After a long, long wait the Browns look like they have finally found their stride. Coming into the 2018 season Cleveland fans were ecstatic for what was just a preview of years to come but it wasn’t all rose pedals and daisy’s from the jump. The first two games the browns found themselves in quite a doosie, tying the first game against the Steelers after missing the winning field goal in overtime and then losing to the Saints just the week after on another missed field goal which would’ve put the game into OT. Even though those first two games looked promising the offense still wasn’t playing to their potential.
Tyrod Taylor had a good game against the Saints but other than that he was not very good. I get the whole not wanting to throw your young quarterback into the fire but Baker was a first overall pick battling for a job that should’ve been his to begin with so I think not being named the starter in the first place kind of ignited the fire. I’m not saying just because Baker was picked first overall he should’ve started but there’s nothing Taylor can do that Baker cant. These may not be issues that we can see but they’re issues we can understand. Just going back to training camp you see baker talk about how the browns (coaching) think that Taylor gives them a better chance to win, he was very humble about it and says how he believes in what they think is right. But here’s the thing, Baker isn’t just going to speak his mind to the media and let everybody use that to his disadvantage. He was simply told about not being named the starter heading into week 1, sat back and said “okay don’t believe in me, see what happens”. Obviously he couldn’t talk about it then but Baker THRIVES off shit like this and when you tell guys like him that they basically don’t trust you, it’s not only going to push them more but it also means your now on the list. And if you don’t think that’s true then just go look at how Baker has handled this situation since Hue was fired, he’ll never let him live it down. We all know what happened next, Baker came and saved the day against the Jets in incredibly high fashion. It’s almost like he was drafted for that reason but someone else had other plans in mind. So it definitely goes to show that this team was capable of winning games consistently but if some of your players don’t believe in your coaching ability then you got some work to do before you can produce properly.
It would only be a few weeks after when the Browns would fire Todd Haley and Hue Jackson, letting the real men of the hour take over and turn this team in the right direction. Once Kitchens and Williams took over it was nothing but smooth sailing from there. This was a huge turning point for the franchise because I think these players look at these coaches with a lot of trust and loyalty, something this Browns team seemed to lack in the first half of the season. Not only was the coaching superb but Kitchens and Williams used these players abilities correctly in order to win games. I know that sounds silly but take Callaway for example, he was someone on that offense that began to struggle early on but still showed great upside with his speed and ability to break free. But instead of being patient with the young deep threat and trying to work things into the playbook that brings the best out of his game hue simply said were going to dial back the target share. Yea he had issues dropping the ball so what, he’s young and still has plenty to work on but like Baker, I don’t think Hue trusted him yet. It wasn’t so much of the fact that Hue decided to take away some targets but the reason I thought this was so foolish was because he pretty much took him out of the game plan all together. If your going to diminish his targets then at least use the small amount he’s getting in your favor, the guy has insane speed and one or two catches from him might set you up big. Callaway was still catching around 4 balls a game with Kitchens and Williams running the show but the only difference was his production began to go grow. Take a look
Callaway under Hue and Haley
Callaway under Williams and Kitchens
Keep a look out next year, he may be in line for a breakout year.
The bottom line is that the Browns finally look like they have come together as a team since the new coaching staff was appointed, not to mention that Callaway wasn’t the only one who saw his production go up. Baker also seemed to seize the opportunity with their new coaches as Baker went on to be terrific for the rest of the year throwing for 2,254 yards and 19 TD’s while he just threw for 1,471 yards and 8 TD’s prior to that. It’s not like Baker couldn’t have done that with Hue as his HC but like I said Hue didn’t let them play their game. We got to see some very interesting play calls you wouldn’t expect this team to run but Kitchens knew how to use all their skills in different ways. I mean Landry was great at the beginning of the year thanks to the 13 targets a game he was getting but that was one of the issues too, not spreading the ball around enough. He was one of the few people who saw a downsize in production since Hue left but it was for the better of the team. They sure as hell won a lot more games since not relying on him so much I can tell you that. Now he did seem to pick back up towards the end of the year but the whole spreading the ball around isn’t the point I’m trying to make here. When I say Kitchens used all their skills I mean he took Landry, knowing he use to play quarterback back in the day and used that to his advantage. This is the type of trust players want to see in their coaches because it’s not like this only happened once, they tried it a couple of times but even if the results weren’t there every time, it doesn’t mean the trust wasn’t. You think Hue would’ve ever called something like this?! Absolutely not, the guy didn’t even have trust in his own quarterback throwing the ball never mind one of his receivers. Id expect big things from Baker in his next year with the team, after having a full season under his belt and spending more time with his pass catchers I can only hope we see winning browns in 2019.
Well as I was about to tell you about how Nick Chubb made a name for himself but it looks like the Browns have just signed free agent Kareem Hunt. This just blew me away I mean I was literally just going to tell you how well this backfield is starting to shape up but I guess that’s not going to happen now. Okay so to be completely honest I don’t know what they’re plan is here because they could do a number of things. They can trade Chubb, they can trade Hunt, or they could just keep them both. This is still very early so its tough to really say what they’re going to do since Hunt is still going to be suspended for at least six games so lets not jump to any conclusions yet. This came to be a surprise to many people including me but Dorsey does have history with Hunt, he drafted him back in KC.
I think there’s a few ways this plays out because I don’t think you can just throw in the towel on Chubb so quickly. Looking at it on paper without Hunt in the picture this backfield had exactly what they needed, a pass catching back and a ground and pound worker. After we got to see Chubb in his natural habitat by getting those 20 carries a game it wasn’t very hard to tell that he’s going to be a problem in this league, especially with the O-line he was given. I for one don’t want to see Chubb go so soon, he’s a great back and was a huge part of their success last year but if anything this is just going to give him more of a reason to be better next year. Chubb will still be the feature back until Hunt is able to return but with Hunts ability to catch and run the ball it does give him the edge. Were talking about a guy who led the league in rushing yards, racked up a total of 1700 scrimmage yards, and finished with 11 TDs in his rookie season. When Hunt does come back I could see them still using Chubb but its going to depend on the situation, Chubb still has all the more rights to his carries too so he’s not just going to disappear. I do see Hunt being used a bit more though just because of the fact that he’s more adapt to catching passes out of the backfield than Chubb is.
Chubb will still get his fair share I believe but if there’s one person whose going to be affected poorly by this its Duke Johnson. Johnson already found himself being swept under the bed last year when Chubb became more of a factor so this is not good news for him. I can see them still using him obviously for those games that hunt is suspended but I just don’t see any room for him after that. Johnson is a solid guy to have in your backfield but he doesn’t bring you much success on the ground. When you look at Chubb you see a more traditional running back which is why Johnson is used how he is. But when you have Hunt who can really do both of those things at a high level, then there’s really no need for him in this picture. Browns decided to start this offseason with a bang, lets see if they keep it rolling.
Photo: Isaiah J. Downing, USA TODAY Sports