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5 Qs with Dawgs By Nature: Is coaching holding the Browns back?

Getting to know the Detroit Lions’ Week 11 enemy.

NFL: Cleveland Browns at New England Patriots Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Here’s hoping there won’t be another tie! The Detroit Lions are back at it this week with another game against an AFC North opponent. This time it’s the Cleveland Browns.

If there’s one team that’s hard to understand right now, it’s the Browns. They’re so hot and cold. Are they good? Are they bad? I can’t figure it out.

So I got in touch with our pals over at Dawgs By Nature and their own Chris Pokorny gave us all the details we could ask for. Here’s what he had to say:

1. The Browns are confusing from the outside. It seemed like they were loading up and primed for a big season after making it back to the playoffs. Instead they’re 5-5 and the only thing I feel like we’ve heard about is the OBJ situation. Are the Browns good?

“They aren’t just confusing from the outside, it’s been hot-and-cold and confusing for Browns fans too. Just when the team played their most complete game of the season (on both offense and defense) against the Bengals in Week 9, both units were terrible in Week 10 against the Patriots. Cleveland was schematically picked apart by Bill Belichick’s team, and it was discouraging to see a lack of adjustments during the game. I think that’s one reason why the Browns are often so hot-and-cold: there’s a lot of talent on this team, and if the opposition comes up with a generic gameplan, our team can thrive and get the momentum going. The teams that did their diligence and really attacked our weaknesses repeatedly (and with good execution) have lit Cleveland up because the team just doesn’t adjust, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. I would say that the Browns can be good, but that the coaching/motivational aspect needs a lot of improvement.”

2. What are their strengths?

“On offense, the strength is the Browns’ highly-paid offensive line and running back tandem. Right now, several of those pieces are missing — right tackle Jack Conklin, and running backs Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb. Chubb has the best chance of returning this week if he comes off the COVID-19 list, but that’s no guarantee. If Cleveland sticks with the running game, then the passing game works by using great playaction fakes from Baker Mayfield to hit nice plays to the receivers. On defense, the strength is the front four, particularly the pass rush generated by Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney. If teams don’t properly include a strategy to block Garrett (i.e. chip blocks, screening at him, etc), then it’ll be tough for them to sustain drives, and that also allows the defensive backs to be a bit more aggressive if they know the ball has to come out earlier than the quarterback had hoped.”

3. What are their weaknesses?

“Right now, the passing game has been a bit of a weakness. I still have faith in Baker Mayfield, but he’s dealing with three injuries right now (left shoulder, foot, and knee/leg). All of those things add up, especially when trying to throw the ball while trailing in a game. The receivers have been a bit banged up too, and it seems to have made it much more difficult for them to get open downfield or the timing routes to work out as one would hope. On defense, Cleveland was exposed last week in a variety of ways, including the Patriots constantly throwing screen passes to the running backs and running end arounds. The linebacker group in general is average on their best day, so finding a way to attack that group often benefits the other team.”

4. Did they ever empty out that beer cooler for the Browns first win? Is there any left in there?

“I’m sure it was emptied immediately, lol. It’s been a much better past couple of seasons, including making the playoffs in 2020. This year has been quite frustrating, knowing the team has left themselves very little margin for error. It really will all come down to a two-game stretch after the Lions game, because Cleveland plays Baltimore, then has a bye, and then plays Baltimore again. If the Browns split the series, they’ll still be in the mix within the division. If they win both, we’re back on track. If they lose both, God help us. Of course, we can’t look past the Lions, who have come crazy field goals/weather conditions away from beating two AFC North teams already.”

5. Who’s winning this thing?

“I have to go with the Browns. It doesn’t feel good making predictions for wins lately, especially coming off of a 38-point loss, having a banged up quarterback, and questions at the running back position. But I have to go with the odds that Detroit has yet to win a game in nine attempts.”