Browns lay an egg in Week 6 leading to questioning much about the team

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The Cleveland Browns were steamrolled by the Arizona Cardinals in Week 6. While injuries continue to pile up and help explain some of the struggles, they are not enough to answer all the questions that are coming the Browns way over the next few days.

Whether a blessing or a curse, Cleveland doesn’t have long to lick their wounds as they host the Denver Broncos on Thursday Night Football this week.

The Cardinals controlled the game in all aspects, despite missing their head coach/offensive play-caller, two other coaches and two starters. Kyler Murray threw for four touchdowns and zero interceptions, James Conner and Chase Edmonds combined for over 100 yards on the ground in only 20 carries and their defense was able to shut down Cleveland’s top-flight rushing attack.

There will be a lot to unpack for the Browns in a very short amount of time before their game with the Broncos. Here are a few of the many questions we have immediately following the disheartening loss:

How Many Bad Calls Go Against the Browns?

(AP Photo/Emilee Chinn)

To be transparent, it is difficult to cover one team and spend a lot of time watching every other game in the NFL. That being said, if the Browns are not the worst officiated team in the NFL it would have to be a miracle.

Early in the game, a couple of ticky-tack/shouldn’t have been called defensive pass interference calls and a roughing the passer penalty brought the ire of the Cleveland crowd. That roughing the passer call seemed violent compared to the one called later in the game which didn’t even lead to Murray hitting the ground.

Good teams need to overcome bad officiating and the Browns were not good enough to win this game whether the referees were good at their job or not. That doesn’t excuse all the poor calls on Sunday.

Joe Woods Job in Jeopardy?

[Jeff Lange/Beacon Journal]

It is often hard to figure out what the Cleveland defense is trying to accomplish on a given play. In one play they are sending six rushers but leaving a receiver wide open while on another play they are in soft coverage and allowing everything to be completed.

There are regular communication breakdowns that lead to wide-open receivers running throughout the secondary.

General manager Andrew Berry brought in a lot of talent on the defensive side of the ball but Woods has struggled to use that talent wisely. If it were not for beating up on a rookie quarterback, Justin Fields, Woods’ tenure may have come to an end earlier this year. Woods got a lot of deserved credit for the defensive performance the following week against the Minnesota Vikings but has disappeared in the last two games.

In an offensive leaning league, a defense needs both quality players and quality coordinators. Cleveland believes they have the former but there is real questions about the latter.

If Thursday night doesn’t go better than the last couple of weeks, Woods could be looking at a very hot seat.

Coaching Adjustments Due To Injuries Not Good Enough?

[Jeff Lange/Beacon Journal]

It is vital to note that the Browns were facing the last undefeated team in the NFL and dealing with a lot of injuries. On the other hand, the Cardinals had their own issues and were traveling east for the match-up.

Cleveland’s adjustments to not having their starting offensive tackles, and top three tackles overall, their top running back and their starting slot receiver left a lot to be desired. The Browns put Baker Mayfield in an empty backfield quite often and opened the game with six straight passes.

Much like the defense, the offensive gameplan was disjointed and the adjustments made due to all of the injuries were lacking. While Kevin Stefanski is noted for his intelligence, Sunday’s loss left many wondering how that intelligence was used to help the team.

Stefanski once again went for it on fourth down early in the game instead of taking the points. Once again, Mayfield was sacked on fourth down leading to a turnover. While being aggressive is important, the team continues to struggle on fourth down.

Will It Ever Be Good Enough With Baker Mayfield?

[Jeff Lange/Beacon Journal]

If you just look at the box score, Mayfield played a fine game. He was 19 for 28 for 234 yards and two touchdowns. His one interception is a big blemish but he still had a quarterback rating of 102.4.

Watching the game, you saw a quarterback who just wasn’t playing at the level he needs to play to help the Browns win against good teams.

While his yardage was acceptable, 57 of it came on the hail mary completion to Donovan Peoples-Jones. While Mayfield through a beautiful rainbow, luck played a larger role in that completion than he did.

Without that hail mary, the Mayfield-led offense would have only scored seven points.

Mayfield’s injury, which may have been worsened during the game, plays a role but his struggles against quality opponents over the last two seasons is concerning.

How Bad is Kareem Hunt Injured?

[Jeff Lange/Beacon Journal]

The Kareem Hunt injury didn’t impact the game but it could impact the season. The Cleveland offense is predicated on a good running game and play-action pass coming off of that. With Chubb out, Hunt carried the load with 14 of the Browns designed 16 carries.

With Hunt coming in with injuries, that usage, along with three catches, is concerning.

His reaction as he got through the line of scrimmage on a short pass route, grabbing his calf, and his reaction as he was being carted off the field is highly concerning. If Hunt is gone for a long stretch of the season, Cleveland may try to ride Chubb without being willing to share the load with D’Ernest Johnson and Demetric Felton.

Hunt seems likely to at least miss the Week 7 matchup but how bad is the injury?

Will Andrew Berry Make Any Big Moves Before the Trade Deadline?

(AP Photo/Tony Dejak, File)

It is a question that has to be asked and has been asked or talked about all over social media. The big name will always be Odell Beckham Jr. and some fans (and media) will focus on the quarterback position until a Super Bowl is won but a big move could be unrelated to either of those.

On paper, Andrew Berry has assembled a very talented team, when healthy. That team is currently not very healthy but also has not been playing up to their talent level. As noted above, that calls into question the coaching but could it also lead to Berry making a big move ahead of the NFL trade deadline?

In 2021, the trade deadline is just after Halloween (November 2nd). Between then and now, the Browns have Thursday night’s game against the Broncos and a Halloween matchup with division rival Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday Night Football.

Whether it is to help a struggling team figure it out or he is looking to push forward a 5 – 3 team, will Berry be willing and able to pull the trigger on a move that makes a major difference for the 2021 Browns?

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