Much like his franchise quarterback, there is nothing cookie-cutter about Cleveland Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens
The NFL preseason is a precarious beast. It’s half roster assembly and construction, and the other half risk management. For the majority of the league’s coaches, this is handled a particular way. We’ll call the standard NFL preseason blueprint.
To say the NFL is a copycat league would be a gross understatement. Coaches make minor tweaks and adjustments to the blueprint, but for the most part, they all follow a similar map to get to the regular season. Cleveland Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens is trailblazing his own path through his first preseason as a head coach.
Kitchens, no different from anyone else, is an amalgamation of the people and experiences that have influenced him. For Kitchens that means coaches like Nick Saban, Bill Parcells, and Bruce Arians among others have helped shape the coach that he is becoming. His approach to coaching reflects that.
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Heading into this year’s camp, Kitchens wanted to make the Browns a tougher team. How would he go about accomplishing that? By keeping it simple. Make them comfortable being uncomfortable.
Most of NFL camps are spent in shells and shorts, only fully dressing in pads one to two days a week. Not the Browns, they have been in full pads almost every single practice since they’ve been allowed to wear them.
Also, since Kitchens has been driving the bus, injured players have been in full pads as well. They’re just not participating. Wonder when he came up with that idea?
Kitchens also watched the Browns lead the league in missed tackles last season. His solution? Instead of only tackling to the ground in one session of practice; his team will tackle to the ground every session unless instructed not to.
He also thought the Browns committed an insurmountable amount of penalties last year. Well, this year the Browns haven’t been practicing penalties. During this year’s camp, there have been consequences for penalties in practice; especially when it comes for the pre-snap variety.
Then there’s been how Kitchens has handled playing time for his starters in preseason games. He is not counting snaps, he is more interested in making the snaps count. The first-team offense, minus the wide receivers, have only had one series in the first two games.
Instead of just scripting a 10-play drive and letting it play out, that one series was predetermined two-minute drive to start the game. The opposing team was notified of the plan prior to the game. By putting that pressure on Baker Mayfield and company to perform efficiently in a live game situation, Kitchens was able to manufacture game-winning consequences in a game that wouldn’t have had any otherwise.
Next up for the Browns is the third preseason game; traditionally known as the “dress rehearsal” game. Starters generally play the entire first half and the first drive of the second half. Do not be surprised if Kitchens throws that formula out of the window if he feels he can better prepare his team with a different approach.
Freddie Kitchens is building this Cleveland Browns team the way that he wants to. He is fully aware that if the Browns do not play up to everyone’s expectations, that the media; especially the talking heads will point their attention squarely on Kitchens. He doesn’t much care. They’re not wearing Brown and Orange.
On the flip side, if this team is able to meet expectations this season, expect other coaches to start to follow in Freddie Kitchens footsteps. After all, this is and will always be a copycat league.