For the Cleveland Browns, August is a beautiful thing.
The Browns go through training camp in August, stocked with a fresh draft class that promises to turn the team around. Usually, there’s a young quarterback that people say is “the guy” and we hear reports about a changing culture.
They do this every year.
October? Less beautiful.
DeShone Kizer was supposed to galvanize this offense, and he’s turned into a total liability with his constant turnovers. It was bad enough that the Browns had to deal with him at quarterback, but Coach (for now) Jackson has yanked Kizer in and out of games like a naughty child for the past few weeks, forever shattering whatever illusions of stability still remained about this organization.
Kenny Britt has been a disaster of apocalyptic proportions. He’s the Browns version of Brock Osweiler.
Brock Osweiler is the Browns version of Brock Osweiler, because they paid him too.
What made this team watchable last year was that they had a frisky rushing attack that kept them in games. This year they boasted what was supposedly one of football’s best offensive lines, but their ability to run the football has plummetted into the realm of the pathetic.
People are pointing at Hue Jackson and his play calling.
That’s fair–he’s partially to blame. More importantly, he’s the coach of a team that’s only won a single game in the past seasons so far, and with a team that feels like it is declining in talent on a week to week basis that is a big deal.
The sad fact of the matter is that the Browns can’t seem to run the football even when Jackson tries, which means the onus of this offense has to come from the quarterback position.
DeShone Kizer can’t get it done. Yet.
Kizer is not the kind of talent that can drag a terrible offense to victories, but to be fair nobody expected him to be. He’s being compared to other rookie quarterbacks, which is understandable but unfair to Kizer. Kizer doesn’t have a DeAndre Hopkins, he doesn’t even have a Will Fuller. Even Trubisky on the Bears has a solid rushing attack that he just has to supplement.
Kizer is being asked to do everything himself, and for a second-round draft pick that people knew was a project, he’s being asked to do too much.
The entire football watched as Kizer was benched for Hogan, who, in Hue Jackson’s defense, was moving the offense better at the time. Browns fans allowed themselves to hope.
Some too much.
The entire football world also watched, when Kevin Hogan played a horrible game as an NFL starter, unsurprising given that last year he was a third-stringer on the worst team in football.
After a tough overtime loss to the Titans, frustrations are mounting in Cleveland. Fans are already crying for the firing of Hue Jackson and Sashi Brown, holding onto the idea that Jackson is the reason Cleveland is struggling.
The bright spot on this team is the defense, and to be fair the new regime has been working to rebuild the defense before the offense.
The thing that Browns fans don’t want to think about is that the plan might be working. They have a solid defense, and while there have been major inconsistencies this year they are starting to come together as a unit and Myles Garrett is everything the Browns could have asked for. Peppers is a freakish athlete but defensive coordinator Gregg Williams still seems to have trouble using him effectively.
Two of the top 5 CBs this season are rookies pic.twitter.com/Xva1nAsJtX
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) October 22, 2017
The Browns cut Joe Haden but added Jason McCourty, who has played like one of the league’s top corners.
They are also 13th in the league in sacks, amassing 15 in only seven games. Last year they ended the season at 30th in the league with only 26 sacks.
Again, this defense is inconsistent but there are bright spots. The frustration mainly stems from the total offensive incompetence.
The worst part about it is that there is nothing to do but wait.
The Browns could fire Sashi. They could fire Hue Jackson. That wouldn’t change much though because it’s clear to anyone who watches the Browns that this team has a dearth of offensive talent.
Duke Johnson is their most electrifying player and even he plays in fits and starts. David Njoku is a talented tight end who seems to be coming into his own, but he hasn’t been given the consistency at quarterback to develop any kind of rapport. Kenny Britt is awful and the rest of this Browns receiving corp is just as bad though less expensive. Even Isaiah Crowell is having an awful year.
Then the football gods saw fit to take Joe Thomas.
Joe Thomas, the one bright spot on the Browns roster for the past decade. Joe Thomas, the charismatic future Hall of Famer. Joe Thomas, the big, bearded, beauty who has loyally blocked for a tragic amount of quarterbacks.
10,363 consecutive offensive plays.
What an incredible streak for Joe Thomas. pic.twitter.com/IVwRN9zcWj
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) October 22, 2017
This offense is not going to get better for a few seasons, no matter who is coaching or calling plays. They need pieces that just aren’t there. They need to draft a first-round quarterback, they need to draft some big playmakers at the receiving position. They could also use a young, three-down runner in the vein of Dalvin Cook or Leonard Fournette, and they have the draft picks to go out and get those guys because that’s always been the plan of Sashi Brown and the Browns front office.
They’re just expecting Browns fans to be patient, and right now that seems like a big thing to keep expecting.