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Notes from Hue Jackson and Browns players in aftermath of Week 1

The status of WR Kenny Britt’s job, the issue that led to the blocked punt, QB DeShone Kizer’s first game, and more.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Cleveland Browns Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

Here is a reader’s digest of what players and head coach Hue Jackson were saying following the Browns’ 21-18 Week 1 loss to the Steelers.

Plenty of Questions About Kenny Britt

Some people are questioning whether WR Kenny Britt will lose his starting job over a lackluster preseason and then a key drop from Week 1. Jackson said that even great receivers drop passes, but that “we can’t do that to a young quarterback — he needs guys to make as many plays as possible to help him out.”

Jackson also said the drop was “inexcusable.” When a reporter asked what Britt has done to remain a starter, Jackson said, “You are saying that he is starting this week. We don’t know that. Let’s see where we are this week and go from there.”

For Week 1, the Browns primarily used Corey Coleman (79% of snaps), Britt (79%), and Duke Johnson (76%) as receivers. That was followed by Ricardo Louis (24%) and Kasen Williams (18%). Despite Britt’s contract, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if someone like Louis or Williams ate in to more of Britt’s playing time at some point. He’ll still be a contributing receiver, but just like Jackson knew QB Brock Osweiler didn’t have “it” after two preseason starts, one has to wonder if he has the same mentality building about Britt.

Duke Johnson’s Utilization

Based on the fact that he saw zero snaps at running back against Pittsburgh, a reporter asked if it’s safe to classify him as a wide receiver now. Jackson shot the notion down, referring to it as a week-to-week classification.

“No, that was yesterday. That was that plan for that game, and it will change as we go. Duke is a very valuable member of our offensive football team in both phases – in the pass game and the run game.”

End of the Game Strategy

One could argue that Jackson made three up-for-debate decisions in the closing moments of the game.

First, down 21-10, Jackson opted to go for it on fourth down near the goal line instead of kicking a field goal. It’s great that it worked out, but you just know that he would’ve faced heavy ridicule has QB DeShone Kizer not been able to connect with WR Corey Coleman. Regarding the decision to go for it, Jackson said he didn’t even consider going for the field goal. “We needed points. It wasn’t about getting within eight. I felt very comfortable if we made it. We were going to do something good with the ball.”

Second, what about going for an onside kick after the touchdown? Cleveland had a 15-yard penalty enforced on the Steelers already, so even a failed onside kick wouldn’t have hurt Cleveland’s field position like it normally might. Jackson said they actually tried to see if they could do the long onside bloop kick, but it just didn’t get hit as well as they would’ve liked.

Lastly, Jackson explained his decisions that cost the team two timeouts on WR Antonio Brown’s catch on their final drive. The full quote is below:

“I had made a decision because of where the clock was so I made a decision we are going to call timeout right after the play. I already told the official and so I walked away, and then all of the sudden the play happened and then all of the sudden the timeout has already happened and he called it so I am like, ‘Oh gosh’ because I know if I throw the challenge flag – there was a decision to be made – if I throw the flag, then all of the sudden I am going to be out of timeouts entirely because if you lose the challenge, you are done. I felt we had a really good chance to win the challenge. I thought the ball came out. I still think the tip of the ball came out and hit the ground and I did not think he had control all the way to the ground. Obviously, the officials did [think Brown had control], and I lost that one. That happens. Unfortunate, but that is what happened.”

The Blocked Punt

Jackson applauded his team’s mentality to re-group and come back after the quick blocked punt, and he said because it happened so early, it gave them plenty of time to make up for it. As for the fixing the mistake, he said it boils down to communication.

I thought it was RB Matthew Dayesfault, but this comment from Jackson makes it sound like it was someone more experienced at fault: “We can’t make those kind of mistakes. The guy who did it, I am sure he will get that corrected. That is not what he has done thus far in his career.”

Could that someone be LS Charley Hughlett? On Monday, Dayes was asked about the blocked punt:

“It was just a miscommunication by me and the long snapper. We looked over it, and we will fix it. We know what to do from here on.”

Beyond that, Dayes would not elaborate on who specifically made the mistake between he and Hughlett. He said it was rough mentally to have it happen, but he re-grouped and didn’t think about it the rest of the game (sorry, that’s player-speak; no one can just ‘move on’ from that in your first pro game).

The Run Blocking Will Come Around

Speaking about the struggles in run blocking, Jackson expressed confidence that it’ll come around fairly quickly. He explained some of the early struggles to a lot of new pieces who haven’t played much together — LT Joe Thomas was off most of camp, LG Joel Bitonio just returned from injury, C J.C. Tretter and RG Kevin Zeitler are in their first years with the Browns, and RT Shon Coleman is starting for the first time.

