The Cleveland Browns kicked off the Kevin Stefanski era with a 38-6 loss to the division-rival Baltimore Ravens. It was an ugly game for the Browns from start to finish, while the Ravens looked like a slick and even more effective machine. Let’s take a look at the key takeaways from the Browns Week 1 clash with the Ravens, but beware, few of them are positive.[sv slug=”mocksim”]
Cleveland Browns Week 1 Takeaways
The coaching improved, but not nearly enough
Coaching is why the Browns failed to meet expectations last season, and while it was better on Sunday, the staff’s performance left much to be desired. There were multiple delay of game penalties and a very risky fake punt that did not pay off. In one second-quarter sequence, the Browns were driving but committed a number of penalties, beginning with a facemask on Odell Beckham. Instead of cutting their losses and acknowledging defeat in playing for a field goal attempt, the Browns continued to move backward and ended up punting.
Ultimately, it’s up to the players to execute, and they failed to do that. Stefanski was also unable to fully commit to his running game as Cleveland fell behind early. Defensive coordinator Joe Woods couldn’t play his intended scheme due to a rash of injuries in the secondary. There were legitimate issues, but it’s one game for a rookie head coach who was placed at a massive disadvantage by the current global situation, not to mention it was against a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
Fans should not turn on Stefanski just yet. The goal is to see consistent week-to-week improvement. However, facing a short turnaround before Thursday Night Football against the Cincinnati Bengals, the Browns will have to quickly learn from their mistakes in Week 1.
The offense sputtered out of the gate in Week 1
The coaching staff did what they could to put their players in a position to succeed, but the offense failed to execute for the most part. David Njoku, Jarvis Landry, and the offensive line (just two sacks allowed against the league’s most blitz-happy defense) get passing grades for the day. Aside from that, there are issues. Beckham was targeted 10 times but caught only three passes for 22 yards, including dropping a crucial third-down pass that would have moved the chains.
Baker Mayfield struggled with reads and indecisiveness, going 21 of 39 for 189 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. That interception came on a pass that was initially batted by Calais Campbell, who had dropped into coverage before Mayfield saw him. Even on some play-action passes, which Mayfield has excelled on through his first two seasons, he patted the ball and didn’t make the throw. The all-22 film may reveal that no one came open, as was often the case last year, but that’s the kind of thing that was supposed to be fixed.
There were some excellent drives, but only one was completed. Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb looked good, outside of Chubb’s fumble. There were signs of life from the offense, but the unit lacked any sort of consistency.
Injuries piling up for the Browns
The Grant Delpit injury was already devastating, but missing Greedy Williams, Kevin Johnson, and M.J. Stewart (who was active but didn’t play) meant backups like Tavierre Thomas had to play significant snaps, and the results weren’t great. To make matters worse, linebacker Jacob Phillips, left tackle Jedrick Wills Jr., right tackle Jack Conklin, and Njoku all suffered injuries, the extents of which are currently unknown. Depth was already a massive issue for the Browns, and Sunday’s injuries have made that much worse. New addition Ronnie Harrison barely played, as he hasn’t had enough time to get up to speed.
A weak linebacker unit was exposed
As expected, the Cleveland linebackers struggled, both to contain Lamar Jackson and to cover Mark Andrews. The third-year tight end hauled in five passes for 58 yards and two touchdowns. Phillips and Sione Takitaki had some pleasant moments, but veterans B.J. Goodson and Malcolm Smith did not. The Browns had better hope Mack Wilson can return sooner than later, and once that happens, Phillips should be starting at MIKE with Wilson at WILL.
The Browns Week 1 Headlines
Getting boat raced in the season-opener is not a great way to start a coaching tenure. Ultimately it was yet another disappointing way to open and season, immediately squashing the early optimism which may have been felt around the team. However, while Week 1 was rough, it was not all a disaster. Here are the all-important key takeaways from the Browns Week 1 matchup against the Ravens.
Don’t write off a new coach after one game.
The offense was out of sync, and that’s not surprising.
The defense just wasn’t healthy enough to compete with a terrific offense.
The offensive line should be more than fine.
This team needs to get out to an early lead to function properly.
Week 2 should go much better, but if it doesn’t, there may be a serious problem.
Browns’ fans have been told countless times to give a coach some time, and it has yet to work. Still, you can’t judge a team based on one game, especially in this unprecedented situation. If we’re still dealing with these problems five or six games in, then that’s a different story. The brain trust of Andrew Berry, Paul DePodesta, and Dee Haslam believes in Stefanski. It’s up to him to reward that faith.