This was the worry since they hired Freddie Kitchens to take over as head coach of the Cleveland Browns. Would his lack of experience cost the team games? Would he be able to handle the collection of egos acquired by John Dorsey? Week One wasn’t great.
Too many penalties.
18 is obnoxious. The Browns lacked discipline in all three phases. They showed up on Sunday to win a fight instead of a football game. Myles Garrett threw an open-handed punch. Greg Robinson kicked a guy and got tossed. Devaroe Lawrence cursed out a referee and got the boot. Throw in 5 holding penalties on offense and 3 on defense, along with 2 roughing the passer penalties and you have a disaster. Unacceptable.
182 penalty yards are impossible to overcome. This was the story of the game. They killed their own drives and extended the Titans’. It showed a lack of focus and short fuses on the Browns sideline. The talent upgrades will mean nothing if they cannot clean it up.
Offensively Baker Mayfield had his moments. The opening drive, looking back, was fool’s gold. The offense took chunks of yardage, putting 6 on the board and looking like the juggernaut everyone predicted. The penalties took over after, killing drives and shuffling the offensive line after Robinson’s ejection. They sprinkled in some hurry up after halftime, leading to plus plays and a touchdown. Consistency, however, was nonexistent.
The wide receivers showed glimpses of what they’re expected to be. Beckham was flagged for an offensive pass interference penalty with the team driving for a field goal at the end of the first half, but otherwise showed well in his Browns debut. Jarvis Landry had a big 34 yard reception to set up the 2nd touchdown. Higgins snared a 35 yarder on the first drive and seemed to promise an air show awaiting the fans this week against the blitzes of Gregg Williams, the Jets defensive coordinator and former Browns interim coach. As for Odell wearing a watch, I’ll never understand why anyone gives a shit about that stuff.
Baker held the ball too long In spots, while the line was a sieve at others. Again however, Kitchens deserves his share of the blame. Once flags started flying and injuries and ejections decimated his O-line, adjustments needed to be made that weren’t. Calling quick passes and leaving backs and tight ends in to block could have given his QB and line a better shot. I’m loathe to call for more running of the ball, but in Sunday’s case, it may have slowed down the Titans’ pass rush. After the hole was dug, Baker played hero ball, trying too hard to get it back all at once. Too little, too late, however, and it uglied up the final score.
Defensively, I’m not as down as others. They generated pressure on 46.7% of Tennessee’s drop backs, according to ESPN’s NFL Matchup, third in the league. The front four will pressure the quarterback.
Denzel Ward was bad. He was a step slow in coverage and whiffed on tackles that would have curtailed the chunk plays from the Titans. Again, however, drives were stopped only to be extended by the yellow flags. I thought Greedy Williams played well in his first outing, his coverage was better than Ward’s, although he missed a tackle on Derrick Henry on his screen pass touchdown.
Sunday turned into a disaster. We’ll learn more in the coming weeks if this was a case of buying into their own hype, or if they aren’t ready to play winning football. This falls on the coaching staff, and why I’ve worried about Kitchens. The facts are you don’t know what you don’t know. No matter how long he’s coached NFL players, dealing with the things a head coach must handle on a Sunday is daunting. Will he be up to the task, on top of calling plays? Has he delegated enough to his assistants in order to keep things running smoothly on the sideline?
The Jets are decimated with injuries. Sam Darnold is out with mono and C. J. Mosley, the leader of their defense, is questionable. The Jets D was pitching a shutout against Buffalo until he was injured. The quarterback of that defense, if he is unable to play Monday, Baker should be able to exploit the middle of the field. If Njoku can catch the ball, a huge if, look for him to have a big game.
There are no excuses for this one. We will find out about this team Monday Night. If they are focused and prepared, they will have no trouble. If they are brash, overlook the Jets, and continue with undisciplined mistakes, this game will be close and become a potential loss. If that happens, this season has the chance to take a drastic downturn.
I expect a more prepared Browns team Monday night. The Jets struggled themselves, kicking a game to the Bills on Sunday despite winning the turnover battle 4-0. They have holes in their secondary Mayfield can exploit. The offense should look better under the lights. If it doesn’t, look out.
