Not a lot has gone the way Cleveland Browns fans or pundits expected so far in the 2021 NFL season.
Sure, there were some who warned of sophomore slumps and a tougher schedule to deal with.
But for the most part, the team is 2-3 wins shy of where they expected to be heading into December.
#Browns Andrew Berry said the team being 6-6 "doesn't reflect the aspirations we had" but that the staff is hard at work through the bye to adjust heading into the last five games.
— Camryn Justice (@camijustice) December 1, 2021
Naturally, head coach Kevin Stefanski is under some scrutiny for the subpar results.
And he provided plenty of ammunition with questionable playcalling and other decisions that warrant criticism.
But Stefanski, as well as his defensive coordinator, Joe Woods, can only call the plays and coach their charges up.
Kevin Stefanski was the NFL’s Coach of the Year last year. And deservedly-so. He was wonderful…There are always growing pains in year-two, players and coaches alike. But the offensive regression and total lack of discipline is STAGGERING in week 12. #Browns
— Jon Doss (@JonDoss) November 29, 2021
And plays can look downright silly if not executed properly by the players.
Here are 3 Browns players whose stock is down in the bye week.
1. Baker Mayfield
Baker Mayfield rode emotions to a brilliant debut and led a playoff-worthy offense in 2020.
But he slumped through his second season and sits at just 6-6 with less-than-stellar stats and rankings.
Maybe Mayfield is an every-other-season quarterback, but there are signs and signals that this is the best the Browns can expect.
Mayfield’s performance ratings fall off dramatically under pressure, especially in the 4th quarter or down by a score.
#Browns QB Baker Mayfield on whether this can still be a playoff team at 6-6: "I think so. It's going to be a true one-week-at-a-time mentality for us. We need to control what we can."
— 92.3 The Fan (@923TheFan) November 29, 2021
Despite his experience, he is still a below-average pocket passer with unimpressive field vision.
Andrew Berry offered some tepid responses about Mayfield’s future in a Browns’ presser this week.
There was no indication he is willing to shrug off Mayfield’s subpar performance to injuries or play-calling.
And that might derail Mayfield’s bid to earn a bigger contract extension before next season.
2. Rashard Higgins
Rashard Higgins had a disproportional amount of big moments last season.
Perhaps that is why many fans believe his 37 catches in 2020 made him an above-average receiver.
Or at least the receiver who could help Mayfield out of his own slump.
But Higgins goes into the bye week with just 17 catches on 35 targets.
Rashard Higgins was not on the Friday injury report. The #Browns are thin at wide receiver. Higgins has been under-used by every coach, which makes me think the coaches aren’t the problem.
— Jeff Schudel (@jsproinsider) November 29, 2021
And that certainly played a role in making him a healthy scratch against the Ravens in Week 12.
Stefanski said a lack of contribution to special teams was why JoJo Natson and JaMarcus Bradley bumped Higgins.
There was outside speculation about Higgins’ role in the OBJ drama and lack of participation in recent team activities.
But whatever the reason, Higgins is simply not a contributor at a position starved for one.
3. Jedrick Wills
Injuries forced Blake Hance to learn a new position on the fly, leaving the Browns vulnerable at right tackle
But why is left tackle just as weak now that Jedrick Wills’ ankle is supposedly a non-issue?
Wills plays between a great guard and some of the best blocking tight ends in the league.
He is coached by one of the all-time greatest in Bill Callahan in an offense designed to protect the passer.
Example of why I don’t trust PFF.
They have Jedrick Wills as not giving up a sack last week yet this was credited to Bud Dupree. *Rookie OT Report our this afternoon, Wills was good* pic.twitter.com/SfY3lJykB0
— Bobby Skinner (@BobbySkinner_) October 22, 2020
And Wills seems to be regressing, having one of his worst games against the Ravens before the bye.
Four sacks allowed and a bunch of pressures tell a story, but perception can be harder to defend than statistics.
And there are too many times Wills is spotted on TV watching his defender chase down Mayfield or a ball carrier.
Maybe depth isn’t the only reason some are mocking offensive linemen to Cleveland in the 2022 NFL Draft.