Inside Slant

The Sports Xchange

November 01, 2018 at 1:38 am.

Coaching change for Browns, and explosive Chiefs are next

The Cleveland Browns have a new head coach and, they hope, a new attitude as they start the second half of their season with a home game Sunday against the 7-1 Kansas City Chiefs.

Gregg Williams, named interim head coach on Monday after Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley were fired, is trying to pull the Browns, 2-5-1, out of a three-game skid.

“It’s one of those things that you can handle it as a distraction or you can use it to come together as a team,” quarterback Baker Mayfield said Wednesday before the first practice under Williams. “This locker room can become a lot tighter. I haven’t been through a midseason change, but when (former Oklahoma head coach) Bob Stoops stepped down and (Oklahoma head coach) Lincoln Riley was the head coach, that was kind of the same situation.

“It was different. It was new to us. We used that to come together. I expect the guys in here to be grown men, to be experienced football players and to handle it that way and keep that same mindset of that we have the same goal. We need to reach that and work with each other.”

Williams is working in the dual role of head coach and defensive coordinator. It is no easy task considering the Browns are about to play the highest scoring team (290 points) in the AFC.

Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes has thrown 26 touchdown passes and has only six interceptions. That’s noteworthy because the Browns thrive on takeaways. They lead the NFL in that department with 22.

“We have our work cut out for us in all three phases,” Williams said. “Their comfort level (Browns players) is getting back into a routine here and doing their job. Their comfort level is going about competing at the highest level in our sport in the world, competing, and that every day’s an interview. You’ve got to get ready to roll. Let’s get better today, one day at a time.”

The Chiefs attack teams from all angles. If keeping Mahomes in check is Priority One, slowing running back Kareem Hunt is Priority One-A. The Browns have their hands full considering Steelers running back James Conner rushed for 146 yards and caught five passes for 66 yards against them last week.

“Kareem Hunt is averaging six yards after contact,” Browns linebacker Christian Kirksey said. “He’s very balanced. We have to make sure we gang-tackle him. We have to make sure those running lanes are crowded for him.”

The Browns rank 28th in run defense (138.9 yards a game), 26th in pass defense (275.6 yards and 24th (21.1) in points allowed per game.

Freddie Kitchens was promoted from running backs coach to offensive coordinator to replace Haley. Kitchens called plays in the Browns’ preseason game against the Detroit Lions this summer.

Mayfield said it is too late in the season to make big changes in the offense, and he is fine with that.

“We still have Kenny Zampese being the quarterback coach,” Mayfield said. “Within the routines of day-to-day stuff, it’s very similar. As I continue to learn from Freddie and how he likes to call plays, just be comfortable to voice my opinion on certain things. We’re all learning as we go here, but it’s not an excuse.”

Ryan Lindley was hired to replace Kitchens as running backs coach. Lindley was an assistant coach at San Diego State when the Browns hired him.