Last Monday, the Cleveland Browns looked completely lost, losing 31-3 against the San Francisco 49ers.
After his impressive 165-yard, 3-touchdown performance against the Baltimore Ravens, Freddie Kitchens limited Nick Chubb to only 16 carries.
He found success, rushing for 87 yards (5.4 YPC).
A majority of the Browns’ struggles came in the passing attack, as Baker Mayfield completed 8-of-22 pass attempts for 100 yards and 2 interceptions.
Mayfield is regressing, but the offensive line, as well as poor play calling must take part of the blame.
The 49ers’ defensive line sacked the Browns 4 times, a majority of them coming from the 11 personnel.
Clearly, the Browns’ offensive line needed pass protection help, but Kitchens refused to oblige.
Another sack from 11.
3 sacks on the night, all from 11. pic.twitter.com/bsLvgTsEen
— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) October 8, 2019
Prior to the start of the game, the Cleveland fanbase excitedly anticipated the return of Antonio Callaway, who was suspended for 4 games for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy.
He started the game as the Browns’ third WR, moving from the ‘X spot’ to the ‘Z spot’.
Callaway looked visibly confused on the field at times, and it impacted his performance.
He admitted to the difficulty of such a switch, saying, “It was a little tough. I’m still a professional so I’ve got to know.”
The moment that Browns fans cannot stop talking about is Callaway’s drop in the end zone, which resulted in an interception for K’Waun Williams.
Speaking after the game, Mayfield said, “That could’ve been points for us, but instead it’s taken away and not getting any out of that. It’s unfortunate, but that’s the little details.”
This interception shows up on Baker Mayfield's stat line. But Antonio Callaway is the one to fault here. Gotta catch that.pic.twitter.com/y59QX7WJVv
— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) October 8, 2019
Mayfield targeted Callaway 3 times throughout the game, but he did not record a single reception.
Despite all his struggles, he recorded 45 air yards, a statistical category dedicated to analyzing how important a WR is to the offensive game plan, as well as an average depth of target (aDOT) of 15 yards.
When asked about Callaway’s role for the remainder of the season, Kitchens said, “Antonio will be better moving forward.”
Despite the confidence that both Kitchens and Mayfield claim to have in Callaway, it is tough to ignore Damion Ratley replacing him for a majority of the second half.
Ratley has been impressive during Callaway’s absence, so Callaway will likely be on a shorter leash than usual.
Next week, the Browns continue to face difficult opposition, as the Seattle Seahawks travel to Cleveland.
Week 8 is a bye, and Week 9 the Browns square off against the league’s best New England Patriots.
This could be a tough stretch for Mayfield, Callaway, and Kitchens, but in the following few weeks, the Browns should succeed against the Broncos, Bills, Steelers, and Dolphins.
Callaway will have a couple of weeks to learn and adjust to his new position. Toward the end of the season, he should be an integral part of the Browns’ offensive attack.
With the Pittsburgh Steelers’ quarterback situation, the Cincinnati Bengals 0-5 start to the season, and the Baltimore Ravens already losing a game to the Browns, this division is wide open.
Browns fans, have patience.
The tough stretch of the season is almost over.