The work Freddie Kitchens did last year with the Browns was remarkable. He was the clear Offensive Coordinator of the Year, in my opinion, even though he was in that post for only half the season.
Cleveland, recall, fired Hue Jackson and Todd Haley halfway through last season. Haley himself is a seasoned, worthy play caller. Or seemed to be. He’s been doing it for a lot of years. Entering last season, I would have listed him as one of the top 10 offensive coordinators in the league.
But the Browns under Jackson and Haley were a disaster. They allowed a league-high 33 sacks in the first half of last season while completing under 56 percent of their passes. That’s about what everyone expected, with them starting a rookie quarterback.
That’s the mess Kitchens inherited, and on short notice he was able to make a few changes and completely turn the offense around. In the second half of the season, Baker Mayfield completed 68 percent of his passes while taking a league-low 5 sacks.
That doesn’t even seem possible.
Kitchens used more spread formations and worked more run-pass option plays into the offense. The Browns also plugged in Greg Robinson at left tackle, benching Desmond Harrison. I’m not sure who came up with that idea. It could have been interim head coach Gregg Williams or some other assistant. But it was brilliant. Robinson flopped in his three years with the Rams and wasn’t any better in 2017, but he nailed down that spot. The Browns re-signed him to a one-year deal worth $7 million in the offseason.
I imagine some opponents will do a better job of countering what Cleveland is doing. Adjustments will need to be made. But this is looking like an up-and-coming offense. I will be surprised if Baker Mayfield isn’t a top-10 quarterback, and he might be more of a top-5 guy.
|SACKS ALLOWED (first 8 games)|
|SACKS ALLOWED (last 8 games)|