It is still early in the NFL regular season, but things already appear to be going wrong for the Cleveland Browns. After winning all four of their preseason games, the Browns have been dealt two quick losses by division rivals.
On Sept. 10, the Browns lost their opener to the Pittsburgh Steelers by a score of 21-18. Solid defense held the Steelers to two offensive touchdowns, but a special teams touchdown combined with a disappointing lack of offense gave way to a Steelers victory.
Rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer scored his first NFL touchdown, but the Cleveland offense was relatively quiet otherwise. Safety Derrick Kindred logged an interception during the stand made by the Browns defense, but this was not enough to prevent the Steelers from winning the game.
Upon this victory, current Steelers quarterback Ben Rothlisberger has become the quarterback with the most wins in Cleveland since the city reestablished a football program in 1999. The list that Rothlisberger tops includes past Browns quarterbacks, which exposes the losing tradition for which the Browns have become infamous.
The following Sunday, the Browns lost to another division rival, the Baltimore Ravens. Penalties and a speedy Ravens defense stifled the Browns early and killed momentum for the majority of the contest.
During the second quarter, quarterback DeShone Kizer left the game with a migraine, and backup quarterback Kevin Hogan was sent into the game. The Browns would not score a touchdown with Hogan leading the offense, and would fall to Baltimore by a final score of 24-10. Between Kizer and Hogan, four interceptions were thrown, giving the Browns a -3 turnover ratio through only two games.
Yet another loss for the Browns was the injury of starting wide receiver Corey Coleman. Coleman broke his hand during the fourth quarter and is expected to be out for six weeks, requiring surgery on a hand that he had broken during the 2016 season as well.
A small positive element to Corey Coleman’s injury was the return of receiver Rashard Higgins, who now leads the 2017 Browns in receiving yards solely from his performance in their loss to the Ravens.
In addition to Corey Coleman, the Browns are also without their first-round draft pick, defensive end Myles Garett. A supposed rookie sensation, Garett has sat the first two games with a high ankle sprain. Only time will tell if he will live up to being drafted first overall or if he will be just another bust in a long line of disappointing Browns draftees.
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) September 20, 2017
Though only two games into the 2017 regular season, familiar problems already plague the Browns. Wide receivers are struggling with injury, and the healthy ones are struggling with dropped passes. A variety of young quarterbacks are being eaten alive by opposing defenses because they have limited options among receivers.
On the ground, starting running back Isaiah Crowell has performed well, but his fellow backs Duke Johnson and Matthew Dayes have been quiet. On defense, an already young defensive line has been missing rookie phenom Myles Garett, a threat in terms of stopping the run and rushing the pass.
The defensive secondary has been bolstered by rookie and former University of Michigan standout Jabrill Peppers, as well as free agent pickups Jamar Taylor and Jason McCourty. This does not explain why they are still struggling to cover opposing receivers.
Everyone from the sports analysts on TV to the Browns fans watching them at home is wondering if DeShone Kizer is the answer to Cleveland’s long-standing quarterback problem. Kizer is projected to start on Sept. 24 against the Indianapolis Colts, who have also disappointed their fans throughout the last few seasons.
Only time will tell if Kizer is the long-awaited franchise quarterback; however, actually winning football games in the meantime would help the Browns entire situation.