BEREA — The Twitter world hasn’t been kind to linebacker Jamie Collins lately. Just about every week short video clips of Collins missing a tackle or giving what appears to be less than 100 percent effort make their way around social media.
The hours during and after the 37-21 loss to the Chiefs on Sunday were no different. Collins was stiff-armed by Kareem Hunt on a screen that went 50 yards for a touchdown and didn’t stick his nose into the fray on a goal-line touchdown run by Hunt.
Interim coach and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams defended Collins on Sunday and Monday when asked about the perceived lack of effort, just like he has in the past.
“I will say this and it has come across my desk a couple times here today — we have to play better on defense,” Williams said Monday. “When all of a sudden all of the dominos start hitting around him and all of the things he is saying and doing to everybody else just to try to get them lined up, sometimes there is a lot going on. We have to play better on defense as a whole. It is not him. I have to coach better.
“We have to tackle better. Not just him, we all do. Those things are addressed daily, and we have to practice better in those kinds of things and we have talked about it.”
Collins, who signed a four-year, $50 million contract in 2017, was the only healthy starting linebacker remaining by the end of the game Sunday. He called the plays to a defense decimated by injuries and finished with a team-high seven tackles.
“I thought Jamie Collins did a really good job of continuing to keep people in the game that had to come in and out of the huddles,” Williams said Sunday. “He did a really good job with that.”
Jamie Collins bowing up on the goal line vs KC. pic.twitter.com/pc58JnXIox
— Tom E. Curran (@tomecurran) November 4, 2018
Later in the postgame news conference he was asked if Collins is playing as hard as he can.
“Jamie is doing a lot of things,” Williams said. “Jamie is handling a lot of things for us. He is being the vocal person on the field. He is the quarterback on defense, and he is playing like our quarterback.”
Collins leads the team with 62 tackles and has two sacks, an interception, two passes defensed and a forced fumble.
CHANGE IS GOOD
Running back Duke Johnson set a season high in receiving yards, more than doubled his season high in catches and scored his first touchdowns of the season. Was the reason for his nine-catch, 78-yard, two-touchdown breakthrough as simple as the offensive coordinator switch from Todd Haley to Freddie Kitchens?
“I guess you could look at it that way,” Johnson said. “It’s the same plays we’ve been calling, the same offense, there’s just certain things that Coach Kitchens likes better than Coach Haley did, so I guess so.”
Despite the urging of former coach Hue Jackson, Haley didn’t feature Johnson through the first eight games, as he had only 20 catches for 203 yards and 22 rushes for 107. Kitchens dusted him off and got him the ball.
“I think he can do more and he will,” Williams said. “He had a good fire about him, and he will continue to improve, too. We need him to improve.”
Johnson had been frustrated by the lack of opportunities, so he was glad for the change and hopes it continues.
“Just going out there and showing what I’m capable of doing, especially showing the reason why I’m here,” he said. “And it was a great showing for myself, but not so much for the team and we’re about team here, so we should have got the win, that’s most important.”
Williams didn’t have updates on the long list of injured players, saying he hadn’t met with the medical staff.
At the top of the list is rookie cornerback Denzel Ward, the No. 4 pick, who left Sunday in the first quarter with a hip injury.
“He is a pretty good player,” Williams said. “I appreciate how hard he prepares and everything. People see how good you are when you are not around, too. That was evident.”
** Williams held out free safety Damarious Randall (groin) against the Chiefs because he wanted to “get him healthy” after weeks fighting through injuries. The Browns reach the bye week following Sunday’s game against the Falcons, but Williams said he wouldn’t necessarily shut down Randall for this week.
“No, no. (Evaluate it) every day,” he said.
** Receiver Jarvis Landry had his right hand wrapped. He played 73 of 75 snaps.
The special teams have had several huge breakdowns and that continued with a blocked punt in the third quarter that led to a Chiefs touchdown. Damien Williams got inside of Derrick Kindred and got a hand on the ball after it was kicked by Britton Colquitt.
The Chiefs were setting up for a return and Williams was the lone rusher.
“That shows you that every single snap is important,” Gregg Williams said. “You send one rusher, you better make sure you are blocking him.
“That guy was probably shocked he blocked a punt because it was a punt return. It was technique. We gave too much ground and can’t let that happen.”
The Browns entered the weekend tied for the most penalties in the league with the Chiefs at 65. Cleveland committed four for 20 yards and Kansas City 11 for 86.
Williams saw the decrease as a bright spot and said it was a point of emphasis in meetings and practices in his first week as interim coach.
“We do it all of the time,” he said. “We do emphasize that, but it is them listening and doing it. Four is too many. (But) it was better.”
Williams said he’d turn in the play in which quarterback Baker Mayfield was hit in the head late by safety Ron Parker to the league office to see if a penalty should’ve been called.
“I am anxious to see the report come back,” he said.
** The Browns were 2-for-3 on fourth-down conversions — not counting an encroachment penalty for a first down — and 0-for-3 on 2-point tries. Williams said his level of aggression will depend on the opponent, and analytics will help form the plan conceived during the week.