BEREA — The Browns lost to the Saints by three points — after four missed kicks. They lost to the Raiders by three points in overtime — after a controversial call.
Coach Hue Jackson said the 38-14 rout at the hands of the Chargers on Sunday was even more painful.
“It felt worse because I think that we were ready to make the next jump,” he said Monday. “We expected that. Here is the chance for us at home to win a second game in a row. We did not live up to that. I thank our fans because our fans were there and they were into it. We did not give them back what they gave us.”
The Browns (2-3-1) were deficient across the board, but the lack of a quality, consistent passing game received and requires much of the attention. Rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield pinned the blame on himself, but No. 1 wideout Jarvis Landry said it was misplaced.
“The plays are there to be made for us as a receiving corps, we just gotta make them,” he said.
Jackson said he wants more experience at receiver to counter the injuries that have decimated the group, and trusts general manager John Dorsey to continue to explore the free agent and trade options.
But Jackson realizes how difficult it is to make a significant roster move at this point on the calendar. The season is six games old, the best players have been on rosters for months and teams usually aren’t willing to part with someone that can help.
The pickings are slim, and Dorsey has been scouring the orchard for several weeks. He signed journeyman Rod Streater on Sept. 17 after trading Josh Gordon and signed former Ravens first-round pick Breshad Perriman on Saturday after Derrick Willies broke his collarbone.
Dorsey’s on the prowl again after the struggles Sunday, which included problems getting open and the failure by rookies Antonio Callaway and Damion Ratley to make long catches that would’ve been touchdowns. Landry, the leader of the group, had two catches for 11 yards on nine targets as he and Mayfield continue to have chemistry issues after not working together much during training camp and the preseason.
“We’re still growing,” Landry said. “We gotta take advantage of the practice reps. We gotta take advantage of the film that we watch and getting on the same page.”
After at least five catches in 20 straight games, Landry has four, five and two over Mayfield’s three starts for a total of 114 yards and a touchdown. He’s been targeted 29 times.
“You want to make plays for the team, and that comes with opportunity and all I can do is when I get the opportunity, take advantage of it and stay positive until that time comes,” said Landry, who added he’s seeing double coverage on third down.
The receiver crisis reached another level when Streater, 30, was lost for the season with a neck fracture suffered covering a punt early in the first quarter Sunday. Streater’s neck bent backward when his head hit teammate Denzel Rice in the midsection. The team said he’s doing well, a full recovery is expected and surgery isn’t required at this time.
Jackson said No. 3 wideout Rashard Higgins (knee) is still week-to-week, leaving four healthy receivers for Sunday’s trip to Tampa Bay: Landry, Callaway, Ratley and Perriman, who’s yet to practice with the team but planned to hit the playbook and hopes to play against the Buccaneers.
Veteran Dez Bryant visited in the preseason and veteran Rishard Matthews worked out last week but neither was signed. The Raiders reportedly are willing to trade Amari Cooper, the No. 4 pick in 2015, but his performance fell off last year and he’s struggled with drops. He’s due a $13.9 million salary next season, the final year of his rookie contract.
“No doubt, we would like to have more (experience) if we can get it and if it is the right fit for our football team,” Jackson said. “I am sure that John is looking around everywhere to see if we can improve there.
“At the same time, as the head coach, I can’t worry about those things. We are going to take the guys that are here and put them into the best position to have success.”
Landry refused to use the inexperience of Callaway and Ratley as a crutch. Callaway had two catches for 9 yards and two drops on 10 targets Sunday, and Ratley rebounded from the critical drop for six catches and 82 yards on eight targets.
“We trust these guys,” Landry said. “We count on them each week to make plays for us and we give them opportunities in clutch moments and it’s really not about young guys anymore. That part is over and everybody has to play at a veteran level if we want to go to where we’re headed to.”
Jackson has been saddled with young receiving corps in his three years in Cleveland and said inconsistency and drops are part of the growing pains. He doesn’t like that it makes Mayfield’s development tougher.
“It compounds it. We all know that it does,” Jackson said.
Mayfield played his worst game in four appearances, going 22-for-46 for 238 yards, a touchdown, two interceptions, five sacks and a 52.6 rating. He didn’t see open receivers underneath, held the ball too long and missed throws, but Landry said the receivers didn’t help him. There were at least five drops.
“I know I had a few that I let get by me,” Landry said. “We have to do a better job of helping him out in situations and making one-on-one contested catches. Or when he gets out of the pocket and he’s throwing on the run, we have to find ways to get ourselves free from DBs and the coverage to be able to make plays. And if we can do that, a lot of those throwaway balls wouldn’t have come up in the stat sheet.”
The experience will help the youngsters in the future, but Landry is focused on the present.
“I’m not thinking about years to come. I’m thinking about right now and what we’ve got going on here,” he said. “I know we have the opportunity to do something special right now, this year, this season.”