The D-line will again have success. The Bills got to Sam Darnold 4 times last week. I expect Olivier Vernon, a no show Sunday, and Denzel Ward to have bounce back games. Cutting out the miscues will be imperative. This isn’t a high-powered Jets offense, and they’re starting a backup QB. They cannot give them free yards via penalty and need to force Trevor Siemian into mistakes.
Sunday’s thumping has a chance to be positive. If the coaching staff and the players learn from the nonsense, forget the hype, and play to their talent level, we should see something resembling a competent football team on Monday night. If, however, the penalty flags fly and Kitchens doesn’t make adjustments to better protect Baker, worry. The maturity level may not be high enough for this team to play consistent, winning football.
Whip Around the NFL
1.Yes, the Ravens looked impressive Sunday. That Dolphins team is an abomination, an affront to the NFL, however. I still don’t believe in Lamar Jackson in the long run. He completed 57% of his passes at Louisville. Quarterbacks don’t get more accurate in the NFL. I think this defense has lost too much talent to be as dominating as in year’s past. Last year they beat the Bills 47-3 in the opener, then lost to the Bengals. I’m on record saying they’re no better than 8-8. Prove me wrong.
2. I suppose the Patriots are taking another shot at a perfect season. Their schedule is weak, and the roster loaded. Brady will eventually nose dive, but maybe this isn’t the year? Another AFC North team I don’t believe in, and another reason I still give the Browns a good chance to win the division, is the Steelers. They were an average team last year, lost the best wide receiver in the game, and have another year on Roethlisberger, who seems to contemplate retirement every other week. Yes, the Patriots dominated, and looked outstanding doing so. If they go undefeated and win it all again, it won’t surprise me. Don’t crown them based on this victory, however.
3. Kyler Murray was a mess, and a joy, to watch. His height is still concerning; he had 4-5 passes batted down in the 1st half alone, but damn it was fun to watch him bring his team back in the 4th quarter. His deep ball is a thing of beauty. It’s a precursor to what we will see out of him this year, great moments surrounded by lots of garbage. His supporting cast leaves a lot to be desired.
4. T.J. Hockenson was impressive. Gronk 2.0?
5. The ESPN announcers calling the Denver v. Oakland game fell all over themselves mentioning Antonio Brown as many times as possible. We get it, guys. Some crazy shit happened over the weekend and you couldn’t wait to splatter his name all over the telecast. This isn’t TMZ. Stick to the players on the field.
6. I don’t mind Joe Tessitore calling play-by-play on Monday Night Football, but he could cut it out with the theatrics. You’re not calling the Miracle on Ice every play.
7. The one AFC North team I expected to be horrid, the Bengals, showed well at Seattle. Zac Taylor’s offense was intriguing, and Andy Dalton looked as good as he has in 2-3 seasons. Could the Bengals have something to say about the division? I still say no, but they’ve at least piqued my interest.
8. Thursday night games continue to be garbage. Tampa v. Carolina had zero flow, though Tampa proved the tougher team and Jameis Winston showed some grit. Their D-line was in Cam’s face all night. Not sure if his shoulder, which he had offseason surgery on, is bothering him, but it’s something to watch. The Panthers look to be in trouble all ready.
9. I feel the same way about the Cowboys and Dak that I do about the Ravens and Lamar. They were playing a AAA team. I don’t trust Dak to make plays in crunch time, and I don’t trust Jason Garrett to pull the right strings in tight games. Elliott is great, but running backs like that don’t win playoff games anymore. Doubt they can overtake the Eagles in that division.
10. If Green Bay’s defense is as good all year as they were last Thursday, Rodgers may get another chance to hoist the Lombardi Trophy.
All in all, an extremely sloppy week of football. Penalty flags everywhere, and most offenses seemed stuck in neutral. By the end of the month, I expect to see a helluva lot better football being played. Week 1 is always a crap shoot, we over-analyze it every year. Here’s hoping for more entertaining games this weekend.