Browns notes: Offensive changes more perception than reality

Denzel Ward’s hip injury improving just in time to face Julio Jones

Daryl Ruiter
November 08, 2018 - 5:17 pm

© Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

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Berea, OH (92.3 The Fan) – Although it might have looked last week against the Chiefs that new offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens made significant changes to the Browns offense, that was not the case.

“Yeah, I eventually want to get to the wishbone,” Kitchens joked Thursday when asked about changes he’d like to implement. “Seriously, someone asked me the other day what had changed in [the offense]. I am being very serious when I say this, nothing has changed as far as what we call things.

“I could give five people in here the same gamelan, and you are going to call different plays at different times for different situations. That is the only thing that changes.”

Quarterback Baker Mayfield rolled the pocket on a few occasions, Duke Johnson touched the ball 10 times – nearly double his season per game average – and the Browns scored three touchdowns in a game for the fourth time this season.

“I think Baker could be a really good pocket passer, but if you do different things with different things with different personnel to suit them – it may not be for Baker per se but it may be for a receiver or it may be for our offensive line – you are doing everything for a reason,” Kitchens said. “Anytime that you can move the quarterback from one particular spot… If you go to the gun range and you are firing a shot, you are a lot better shot – I do not know if you are but I am – if the target stays still. That is the same thing for a defense. If you know where the quarterback is going to be, you know how to get there and you know the most direct way to get there.

“If you move him around, maybe you change that up and at least give them something to think about.”

It was widely assumed that the former running backs coach would lean on Johnson, and to a degree Kitchens did. Johnson caught all nine of his targets for 78 yards and two touchdowns – season highs in catches and yards for him which was partially a coincidence.

“We have certain playmakers we definitely want to get the ball to, and we try to devise opportunities for them to get the ball,” Kitchens said. “Some of Duke’s last week were designed plays, and some of them were Baker just doing a good job of finding his check downs.”

Ward wounded but ready – It appears that cornerback Denzel Ward will be available this week against the Falcons, and boy do the Browns need him after placing E.J. Gaines on injured reserve this week and with Julio Jones coming to town.

“He is a bigger receiver, so we just have to find a way to eliminate the big plays out there,” Ward said. “It’s the NFL. Players are going to make plays. Julio’s going to make his plays. It’s just about limiting those big plays.

“I personally haven’t played him, so I look forward to it this week.”

Jones is a terror to cover and currently leads the Falcons with 60 catches for 933 yards, but he has scored just one touchdown this season. 

Ward was limited Thursday after sitting out Wednesday’s practice after the hip flexor injury he suffered during the preseason against Philadelphia flared up in the first quarter of last week’s loss to the Chiefs.

“I am getting better,” Ward said. “I had monitored reps today. It felt good to be back out there. I am getting better, though. I should be good.”

Left tackle tossup – It remains unclear who will start at left tackle Sunday with Desmond Harrison back from an illness that kept him out last week against Kansas City.

Williams liked the way Greg Robinson played in his place, which means he has a decision to make this week.

“Des’ health, we are not just trying to throw him back into the fire right off of the bat,” Williams said. “They are getting good reps. Everything has been good. We will make that decision at the end of the week, but it looks good.”

Crash course – With injuries piling up in the secondary, the Browns added three defensive backs this week to the roster, but can they be ready to play Sunday if called upon?

Williams is doing all he can to make it happen by getting them up to speed on his defensive scheme.

“We started at 6:30 a.m. way before all of the meetings, and they will be here real late at night,” Williams said. “It will be their ability to comprehend and their ability to understand. The game is the same. A lot of the times the verbiage is different. We just call it different. A couple of those guys have come from guys that I have coached their coaches, and a couple of those guys’ coaches have been on my staff before. There is a little bit of a bond there.”

Injury report – Did not practice: C JC Tretter (ankle)

Limited: LT Desmond Harrison (illness), S Damarious Randall (groin), LB Joe Schobert (hamstring), TE David Njoku (knee, ribs), S Damarious Randall (groin), WR Da’Mari Scott (shoulder), CB Tavierre Thomas (abdomen), CB Denzel Ward (hip), LB Jamie Collins (ankle)

Full:  RT Chris Hubbard (toe), WR Jarvis Landry (wrist), OL Austin Corbett (foot), WR Antonio Callaway (ankle)