It’s been quite a couple of days in Berea with plenty of change. Meanwhile, we’re doing what we always do on a Tuesday, answering four of your questions as the second half of the season nears on the horizon.
How will the Browns offense look under the control of the new OC Kitchens? How will the team respond to the leadership of Gregg Williams? -- Brooks P., Cincinnati
Let’s start with Kitchens. On Monday, Browns general manager John Dorsey made it clear the overall scheme of Cleveland’s offense won’t change under Kitchens, the team’s running backs/Associate Head Coach. This makes sense considering Kitchens’ close relationship with former offensive coordinator Todd Haley and his experience operating in a Haley-designed offense. Kitchens called the plays in Cleveland’s preseason finale at Detroit, a game that saw a Baker Mayfield-led group strike fast and early. It’s something the Browns hope can happen on a regular basis after scoring just 12 offensive points -- four field goals -- in the first quarter so far this season. Kitchens will give the offense a new voice and fresh set of eyes. His task will be to get as comfortable as he can while orchestrating an offense that has plenty of potential, but has been inconsistent more than it’s been productive.
As for Williams, the Browns were drawn to only him when it came to the interim head coach position because of his head coaching experience and the respect level he carries inside the Cleveland locker room. It’s hard to predict how the team will respond because the players haven’t even had a practice with him yet. That said, the Browns expect the team to respond well because of their optimism about the talent level on the roster.
“Whenever you make decisions like this, I think it is really important for the Browns organization to collaboratively sit there and talk about this and find out who the best in-house candidates would be,” Dorsey said. “That is the decision we came up with.”
Mayfield was limping quite a bit after ANOTHER hit by the free-wheeling defense on Sunday. The Browns OL hasn't protected the QB all year, regardless the score early or late in a game, Why risk further injury to our "destined" QB of the future? I don't want to see Tyrod injured, but WHY stay with Mayfield? Thoughts, other than not wanting to shake Mayfield's "confidence?" -- Elmer L., Bangor, Maine
The Browns need to do a better job protecting Mayfield. That was a clear priority before Sunday’s game in Pittsburgh, where he took hit after hit in what turned out to be a punishing loss. Mayfield is a little beat up, just like everyone else on the roster at the midpoint of the season, but is healthy entering Week 9. He’s led the way in both of Cleveland’s victories this season and is viewed as the signal-caller who gives the team the best chance to win. The hits, though, are a concern, and that will be a priority for Kitchens as he draws up game plans and makes in-game adjustments throughout his tenure as Browns offensive coordinator. There are adjustments teams can make when they have short-comings at spots on the offensive line, and that will be on Kitchens to identify and fix. Last season, the Browns held their own and didn’t expose DeShone Kizer to too much punishment after Joe Thomas went down for the season. It just requires some sacrifices. It’s a tricky balance the Browns will look to find in the second half of the season.
“You are going to take your shots in the NFL. He has taken a few of them,” Dorsey said. “What we have to do is we have to go back and we have to – again, the coaches have to understand why are we taking all of these shots? We just have to learn from that and develop a plan to make sure he does not get hit as much.”
With WRs needing to be addressed due to injuries, are other team's practice squad players available and what is the cost of signing these players? I noticed rookie Simmie Cobbs from Indiana is a big-bodied target on a practice squad. Do you see any others that could be claimed? -- Ryan S., Parma
According to The Football Database, 55 wide receivers are currently spread across the NFL’s 32 practice squads. Cleveland’s contribution to that group is Blake Jackson, who was with the team throughout training camp and caught a touchdown in the Browns’ preseason finale at Detroit. Cleveland has already elevated one of its practice squad receivers this season, Da’Mari Scott. It helps a player to have a handle of the team’s system, which is why you don’t see a ton of players getting signed off other teams’ practice squads. NFL rules require teams that sign players off another team’s practice squad to pay them, at minimum, the league minimum for three weeks. Cobbs, for what it’s worth, is with the Redskins.
In his three seasons with the Bills, Williams had two offensive coordinators. Mike Sheppard ran the show in 2001 before Kevin Gilbride took over for 2002 and 2003. Gilbride was a long-time offensive coordinator before he took the Bills’ job and went on to win two Super Bowls with the Giants. He was one of the most respected play-callers in the game during that era. As interim head coach, Williams will be overseeing everyone on the coaching staff, so he’ll be involved in some capacity. Something to keep in mind, though. Williams is maintaining his role as defensive coordinator.