BEREA— For many fans in Cleveland, the last four games of this lowly Browns season don’t mean all that much outside of the 2016 NFL Draft.
For safety Donte Whitner, however, these final four contests are more than meaningful— maybe not for season-ending playoff push, but, instead, for the future of the Browns organization.
“It’s tough right now, so we’re going to see who’s really with us, who’s not front-runners, who’s going to finish the season, who’s going to give great effort,” Whitner said. “That’s what you look for in these games. These last four games are very important to us.”
Amidst a season Whitner referred to as “terrible,” he’s watched Cleveland’s defense fall to the bottom of the league in nearly every category, after touting it as amongst the league’s best when the year began.
The reason for said struggles, according to Whitner, has been whittled down to a couple of primary problems.
“We have some guys that don’t do what they’re supposed to do as consistently as they’re supposed to do it— that’s the honest to God truth,” Whitner said. “Sometimes, you could even ell some guys, this play is coming, somehow he still sees some other type of play out there.”
While Whitner wouldn’t provide details on exactly which players are at fault for the actions above, he did say that the mistakes being made are the result of three simple statements.
“Everybody makes mistakes, but how consistently do you make mistakes or continue to make the same mistakes?” Whitner said. “If you consistently make the same mistakes, there are only three reasons: you don’t know, you don’t care or you don’t want to play football. We have to figure that out.”
As of right now, Whitner doesn’t have an inkling or an inclination as to which of the three statements above is the reason for the mental mistakes.
He does, however, know that it’s not a lack of preparation that’s the reason for the bungled plays the Browns put together Sunday after Sunday.
“Every time we’ve taken the football field we’ve been prepared—I can be the first to tell you that,” Whitner said. “We’ve known what the opposition was going to do to us. We’ve known where they want to go with the football. Now, it’s hard for us as players being prepared to get out there and not know what’s going on because we study so much.”
The Browns may know what the opposition wants to do each week and Whitner may know why the team hasn’t performed up to its capabilities, but the unknown is what he’s looking forward to figuring out over this final four-game stretch.
He wants the guys who love the game and who play it to the fullest to be a part of the Browns going forward and feels that he’ll be able to see the future when looking at the tape.
“Going out there in adverse situations, not being where we want to be, we'll figure out. You got back and watch the film, you'll see,” Whitner said, when asked about those who belong with the Browns in the future. "If you love the game of football, it really shouldn't matter about record or playoffs or anything. It should be about the love of the game, going out there and having pride and not laying down and that’s what we have."
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