cleared the goal line in most other instances. Joe Schobert did the same on third-and-goal on a run that a number of Falcons thought surely was a touchdown. And then on fourth-and-goal, Schobert had the wherewithal to stick on sparsely used tight end Eric Saubert -- he’d been targeted just five times before Sunday -- on a play that appeared designed to confuse the defense and let Saubert run free for an easy catch.
What position do you think Austin Corbett will play in 2019: left guard, right guard or center? -- Austin S., Concord, North Carolina
It’s too early to tell on that front -- all three of Cleveland’s starters have contracts that run through at least the 2019 season -- but Corbett is poised to be able to play them all if he’s needed. He spent the majority of training camp at left guard but has since spent a lot of his practice time learning the finer points of center. He was a left tackle in college.
“The scariest part for Austin is snapping from the gun, which is with any center, but he has made tremendous strides with that,” Kitchens said last week. “Back in May, I do not know if we would have ever thought that he could ever snap a shotgun snap, but he has really gotten better, worked hard and has put a lot of time into it. (Offensive line coach) Bob Wylie and Hut (assistant offensive line coach Mark Hutson) have spent several hours with him just on snapping and stepping.”
Browns general manager John Dorsey isn’t concerned about Corbett watching most of his rookie season from the sidelines. He expects the second-round pick to seize the moment whenever it arrives.
“He has three very talented players in front of him at the respective left guard, center and right guard positions,” Dorsey said. “Eventually, his strength is now that he will be able to play everything. When his time comes to get into that lineup, whenever it is, he has to grasp it and take it. Knowing his person, he will grasp it and he will take it.”
I've noticed Desmond Harrison does well with speedy guys and struggles with the bull rush. Greg Robinson is much more suited for the bull rush and struggles with speed. Is there ever a time when we may see them both in the same game? Either in a rotation or has the staff ever considered using Desmond as a blocking tight end? This would keep the defense guessing plus we could run the ball like crazy. I really like our tight ends but blocking is not a strong suit. Go Browns WOOF! -- Brad S., Wooster
It’d be foolish to rule anything out -- we just devoted a couple of paragraphs to the Browns running the Wishbone, so anything is possible -- but it’d be hard to envision a rotation between the two in the midst of a game. Offensive lines thrive on chemistry. The best ones get better and better with each passing game. Before Robinson took the place of an ill Harrison for Week 9, the Browns’ starting lineup had played nearly every single snap together. It’s by design.
Robinson has played very well in Harrison’s place over the past two weeks. The Browns offensive line, as a whole, has had two of its better games of the season with Robinson at left tackle by keeping penalties to a minimum and keeping the pressure away from Mayfield. Harrison was feeling better last week, but he was limited in practice and the Browns opted to make him inactive against the Falcons. It’s likely Harrison will be fully recovered by the time Cleveland plays Cincinnati in Week 12. Browns coach Gregg Williams wasn’t ready to name Robinson the full-time starter and likely won’t in the days leading up to next week’s game.
“We will continue to evaluate that day by day and continue to evaluate that practice by practice,” Williams said. “I thought he played well in his first start. I thought he played well yesterday. He had a couple of things in penalties and a couple of technique things, but I thought he played well. As a unit, the offensive line played well. I thought they did a really good job. When the quarterback plays as well as he played and when the running back played as well as he played, do you think they did that without the five offensive linemen out there doing their jobs?”