Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Mid-week thoughts

Hue Jackson needs to visit his optometrist. There’s something wrong with his eyesight. It has to be questioned after he shared his evaluation of his quarterback with the Cleveland media the other day.

“He played as well as he’s played all year,” the Browns coach said of DeShone Kizer’s performance in the 31-7 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday. “With the exception of missing a couple of (pre-snap) reads and protection (calls), he played lights out.

“He didn’t take sacks. He threw the ball away. He didn’t have turnovers. So that’s improvement. I want everybody to know regardless of what the numbers are for him, the guy played extremely well.”

(Slight correction on the turnovers: Kizer threw one interception that wasn’t his fault as Kenny Britt botched a good pass, and he was bailed out by a questionable roughing-the-passer call that nullified a second pick by George Iloka.)

Jackson must mean the 16-of-34 for 118 yards and no touchdowns numbers his rookie quarterback put up against the Bengals. Maybe we should redefine what “extremely well” and “lights out” mean. If that’s playing extremely well and lights out, I’ll take whatever the opposite is.

There is now no question Jackson has dipped the bar so low, all Kizer has to do is show up for the game, stay healthy and he’ll get high marks. It’s time to redefine what good quarterbacking is based on that assessment. Talk about hyperbole.

Want “extremely well”  and “lights out” quarterbacking from a rookie in the National Football League? Look at what did Deshaun Watson did Sunday as the Houston Texans’ quarterback. Four touchdown passes and a touchdown run in a 57-14 trouncing of the Tennessee Titans.

Now that is what you would call playing “extremely well” and “lights out.”

Jackson then finally said something that made sense. “We have to support (Kizer) every way we can offensively, defensively and special teams to help this young man get a win under his belt because I think he’s doing some good things,” he said.

It’s obvious Jackson is not seeing things in Kizer a lot of us are. Like the inaccuracy of many of his throws. Like the inability to feather a pass rather than try and drill it through the receiver. Like his predilection of failing to see open receivers until it’s too late.

“We’ve got to get better around him,” Jackson said. “We’ve got to continue to coach better around him. (Now that’s a novel idea.) And I think that’s what we’re going to try to do as we head into the second quarter of the season.”

It almost sounds as if Jackson is hell bent on making chicken salad out of chicken fecal matter when it comes to his quarterback. He seems to go overboard in his attempt to prove he hasn’t lost it when it comes to molding quarterbacks.

One wonders how long Jackson will stick with his rookie pet project. One also wonders what it will take to relent and admit force-feeding him was a mistake and has backfired.

Will it be when the Browns are 1-10, 1-11 or worse? Might it eventually cost Jackson his job if his gamble fails to pay off? He has already shown his stubborn side by refusing to hire an offensive coordinator.

That’s another matter altogether. As long as he is the head man, that won’t happen unless someone in the hierarchy threatens him. Either hire someone else to plot the offense or we will move in an entirely different direction without you.

Jackson is forcing his offensive philosophy on a group of players incapable of handling it. It should be the other way around. Provide the talent on board with something they can handle and excel at. Don’t try to jam 10 pounds of crap into a five-pound bag.
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He’s probably too stubborn to even want to hear it, but what it will take for defensive coordinator Gregg Williams to see he is misusing rookie safety Jabrill Peppers?

What made Peppers such a great player at Michigan was his ability to be where the ball was and make plays. When you are playing anywhere from 15 to 25 yards off the line of scrimmage at the snap, it is almost impossible to make impactful plays.

Peppers, who must feel lonely all the way back in the football hinterlands, has the perfect size and temperament to be a strong safety. And yet, Williams stubbornly places him as far away from doing any damage as possible.

Every team the Browns have played thus far this season has taken advantage of the canyon that exists between Peppers and the rest of his teammates. Tight ends relish their number being called because they know success is just a completion away somewhere in that canyon.

Williams unfairly put his rookie safety in an untenable position on the first play of the second quarter last Sunday. On a third-and-six at the Cleveland 7, Williams blitzed both cornerbacks, leaving Peppers 1-on-1 with veteran Bengals wide receiver A, J. Green, to whom Andy Dalton easily lofted a scoring pass.

