Browns GM still committed to Kitchens, Mayfield

NFL

BEREA, Ohio — Cleveland Browns general manager John Dorsey reaffirmed his commitment Wednesday to both coach Freddie Kitchens and quarterback Baker Mayfield, despite the team’s disappointing 2-4 start heading into its bye week.

Dorsey drafted Mayfield with the No. 1 overall pick last year, then this offseason promoted Kitchens from interim offensive coordinator to head coach. Off a promising 7-8-1 finish to last season, expectations ballooned even more for the Browns when Dorsey traded for star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. in the spring.

So far, though, the Browns have sputtered, and Sunday, blew a 20-6 lead to the Seattle Seahawks.

Dorsey said that despite that he’s been encouraged with what he’s seen from Kitchens, especially with how the Browns played against Seattle, coming off an embarrassing 31-3 loss at the San Francisco 49ers the week before on Monday Night Football.

“I think the team has responded really well,” Dorsey said. “I like the offensive scheme that he’s kind of developed which was on (display) in the Seattle game, by putting (Mayfield) in a really good position to move those chains.

“I think Freddie has done a really good job. I love where he is right now in terms of that first-year heading label you all try to stick with him.”

Dorsey also declared that he remains “100%” convinced of Mayfield being Cleveland’s franchise quarterback of the future, despite a slow start in his second season.

After finishing second in the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year voting last year, Mayfield leads the NFL with 11 interceptions. He also ranks 33rd with a completion rate of 56.6% — way down from the 63.8% he posted last season.

“Mastering the quarterback position is very hard,” Dorsey said. “Right now, defensive coordinators are probably throwing different looks that he hasn’t seen. But Baker is one of those guys that he’s smart enough, he’s not going to make the same mistake twice. He’s learning from that.

“I like where he is. I like his competitiveness. I love everything about him — that hasn’t changed one bit, in terms of his competitiveness, his ability to throw the football. … I still think his balls are still accurate. Everybody keeps saying that there’s inaccuracy with his ball, I still think he throws a good football. … What I really like is his teammates like him.”

Dorsey was also effusive in his praise of Beckham, whom the Browns have had trouble getting the ball to at times. Despite the hype he arrived with, OBJ ranks just 31st in the NFL with 29 receptions and 16th with 436 receiving yards. He also only has one touchdown grab.

Still, Dorsey noted that Beckham has impacted the Browns in ways other than pass-catching.

“Is he a talented player? Yeah, he’s a talented football player,” Dorsey said. “If we can get the ball to him, we get the ball to him. But let’s don’t force it. Let’s win the game, that’s the objective.

“Odell is one of those guys who’s a selfless individual. I think he really does a nice job run blocking. I’m happy we have him.”

The Browns soon will add 2017 rushing champ Kareem Hunt to their offense. Hunt is serving an eight-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy and has been away from the team. Dorsey said that Hunt is “doing really well” and is ahead of schedule rehabilitating from sports hernia surgery.

“In a couple weeks he’s going to be back,” Dorsey said, “and I can’t wait to see him.”

Dorsey also hinted the Browns might not be done upgrading the offense heading into the trade deadline later this month. Cleveland has been connected to All-Pro Washington left tackle Trent Williams, who is holding out due to his unhappiness with the Redskins, and would bolster and offensive line that Dorsey admitted needs to be “more consistent.”

Dorsey wasn’t very cryptic in expressing his interest. Asked if he’s spoken to Washington team president Bruce Allen, Dorsey responded, “We’ve had a few conversations.” After Williams’ name was brought up, Dorsey answered, “It takes two to tango.”

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