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Notes: Freddie Kitchens says Baker Mayfield is “substantially better” at reading defenses, spotting blitzes heading into Year 2

BEREA — Baker Mayfield’s preseason ended on a sour note. He was intercepted on his final throw to finish the first half Friday in a 13-12 loss at Tampa Bay, capping a night in which he went 10-for-26 for 72 yards, a sack, the interception and a 30.6 rating.

Coach Freddie Kitchens didn’t reconsider playing him Thursday in the finale against Detroit and is just fine with Mayfield heading into Week 1 coming off a lemon.

“I have total confidence he is going to be OK,” Kitchens said Tuesday.

Mayfield’s only other action of the preseason was one drive in the opener against Washington. The Browns used their two-minute offense, and Mayfield was 5-for-6 for 77 yards, a touchdown and a perfect 158.3 passer rating.

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That and a good month of practice have Kitchens believing Mayfield will make a jump in Year 2.

“Baker is substantially better at reading coverages, deciphering blitzes, fixing the protections and recognizing the blitzes,” Kitchens said. “He is better in a lot of areas.”

Despite the struggles vs. the Buccaneers, Mayfield again showed the ability to avoid trouble inside the pocket or escape it entirely. Kitchens said movement inside the pocket can be coached.

“What he does very well and you can’t really teach is the escapability, getting outside the pocket and doing something with it then,” he said. “I do not think you can teach that part of it once you are outside of the pocket.”

Mayfield completed only 38.5 percent against the Bucs but didn’t get much help from his receivers, who dropped passes and didn’t come up with contested catches. Putting the ball where he wants is one of Mayfield’s strengths.

“He is tremendously accurate,” tight end Seth DeValve said. “Sometimes I’m turning around and the ball is right on my head. That’s hard to do. So I think he’s pretty good.”

LOSING GROUND

Veteran cornerback Terrance Mitchell has remained in the starting lineup since Denzel Ward returned to team drills. Rookie cornerback Greedy Williams, a second-round pick, dropped to the second team.

Kitchens was asked if Williams has plateaued.

“I hope not. We are not planning on him plateauing anytime soon,” he said. “Hopefully he has his head down and he is trying to get better. I think that Greedy is getting better.”

GONE GUY

The Browns made official the release of receiver Jaelen Strong.

He had seven catches for 52 yards and a touchdown in three preseason games but struggled Friday at Tampa Bay.

“I was not being facetious when I said that no position on the field played well the other night. That was one of them,” Kitchens said of the receivers. “Jaelen had a good camp. It was just a decision we decided to make.” 

NO WORD

The Browns petitioned the NFL to allow running back Kareem Hunt and receiver Antonio Callaway to remain around the team during their suspensions to open the season, but Kitchens said he couldn’t reveal if the league had made a decision.

“That has not been made public yet so all that has to go through the league office,” he said. “We are not privy to answering questions for them.”

A league spokesman didn’t return an email from The Chronicle-Telegram.

Hunt is suspended for the first eight games for two off-field altercations, including pushing and kicking a woman. Callaway is suspended for four games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.

Kitchens said Callaway would benefit from access to the team’s medical care as he rehabs a high ankle sprain. The organization also believes the structure of being in the building would help both.

Kitchens wouldn’t say whether Hunt will play Thursday against Detroit.

EXTRA POINT

Austin Seibert went 4-for-5 in the field goal drill Tuesday, missing from 43 yards. Greg Joseph was 3-for-5, missing from 43 and 48 yards. The 48-yarder was rejected by the right upright.

** Defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson dropped in coverage and intercepted Mayfield. Richardson also batted a Mayfield pass that was intercepted by middle linebacker Joe Schobert.

** Undrafted rookie receiver Dorian Baker (illness) missed practice.

Browns writer for The Chronicle-Telegram and The Medina Gazette. Proud graduate of Northwestern University. Husband and stepdad. Avid golfer who needs to hit the range to get down to a single-digit handicap. Right about Johnny Manziel, wrong about Brandon Weeden. Contact Scott at 440-329-7253, or email and follow him on and Twitter.

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