The Browns are a bad football team, but they’re not as bad as they’ve been the previous two seasons, where they finished an abysmal 4-28 over that time span. They just aren’t good enough to hang with the top teams in the NFL. But when you start a rookie quarterback, coupled with the youngest team in football, growing pains are going to happen often, and a lot of good has come out of the first two weeks of the season.
I want to begin with DeShone Kizer’s toughness, poise, and ability to extend plays and move the football downfield. Sure, Kizer had an ugly performance both before leaving, and after returning to the game, while battling a migraine, but he never looked rattled. Kizer was on the run often, as he still likes to take his time to go through his reads, but he never lost his poise. In fact, even when down 24-10 in the fourth quarter, he directed a beautiful drive. Unfortunately, the drive ended in an interception. Kizer made the right decision, he just threw a bad pass. Yet I was impressed, as no one from last season’s quarterback committee came back after their injuries (or misfortunes) in any game, at any time. Kizer already set himself apart from his predecessors, because he came back into the game after battling a migraine, but again showed flashes of brilliance.
The defense neither looked as fast nor was as aggressive, but some of that may have to do with the fact Baltimore used a committee of running backs not even signed with the team two weeks ago. Sure, these backs may be less talented, and they made their fair share of mistakes, but when you watch game film, preparing all week for the two top backs before they’re ruled out with injuries, you’re now playing against a style you weren’t preparing for. Nevertheless, the Browns contained the Ravens as often as the Ravens broke out for big gains, and though the defense was inconsistent, this time last season, they would’ve been run over all game long. It was good to see them force a turnover in the fourth quarter, and they played well enough to never let the game get entirely out of reach. This tells me one thing: the defense has improved, and this is without top pick, Myles Garrett.
Injuries are unavoidable, but the Browns seem to be charged double year after year. Both Jamie Collins and Corey Coleman went down, and while Collins will be back once he clears concussion protocol, Coleman will miss extended time for the same exact injury he sustained last season. The good news? Rashard Higgins may have had his coming out party, hauling in seven receptions for 95 yards. Higgins may have even caught a touchdown pass, but Kizer threw the ball a second too late and the ball sailed behind him into the hands of a Ravens defender. Still, Higgins may be a gem.
Ricardo Louis has four receptions in two games, meaning he’s on pace to double his reception total from last season. His role will be extended in the absence of Coleman. Louis has shown toughness on the field in the past two games, and he’s been relatively consistent. What really impresses me are the play of the tight-ends, and Seth DeValve may be the best of the bunch. He’s on pace for fifty receptions this season, and that’s a respectable number as the Browns appear to be using a tight-end committee these days. Both David Njoku and Randall Telfer have also contributed early on. Telfer is more of a blocker, but can catch if called upon. Njoku is making his rookie mistakes, but seems to make big plays when needed, as seen yesterday afternoon when he caught his first touchdown pass from Kevin Hogan.
In conclusion, the Browns would’ve lost this game 35-10, or worse this time last season. The fact the game was only 24-10 speaks wonders, as the defense never let the game get out of hand, and the offense moved the ball, only to make two costly mistakes in the red zone. Still, the Browns kept me watching until the final second for two weeks in a row. And when these games come against Pittsburgh and Baltimore, you’re on to something.