Cleveland Browns coach and former Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson spoke with reporters in Cincinnati on a conference call this week.
Here are five takeaways from what he said about his team and the one that used to employ him, as his Browns set to play the Bengals on Sunday in the 89th Battle of Ohio:
Marvin Lewis still regularly gives him advice
Jackson speaks with the Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis every week – except when they are about to play each other – and although he talks with other coaches around the league as well, he said his relationship with Lewis runs a little deeper than most. Lewis is one of the biggest members of his support system as Jackson struggles to push his team to its first win this season.
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“There’s a lot of things that he’s told me in the last couple weeks,” Jackson said. “One is obviously just to hang in there and keep pushing and keep believing in what you know and what you believe in and eventually things will turn. I’ve heard that now for quite a while. That gets a little redundant at times, but I do appreciate the advice.”
Jackson is trying to recreate the environment he had in Cincinnati
The Browns dropped their 10th game last week against Jacksonville but as Jackszon said in his press conference Wednesday, the players were still flying to the ball and showing enthusiasm. Jackson said he picked that up from Lewis’ teams.
“I think it is a mindset, it is an environment that you create,” Jackson said. “I’ve watched Marvin create it there. And obviously it’s something I took from him. I don’t think you can ever worry about what records are. The goal as a head coach is to get your team to play as well as they can play and compete as hard as they can. And sometimes whatever the number is on the other side, it’s just not for you. But one thing I can control is how hard our team competes and how we prepare and how we go about our business.”
The Bengals were just better than the Browns in first meeting
Jackson said he’s been proud of the fight his players have shown all season but they could have done better the first meeting against the Bengals in Week 4. Cincinnati won 31-7.
“I think the one game, and I’m being very honest with you, that I think the intensity was still there that we could play better was the last Cincinnati game,” Jackson said. “They really played that much better than us and looked that much better than us and I respect that. That is a very good football team with a lot of good players and they know how to play. We’re in the midst of learning how to do that, so I have great respect for that.”
Youth isn’t a crutch for DeShone Kizer
Kizer has struggled as a rookie quarterback, throwing 14 interceptions and just five touchdowns, but Jackson has declared him the starter for the remainder of the season despite a particularly bad performance Sunday against Jacksonville.
“He just has to continue to get better,” he said. “He’s a young player in the National Football League trying to play the toughest position in all of sports. It’s tough. But every week you have to answer the challenge and there are going to be new challenges every week and I think DeShone is starting to understand that. There’s a huge set of circumstances these young quarterbacks have to deal with week in and week out and he’s just got to continue to do it better.”
Joe Mixon is capable of powering the Bengals running game
Mixon, a second-round draft pick this year, had 17 carries for 29 yards against the Browns last time out, but has gradually taken on a bigger role, especially with Jeremy Hill on injured reserve, and he is embracing it, Jackson noted.
Cincinnati ranks last in the league in rushing with just 68.0 yards per game.
“He’s the focal point now of the running game,” Jackson said. “I think he’s a very talented player and they’re turning and handing the ball to him. I think they’re beginning to play to his strengths and what he can do and let the offensive line do what they can do with him. I just think they’ll continue to get better. He’s a young player. There are other young players playing and they’re going to get better at running the ball and I think that’s what they’re trying to do as they go throughout the rest of the season.”