Editor's note: Tony Grossi covers the Cleveland Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR.
Takeaways from Browns practice and player interviews …
1. It’s a simple game: Everyone is always searching for conspiracy theories, but sometimes the obvious is the real explanation. Why was DeShone Kizer put on the bench and replaced by Kevin Hogan? Joe Thomas was not asked that question, but his answer to a different question about Hogan was revealing. The question was: Why does the offense seem to hit a different rhythm in the times Hogan has been in? (In each of Hogan’s three relief appearances, he took the Browns to touchdowns on his very first drive -- of 83, 63 and 75 yards.) Thomas answered, “I think the key to having a rhythm on offense is completing passes and having positive runs. If you have negative plays, whether it’s a tackle-for-loss or sack and you don’t complete passes, a lot of times, that’s what stops drives -- and penalties. If you do something as simple as complete passes, even if they’re five yards or seven yards, you’re just going to keep moving the sticks down the field. When you get into situations where there are incompletions, tackles-for-loss, sacks penalties, that’s the biggest drive killer that’s out there.” Kizer’s 50.9 completion percentage is the lowest in the NFL, considerably below the league average of 63.4. (One of Kizer’s recent observations was “It’s not easy completing passes in this league.") Hogan is completing 68.4 percent in 10 possessions. So, pass completions are not over-rated? “I just watched the Houston-Kansas City game from last week,” Thomas said. “Everybody’s been wanting to get [Chiefs QB] Alex Smith out of the league for a long time, but all he does is complete the ball and they just keep marching down the field and score. There’s been a lot of great quarterbacks in the league that have just been really good at completing passes. That’s what the West Coast is based on. Look at Josh [McCown]. If you just complete passes, it gives you a good opportunity and makes it hard on defenses.”
2. Defense evolving: The Browns’ defense has climbed to No. 5 overall in stinginess (304.8 yards per game), but it still is lagging in notable areas such as points per game (25th), turnovers (21st) and red zone efficiency (32nd). “We have a lot of work to do,” said cornerback Jamar Taylor. “I think we just have to play better in the red zone. We talked about playing a better in the second quarter. I think we did that last week. We have to keep that up. We have to get turnovers for the offense and give them a short field. With a young quarterback, we have to make the field short for them.” The sixth game in Houston Sunday should mark the first time all projected starters are on the field together, as linebacker Jamie Collins returns from a three-game absence because of a concussion. “I have to bring some energy … and hope I can bring good positive vibes,” Collins said.
3. Brownie bits: Coach Hue Jackson said he expected center JC Tretter (knee) and right tackle Shon Coleman (knee) to be ready to go by Sunday … Jackson had a simple explanation for the improvement in running the ball against the Jets (140 yards in 33 attempts): “I called it more,” he said with a laugh. “We were in the game. The game was a lot closer game. We had more cracks at it.”