“[The run struggles] is a combination of both [us and the Steelers’ defense]. I think a little bit was what they were doing. I think sometimes it was what we were doing and I think we just have to be a little bit more determined to do it. I think as the game went on, we had to make some other plays. In this league – I think we all get it – to score, you have to be able throw the ball. We can say what we want. I want to run the ball as bad as anybody, I think you guys saw that in the first half, but also, I have to put our players in position to win and I think what we have to do is we have to go back.

We took a unit yesterday that played together for the first time. All five guys playing together. That was (OL) Joel Bitonio’s coming out party – he finally played a whole game – next to (OL) Joe Thomas, who finally played a whole game and then a center (JC Tretter) who is new and a right guard (Kevin Zeitler) who is new and a right tackle (Shon Coleman) who is new. I know everybody wants to jump on the running game right quickly, but that is kind of the nuts and bolts of who we are and that might take a little time, but I suspect that it is going to turn the corner here real quickly. We just have to stay after it.”

Boddy-Calhoun at Safety

While all the talk was about Jabrill Peppers possibly playing multiple roles in this defense, it actually turned out to be CB Briean Boddy-Calhoun who filled that role, as he played some safety as well. Jackson praised his phsyicality, and the tackling of the defense in general.

“He did a good job. I watched our defense tackle. I watched them do something yesterday that I haven’t seen here since I have been here, just the violence of tackling in the hole. One time, he made a sensational tackle and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh.’ He filled the hole the way a safety is supposed to fill a hole, and that is exciting because I think our guys over there are playing lights out. I think they are getting better, I think they are working at it and it is a tough game and those guys are raising the level over there. We have to keep doing that. We have to do that throughout our team, and I think that is where we are headed.”

Myles Garrett Update

Other than “trying to be back as soon as possible,” no firm timetable was provided by DE Myles Garrett when interviewed by the media. As a spectator, though, he discussed what he learned watching the rest of the defense:

“I really learned that we can stop the run. We can go out there and stand firm against anybody. We have to get after the passer a little bit more, and we have to get some more sacks and a little bit more disruption and pressure back there. I feel like I can help.”

As for what he’s doing while injured, and whether he’s able to stay in shape, here’s what he said about that:

“I am definitely in here rehabbing most of the day. If I am not doing that, then I am trying to get some upper-body or a little bit of conditioning, just whatever I can to keep my body in shape. When I am not doing that, watching film on the next opponent, trying to get my guys ready because if I can’t play, I have to make sure they have full knowledge of who they are going up against.”

“What can I do on it [with respect to staying in shape]? We are not standing up on it. They are just making sure that everything upper-body I can get done, but if I don’t put any pressure on it, just making sure I am working my other muscles.”

Kizer Improving His Internal Clock

On Monday, QB DeShone Kizer agreed with what everyone else was saying after watching the film: his internal clock needs to get a little faster. How long will it take for that change to be in place?

“Hopefully, this week. It needs to happen fast. Obviously, in this last game, that changes the game. Those sacks are moving us out of field goal range. Those sacks are moving us to third-and-extra-long. It is my job to make sure that we at least throw the ball away and keep the ball where it is. ...

When you have the ability to run with your legs and extend plays, you never feel as if you ever should be sacked. Right now, I am trying to do my best to continue to get that feel that you need in the pocket to understand when it is time to go down and when it is time to escape the pocket and throw it away or to find someone who is in an underneath spot where I can drop the ball off or at least throw it at his feet so I am not taking sacks.”

Many people have debated about the play to WR Kasen Williams and whether he should’ve stayed in bounds. Kizer discussed that play, and other ones he might like to have back:

“Yeah, I put the ball 2 yards inside and [Kasen] walks into the end zone. Obviously, he tracked the ball the way he was supposed to, and it ended up in his hands and caught the ball. That is his job. It is my job to make sure that the ball is in bounds for him so that when he does track it, it leads him into the end zone, not out of bounds. ...

There were quite a few [I’d like to have back]. There was a basic right across the middle to Corey that if he catches and it is up in his face, he is going to come out of the backside with speed and play well with that. There are a lot of things on the precision side of things that can adjust a play. A ball that turns (TE) David Njoku around that doesn’t have him running full speed or a ball that is a screen where I want to make sure that the ball is in his face, every time you throw the ball, you want to make sure it is exactly where it needs to be.”