The Cleveland Browns may or may not be back, apparently.
The darlings of the offseason, Baker Mayfield's Browns were destroyed by the Tennessee Titans, 43-13, reminding us at the very least that games aren't played on paper and good offenses require good offensive lines.
“This is just another game. Cleveland — we ain’t worried about them,” Walker said, via ESPN writer Turron Davenport. “I’m going to tell you again, man: they were who we thought they were. Y’all can crown them if you want to crown them. You’ve still gotta play football.”
Mayfield was battered by Cameron Wake and the Titans 'D,' getting precautionary X-rays on his bruised throwing hand, according to Jake Trotter. While Cleveland's O-line was predictably awful, Mayfield appeared uncharacteristically gun shy in the pocket, holding onto the football too long in a bad 3-INT performance. After the No. 1 overall pick a year ago set the NFL's rookie passing TD record, he's expected to take a big jump with new coach Freddie Kitchens and star WR Odell Beckham, who looked good but finished with a fairly quiet 7-71 receiving.
Meantime, Kitchens' debut included his Browns being penalized a stunning 18 times for 182 yards and clearly not appearing ready for primetime in the franchise's 15th consecutive Week 1 loss and 20th in the past 21 seasons.
Left tackle Greg Robinson will be the undisciplined Browns' poster boy Sunday, when he was ejected for kicking Titans S Kenny Vaccaro while Robinson was lying on his back and struggled to protect Mayfield prior to his forced exit. But his replacement, RT Chris Hubbard, had an awful day, too, and it should be apparent to GM John Dorsey that after swinging a couple cut-down trades to reinforce the O-line that more work remains.
The headlines will all read same old Cleveland or something along those lines, but we should credit the Titans, who were thought to be entering the season with a potential QB controversy waiting to erupt.
Instead, Marcus Mariota tossed three touchdowns in a tidy outing and Derrick Henry totaled 159 yards from scrimmage and two scores on 20 touches, appearing like December Derrick again. Too, Tennessee's rookie receiver named Brown, second-rounder A.J., had a game-high 100 receiving yards, while the ageless Cameron Wake catalyzed the Titans in his own debut with 2.5 sacks and 4 QB hurries.
While Kitchens was showing his inexperience, Mike Vrabel and his staff — including rookie offensive coordinator Arthur Smith and vet overseer of 'D' Wink Martindale— began Year 2 with a consummate performance and major road upset.
Baltimore beats down the tanking 'Phins
As the Browns were embarrassing themselves, certainly appearing to have spent too much time receiving their offseason verbal bouquets, the defending North champion Baltimore Ravens were busy on the road humiliating the Miami Dolphins.
Lamar Jackson tossed two more touchdowns (5) than incompletions (3), finding first-round WR Marquise Brown on 47- and 83-yard touchdowns as Baltimore boat raced the tanking 'Phins, 59-10.
Jackson, in his Week 1 starting debut and working essentially with an entirely new cast of playmakers, completed 17-of-20 passes for 324 yards and the five touchdowns. Perhaps most impressively, he only rushed the ball three times, dominating a hapless Dolphins 'D' almost exclusively from the pocket.
Marquise Brown was listed as questionable this week but showed off the electrifying big-play ability less than halfway into Quarter 1 of his debut when he ran away from the Dolphins secondary for an 83-yard scoring jaunt.
Baltimore also unveiled new ball-hawking safety Earl Thomas, who intercepted Ryan Fitzpatrick early on before Fitzpatrick received the mercy pull by rookie head coach Brian Flores, and starting tailback Mark Ingram, who found the end zone twice and eclipsed 100 yards on only 14 carries.
It's going to be hard to make any major proclamations of Flores in his maiden head-coaching voyage because of the franchise's clear motives that don't include winning in 2019. But it'd be equally difficult to find anyting negative with Jackson's first outing with new coordinator Greg Roman, which was nothing short of spectacular while illustrating Jackson's awesome ability as an all-around quarterback, not an athlete wearing a QB number.