Monday leftovers (Saturday edition)
Freddie Kitchens learned a very valuable lesson Friday night down in Tampa. The Browns’ rookie head coach was humbled by the offensive performance of his football team.
The 13-12 exhibition loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was notable in one vital area. The offense was ill prepared to play a football game. They were flat all evening.
That falls on the head coach, who pretty much is in charge of that side of the football even though Todd Monken is technically the coordinator. Everything stops at Kitchens’ desk when it comes to offense.
Just about every aspect of the offense was off and not just by a little bit, especially the starting quarterback and offensive line. They had about as much rhythm as a sloth.
The only positive that came out of the ragged play on offense? It was only an exhibition and will mean nothing in just a few days. But it’s still fresh in Kitchens’ mind.
He must have been embarrassed after the game when speaking of his offense. “Those guys are coached to execute,” he told he assembled media. “Those guys are coached to do their job and we didn’t do a very good job of preparing those guys to do their job and they didn’t do a good job of doing their job.”
Got it? Didn’t think so.
Then honesty and reality took over. “The execution wasn’t there,” he said, “and it had been before. . . . It was just a frustrating night all the way around. Offensively we didn’t execute. Not even close to where we want to go. . . . I did a poor job of preparing them for this . . . game.”
Kitchens had a different perspective Saturday. “Last night is going to be a tremendous learning opportunity for our offense,” he said, praising the play of the defense and special teams. “Now it is time for the offense to pick it up and match the other two segments and their production.”
He is still baffled by the offense’s ineffectiveness against Tampa Bay, squandering numerous opportunities with sloppy play. “I don’t know what the disconnect was,” he told reporters.
“It was very clear we have to figure out what we were doing as a staff and see if we were asking them to do too much or what. I don’t know what it is, but some of the stuff we were not right on (is what) we have been doing for several months now. . . . We weren’t doing anything that we haven’t been doing since July.”
The question now is whether there is enough time to haul the offense back up to speed before the Tennessee Titans invade for the home/season opener Sept. 8.
The return of wide receivers Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr., tight end David Njoku and running back Nick Chubb sure would help. Why they were held out of the first three exhibitions had to raise a few eyebrows.
If they were hurt, and we don’t know whether they were, that’s one thing. All except Beckham were not known to be injured and/or not available. Mayfield’s performance against the Bucs suffered as a result.
Because of that, the Cleveland offense is going to have to get its stuff together on the practice field. That’s because all the starters will watch the exhibition finale from the sidelines Friday night at home against the Detroit Lions.
The fact there was absolutely no rhythm on offense, save the first possession against Washington Redskins in the exhibition opener, has to be extremely troubling. Without it, an offense has no chance of being successful.
Mayfield and his top skill position mates should have played a lot more than they have. Because they didn’t, the quarterback’s rustiness and severe lack of rhythm with lesser lights was evident throughout the first half of the Tampa Bay loss.
Lesson learned? We’ll find out soon enough.
* * *
The offensive line, to be perfectly honest, was a disaster. Maybe that’s why it played well into the third quarter before getting the rest of the evening off. Sort of a punishment.
The run game, when Kitchens chose to use it, which was not nearly often enough, was awful. Very few holes opened up for runners and then closed just as quickly as they had opened.
The pass protection was spotty at best. Slow-footed offensive tackles Greg Robinson and Chris Hubbard were abused frequently, getting beat off the snap way too often. If Mayfield wasn’t getting rid of the ball quickly, he was moving to avoid getting drilled.
Was it a portent of things to come? Are these guys really as good as the coaching staff believes? They had better be or all the skill players playing behind them will not thrive.
* * *
The right guard situation on that line remains unsettled. Eric Kush, who was abused by Bucs defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh a good portion of the game, is getting the most snaps with the starters, but the fact Kitchens maintains there is still a battle going on there is concerning.
Combine the uncertainty at right guard and the problematic play of the two tackles, it adds up to indecisiveness about an area of the offense that is essential to its success. And ready-set-go time is just around the corner.
This is a problem that should have been settled by now. That it is not is not the way it should be at this point.
* * *
There might be a dilemma with regard to trimming the roster at the punting and placekicking positions with a pair of rookies in the spotlight.
Austin Seibert’s four field goals in the Tampa Bay loss – all were booted squarely between the uprights – have to weigh heavily with the coaching staff. It might have been just enough to punch Greg Joseph’s ticket out of town.
Jamie Gillan, on the other hand, impressed the staff with his punting against the Bucs, averaging nearly 48 yards on his six punts, landing half of them inside the 20. But it was his 44-yard net average that caught their attention even more.
If the Scottish Hammer convinces the staff he is a quick study when it comes to holding for placements, there is an outside chance incumbent Britton Colquitt will join Joseph out the door. That will be a close call.
* * *
Finally . . . Defensive tackle Devaroe Lawrence notched a pair of sacks in the second half, relentlessly penetrating the Bucs’ backfield. Count me stunned if he doesn’t make the final cuts. . . . Denzel Ward looks fit and ready to go at one corner and Terrance Mitchell plays as though he will not easily surrender the starting spot at the other corner to rookie Greedy Williams. . . . Did you notice who played fullback on a few running plays? It seems as though tight end Seth DeValve has replaced the departed Orson Charles in the backfield at least for the time being. . . . Interesting that more coaches are using the pass interference challenge in the exhibition season even though it costs them a timeout if they are wrong. Good for them. Maybe the NFL will see how stupid that rule is and get rid of it. . . . Look for Garrett Gilbert and David Blough to split the quarterbacking duties against the Lions. . . . One last (rhetorical) question: Is Damon Sheehy-Guiseppi still on the roster? Of course, but he is barely being used.