DawgTalk: Browns/Patriots, Freddie Kitchens and the Winds of Change

Cleveland — The Cleveland Browns fell to the New England Patriots 27-13 yesterday on a very soggy field in Foxboro. The Browns found themselves trailing 17-0 only 13 minutes into the game. While they put up a fight despite the turnovers and trailing early, they could not overcome the mistakes that were made early on. The turnovers and penalties continue to be a problem for the Browns this season.

Anthony Joki: Alright Jack, coming off the bye week, the Browns found new ways to shoot themselves in the foot and turned the ball over three times in three consecutive plays. To me, there is no blame to put out on the two fumbles. One was caused by Joel Bitonio’s foot and the other was a fantastic play by Jonathan Jones.

But the shovel pass turned into an interception was just a terrible play call that was a disaster from the start of the snap. Turnovers are part of the game, but at some point it falls on the coaching staff and players to execute plays properly to avoid these mistakes.

The same goes for the penalties. Yes, there were questionable calls. But in today’s NFL, they happen in every single game and you cannot dwell on them. Some are mental mistakes. Such as running a Run-Pass Option play and having an ineligible lineman downfield because the QB held onto the ball too long.

Jack McCurry: The penalties and turnovers seem to be some of the few things that are consistent with this football team through seven games. If you take away those turnovers yesterday, the Browns are probably hanging with the Patriots till the end of the game. 

These turnovers happen though and the team can’t recover from it and that’s where an experienced head coach likely would’ve been able to rally the troops. Then the penalties are getting old really fast. It seemed like that were improving in that aspect but then they took a step backward on Sunday with 13 penalties. This team has 70 penalties through seven games including 31 combined between the Tennessee and New England games. 

It’s not only on the coaching staff but the players at some point need to hold themselves accountable and be more disciplined about their job. I know there’s been changes on the offensive line but this is what practices are for, to get the snap counts and chemistry down. Just makes me wonder what is going on behind the scenes in Berea. 

Anthony, do you think Freddie Kitchens is starting to feel the heat and is it fully warranted or should the players get equal blame?

AJ: Fair or not, the heat has been on Freddie since before the season even started. With all of the expectations surrounding this team with the moves they made in the offseason, any sort of string of losses would result in the possibility of the Browns moving on from Kitchens.

Bringing in a former head coach as defensive coordinator for the Browns helps Freddie out but if Dorsey wants to make a change, it’s clear who would take over if a change was made in season.

Now to answer the second half of the question, the blame should be equal throughout the entire organization: the front office, the coaches and the players. The Browns went into the off-season knowing the offensive line was questionable despite the fact that Greg Robinson and Chris Hubbard played well after Kitchens took over last season.

The mental mistakes that are happening are a result of coaching and the players not being prepared enough and not paying attention to detail. There is more than enough blame to go around and it should be equally shared by everyone involved.

JM: I agree that the heat has been on Kitchens since the season started but we also expected the first half of the season was going to be tough. Now there’s the perception that the second half is going to get easier for the Browns and they might be able to make a run much like they did last season. 

I’m looking at this schedule and the next three games are all must win games and we have Denver and Buffalo up next and those will not be cake walks and the way the Browns are playing right now, I don’t know if I’m confident that they will win because if they don’t clean up the mental mistakes, they’re going to dig themselves into a hole that they can’t get out of. 

If they continue to not show any progress, then obviously they will make a coaching change at the end of the season. I don’t want to have that full on discussion just yet because I still think it’s too early but with each loss, the talk will continue to get bigger and bigger. 

Anthony, the trade deadline is Tuesday at 4 PM. Do you think the Browns make a trade despite their 2-5 record?

AJ: There is a sense that there is something coming in terms of a trade. Whether that is players going out, players going, or both, we will find out. It makes sense to me that both can happen.

When you have players in contract years that are not performing the way you expect them to, Rashard Higgins and Damarious Randall, it makes sense to see if you can get some kind of value for them before they hit the free agent market.

We all thought that Higgins would be a crucial part of this offense but with the injuries he has had, that has not happened this season. It is almost to the point to where you could re-sign him for less than what his expected market value would be if he was healthy all year and playing. 

Randall is a tricky situation in terms of compensation. If they can get a pick that would be similar to the compensation pick the Browns could get if he left in free agency, then they should take the sure thing.

JM: I’m expecting multiple trades by the Browns before the deadline. A lot of people including myself were taken aback by Greg Robinson telling reporters Friday when he said he talked to Dorsey about being replaced at left tackle. I think the quote was misconstrued and the exchange between Robinson and Dorsey was more likely about Robinson’s status with the team moving forward. 

I would expect we make a move on the offensive line whether it’s Washington finally budging on Trent Wiliams or one of the other available linemen on the market. I still feel like there’s a name out there that no one is talking about and Dorsey drops an acquisition on us out of nowhere. 

The Higgins and Randall situations are so odd to me as is the Genard Avery one. All three guys seemed to be part of the future at some point during the last season and a half and now all three could be off the roster between now and free agency this coming offseason. I wouldn’t be shocked if all three are being discussed in potential trade talks right now because if they aren’t part of the future plans, may as well use them for players that can be part of the foundation moving forward. 

Also keep an eye on the cornerback depth, TJ Carrie and Terrance Mitchell have been brought up in reports and both played a combined seven snaps on Sunday. Teams across the league need help in the secondary and if we can get something in return despite Ward and Williams coming off injuries, I’m sure Dorsey isn’t afraid to pull the trigger on a deal that can help the Browns. 

AJ: It is very clear that we are getting close to the annual tradition of change regarding the Browns. What that change is, we will find out, but something has to in order to achieve the potential we believe this team can reach.

The winds of change are blowing, hopefully the Browns can weather the storm.

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