BEREA (92.3 The Fan) – From day 1 it’s been said that the 2017 Browns can’t be judged on wins and losses.
With the Browns 0-3 and staring 0-4 in the face Sunday if they lose to a winless Bengals team, it might be time to reset the expectations for the last 13 games of the season.
So, here we go with 6 things the Browns should aim for going forward starting this Sunday at home against Cincinnati.
Get a lead – Through 12 quarters the Browns have never led at any point in a game. Not for 1 second. 0-0 or 7-7 is as close as they’ve come. They’ve trailed 7-0, 14-7, 14-10, 21-10, 21-18, 14-0, 14-7, 21-7, 21-10, 24-10, 7-0, 14-7, 28-7, 31-14, 31-28. Playing catch-up just isn’t a recipe for success. So, first thing is first, start fast and grab a lead.
Don’t be the last team to win for a second straight year – Either the Browns or Bengals will be off the board come Sunday at 4 p.m. but the Chargers, Giants, 49ers are also 0-3 entering Week 4. After blowing last week’s opportunity in Indianapolis, Hue Jackson needs to get one in the win column before he’s the last winless team in the league, again. That will be a definitive sign of progress.
Catch the ball – Simple enough, but this receiving corps lacks talent and Kizer is expected to be evaluated and grow with a bunch of guys who can’t win coming off the line of scrimmage, run a route or be in the spot they’re supposed to be in, or catch a football on a consistent basis. Right now the Browns have been charged with 5 dropped passes by STATS through the first 3 games while Pro Football Focus has charged them with 7 drops. Both rank in the top-5 worst in the league.
Safety valves for Kizer – Tight ends and running backs are supposed to be a quarterback’s best friend when a receiving corps is struggling, so use them. Duke Johnson combined for 104 yards – 81 of them on 6 catches – from scrimmage against the Colts and he has the potential to provide something this offense lacks – consistency and dependability. Johnson leads the team with 160 yards receiving. Tight end David Njoku leads the team with a pair of receiving touchdowns. Johnson, Isaiah Crowell, Njoku and Seth DeValve have combined to catch 30 of 48 targets for 394 yards and a pair of TDs while receivers Kenny Britt, Ricardo Louis, Rashard Higgins and Sammie Coates combined for 47 targets, 19 catches, 243 yards and 1 TD. The running backs and tight ends should be options 1-4 for Kizer before any of these receivers.
Cut down turnovers and penalties – This will take some improvement on the Browns’ part the rest of the way because they’re well on their way to leading both categories. The Browns are tied with Cincinnati for 31st with a minus-5 turnover ratio. After being flagged 4 times for 61 yards in the opener against the Steelers the Browns have been hit with 21 penalties for 178 yards in the last 2 games and they have had several of them wipe out big plays and alter Jackson’s game plan. Fix those 2 issues and better things will come, and quickly.
16 starts – Again, given the team’s history it might be unrealistic or a monumental task but the only way Kizer is going to learn is by playing and making mistakes like he has the first 3 games. The only way for the Browns to fairly evaluate him is to have no time lost due to injury in the picture. 3 down, 13 more to go. Having a QB start all 16 is standard operating procedure for nearly the rest of the league but in Cleveland it’d be cause for a major celebration, and for the Browns, a major step forward.