Not unlike what the Tennessee Titans did in week one to Jameis Winston and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Cleveland Browns looked like a team that wanted to make a rookie quarterback play like a rookie quarterback. They also looked like a team that wanted to take advantage of a newly reworked offensive line with questionable pieces. They succeeded.
Going into the season, the largest concerns for the Titans seemed to be the offensive line and the secondary. Sunday's game did nothing to change that, except that my worry for the line only increased. Mariota was sacked 7 times and took a number of hard hits, both on the sacks as well as other plays.
Taylor Lewan, the offensive line's best player and first round pick left tackle, said the Browns "schemed really well". Byron Bell, Andy Levitre's replacement at left guard, also spoke to being caught off guard.
"They had different looks for us," Bell said. "[We] just have to do a better job of picking those things up. I felt like we did on some of them and some of them we didn't.
Is it a lack of talent? Is it lack of cohesion and playing time together. Or is the coaching and game plan just no up to snuff? All but the first are fixable, and hopefully it's just the need for the members of the group to log more snaps with each other. The concern for me is that the players were under prepared for the looks they could receive by the coaching staff. Not unlike Tampa Bay looked when Dick Lebeau threw the kitchen sink at them in week one. Combine this with the short term loss of Chance Warmack and the offensive line definitely has an up hill battle in front of them.
Marcus Mariota got mauled. He also got up and kept playing lick after lick. He has infused this franchise with a hope and excitement that hasn't been felt in almost a decade. As much as he has showed his grit and toughness by taking the shots and keeping his head in the game, I would rather not find out if he can play through the same punishment as another great quarterback the Titans once had.
Going forward the coaching staff needs to understand their deficiencies and play to aid those as much as possible. Mariota and the future growth of this team and franchise has a lot more to loose than any one game. While Bob Bostad, the offensive line coach, and Mike Mularkey, the tight ends coach, have a hand in this, the onus is clearly on Ken Whisenhunt and Jason Michael for the offensive play calling going forward. We've seen this before, and while it may not be the exact system or calls that Whisenhunt wants, he needs to work with what he has, or he'll be working with no one.