A big game for rookie coach Kevin Stefanski to take control: Cleveland Browns scribbles

 cleveland.com  09/17/2020 09:12:47   Terry Pluto, The Plain Dealer

CLEVELAND, Ohio: Scribbling about the Cleveland Browns as they open at home against the Cincinnati Bengals tonight:

1. In politics, they call it changing the narrative. It means doing something to make people feel different about what has become the same old story. Or in the case after the Browns were hammered 38-6 in Baltimore, the theme of Same Old Browns. It also looked like the same old overwhelmed coaching staff.

2. A victory over the Bengals can mean a lot to Kevin Stefanski and his coaching staff. Then the loss can be written off as Baltimore is a great team. The Browns were dealt a lousy hand with a rookie coach, no preseason games or spring practices. In other words, the narrative changes.

3. For that to happen, Stefanski has to make some changes. Weve dwelled on more carries for Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb. But the Browns give Austin Hooper a $44 million contract to be the target of only two passes. He did catch both on Sunday.

4. For an offense that needs to feature ball control and keeping the defense off the field, the tight ends need to be targeted more than eight times. That was the situation in Baltimore. They caught six.

Cleveland Browns vs. Baltimore Ravens, September 13, 2020

Cleveland Browns running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt sit quietly on the bench late in the fourth quarter, September 13, 2020, at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.John Kuntz, cleveland.com

5. Chubb on what the Browns need to do: We all know we can run the ball. We kind of got away from it (in Baltimore). Running the ball has never been a problem here. We just have to stick to it and get in a rhythm.

6. Amen, Mr. Chubb. Hunt and Chubb combined for 132 yards in 23 carries. Thats a 5.7-yard average. The Bengals allowed the Chargers to rush for 155 yards (4.0 average) while losing to L.A. The Chargers ran it 39 times against Bengals. The Browns should do the same.

7. In his Zoom press conference, Chubb also spoke this truth: There is no excuse for us with who all is on our team to put up one touchdown. Thats unacceptable.

8. Thats why this is a big game for Stefanski. The rookie coach is also calling the plays. Its his offense. He told us what its supposed to look like: the running game, passes to the tight ends, the physical play. Now is the time to show it.

9. If things get away from the running game, there is only one guy to blame  Stefanski. When he called plays in Minnesota last season, the Vikings ranked No. 4 in rushing attempts. He seemed almost stubborn in his commitment to run. Do it again, only this time in Cleveland.

10. The offense should look better. Stefanski has been a successful QB coach and play caller in the past without superstar QBs. His primary pupils were Case Keenum and Kirk Cousins. He should be able to put Baker Mayfield in a better position than he did in Baltimore.

Cleveland Browns vs. Baltimore Ravens, September 13, 2020

Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield on the bench in the fourth quarter, September 13, 2020, at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.John Kuntz, cleveland.com

11. None of this is to excuse Mayfield, who had three passes tipped. He wildly overthrew a few receivers. He seemed anxious at times in the pocket when the protection wasnt breaking down. In fact, the passing protection was pretty good in Baltimore. Profootballfocus said his accuracy rate was 47 percent. That meant passes on target. A few off target were caught. Mayfield was only sacked twice and was not under constant defensive pressure.

12. Im weary of writing about throwing/not throwing the ball to Odell Beckham Jr. The fact is he shouldnt be the focal point of the offense. The Browns need this game to establish their personality on offense. The Bengals arent strong defensively.

13. Meanwhile, Cincinnatis Joe Mixon ran for 308 yards in two games against the Browns last year. Thats right, 308 yards in two games. Can new Browns defensive coordinator Joe Woods do anything about that?

14. This from Profootballfocus: This Cincinnati offensive line projects to be one of the worst in the league. (QB) Joe Burrow had little success when Joey Bosa, Melvin Ingram and company got home. Bosa, in particular, was excellent in this one.

Cleveland Browns vs. Baltimore Ravens, September 13, 2020

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson throws a long pass under pressure from Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett in the second half, September 13, 2020, at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.John Kuntz, cleveland.com

15. The Chargers star pass rusher, Bosa had a sack, four QB hits and seven hurries against the Bengals. How about something like that from Myles Garrett?

16. The Browns need their defensive line to dominate because the linebackers/defensive backs looked slow and soft against the Ravens. The linebackers and secondary have been hit hard by injuries, but I also question how much talent is there even when Greedy Williams, Mack Wilson and Jacob Phillips are healthy and back on the field. I didnt mention Grant Delpit because the rookie safety is out for the season with an Achilles injury.

17. New kicker Cody Parkey is on his second tour of duty with the Browns. The first was in 2016. He has been with five teams in six years. The new coaching staff must not have had any faith in Austin Seibert, cutting him after one game. Then the Bengals picked up Seibert.

18. I expect the offense to look better in this game. I expect (or at least hope) the Browns can hold Mixon under 125 yards (a very modest goal). But the defense seems overmatched right now.

19. Prediction: Bengals 27, Browns 24. Boy, I hope Im wrong on this prediction.

20. Even if they are 0-2 after Thursday, I dont write off the season. They have 10 days pull things together before facing Washington. They also will have a chance to assess the team after playing real games. That should help.

RECENT TERRY PLUTO COLUMNS

No matter what, even a pandemic, Browns fans are coming to the game

What can Kevin Stefanski learn from the Baltimore game?

Looking ill-prepared & overwhelmed: Browns scribbles after loss to Baltimore

The Browns were dismal in the opener, what a pain for the fans

Terrys Talkin' Browns: Kareem Hunts contract, who calls plays

What can the Browns deliver? How about a likable team?

Terry interviews Browns GM Andrew Berry

Hey Terry, what about the crowd noise? Do Browns have a Ray Farmer roster?

For the Browns opener, lets start with no embarrassment

Browns Scribbles: Cut-day is a good day for Rashard Higgins

Terry Talkin' Browns: What does Baker Mayfield need?

Some inside stuff on the Mike Clevinger trade: Terrys Talkin' Tribe

As Mike Clevinger leaves, remember him as the long shot who made it

A fresh start for Zach Plesac is exactly what he and the Tribe need

Talkin' to myself about Mike Clevinger trade

Browns youth masks

Cleveland sports fans have multiple options when it comes to buying youth masks for all their favorite teams, including the Browns. Check out some of the options below.Fanatics.com

New Browns face masks for sale: Heres where you can buy Cleveland Browns-themed face coverings for coronavirus protection for adults and youth, including a single mask ($14.99) and a 3-pack ($24.99). All NFL proceeds donated to CDC Foundation.

« Go back