The big problem is that if Peppers is shifted to strong safety, where his talents are best used, who plays free safety? Derrick Kindred, the current strong safety, and Ibraheim Campbell are not natural free safeties. Rookie free agent Kai Nacua is.

So why doesn’t Williams at least consider making the switch since nothing seems to be working now, anyway? Good question.
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Here’s another good question. Why have Browns running backs carried the football just 60 times in four games? And gained an embarrassing 200 yards in those four games?

On good days, many teams around the NFL can put up 200 or more yards rushing in one game. Some backs can do it all in one gulp by themselves in one afternoon.

Isaiah Crowell has carried the football just 46 times in four games; Duke Johnson Jr. a measly 10 times. It’s as though they are considered an afterthought by their head coach.

Is Jackson so intent on painting Kizer as the face of the franchise that he has all but abandoned the running game? Does he have that little faith in the offensive line that he drops Kizer back to pass nearly 70% of the time?

It’s not that Crowell is incapable of running well. He ripped off a 152-yard game in last season’s opening game at Pittsburgh and put up a 144-yard effort later in the season against Baltimore. And he logged a 145-yard game in a 2015 victory (yes, a victory!) against San Francisco.
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Looking for positives? Here are a few to snack on.

The offensive line is on pace to allow 52 sacks, 14 fewer than the club-record 66 it allowed last season. .  . The defense is on pace to record 36 sacks, 10 more than last season. . . . The opposition averages just 87 yards a game on the ground against the Browns. A significant improvement for a team notorious for allowing as many as 130 yards a game in previous seasons. . . . Britton Colquitt averaged 49.2 yards on six punts against Cincinnati Sunday. He is averaging 49.7 yards for the season, a Pro Bowl pace. . . . Unfortunately, that is all.
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A rhetorical question for Sashi Brown: What does it feel like to win?

Winning is a foreign feeling for fans of this franchise. Since Oct. 11, 2015, the Browns are 2-29 (one victory by 14 points and another by three points).  They are 1-22 since Dec. 13, 2015. Since Oct 11, 2015, they have been outscored, 862-487, by the opposition, or 27.8-15.7.           
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Anyone wonder where Jordan Leslie was against the Bengals? The wide receiver was definitely in uniform. Played five snaps. Was not targeted once.

A rather strange reward for making a sensational catch of a Kizer pass to set up the Browns’ second touchdown against Indianapolis in game three. The exhibition season receptions leader played 21 snaps in that game and was targeted just the one time. Why isn’t he more involved in the game plan?

(This just in: Leslie has been waived injured (hamstring injury in the Bengals loss).
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Let’s keep trying this until someone realizes something is wrong. The Browns have run 279 plays from scrimmage on offense in four games. Fullback Dan Vitale has logged 25 snaps in those four games. That’s roughly 9% of the plays. Why is this young man still on the team?
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Finally . . . Browns receivers have dropped 12 passes in the last two games, further evidence of one of the two biggest weaknesses on this team. . . . The secondary, the other weakness, is getting torched this season (256 yards a game and a 73.4 completion percentage), in part because the pass rush is so inconsistent and in part because there is a serious lack of talent back there. . . . Red zone woes: The opposition has penetrated the Browns' 20-yard line 13 times this season and scored 11 touchdowns. Easily the worst in the NFL. . . . As the Bengals were marching in the last two minutes toward what would be their third touchdown of the second quarter Sunday, CBS commentator Adam Archuleta said, “If he completes his next pass, that’s when you’re gonna see the first timeout from Dalton.” The next completed pass, a screen pass, resulted in a 61-yard touchdown run by Giovani Bernard. So much for the timeout. . . . Next up, the 2-2 New York Jets, who were supposed to be tanking the season to nail the top pick in the next college draft.


  1. Have you given any thought to the fact that Kizer cannot put a touch on the ball for short passes? He throws bullets whether its 10 yards or 40 and still you expect these guys to catch them even though half of them are too low or behind the receiver. Jackson will stick with him until he's fired or Kizer gets hurt. The stands just keep getting more and more empty each week and no one seems to care!

  2. Hi Bill,

    Yes I have given it thought and mentioned it in this piece. And you are correct about the Jackson/Kizer situation. As for the dwindling attendance, Haslam is not blind. At least I don't think he is.

    Tnx for following. Don't be a stranger even if we disagree.