When the New York Giants announced joint practices with the Cleveland Browns, many noted the connection between head coaches Joe Judge and Kevin Stefanski. However, not as many noted the connection between the Browns and another member of the Giants coaching staff.
Freddie Kitchens was the head coach in Cleveland before coming to the Giants as a tight ends coach, a role which has been increased to senior offensive assistant for this season.
His return to Cleveland brought some praise from his former players despite things not working out when he was the head coach.
“Freddie, that’s my guy. He was my first NFL running backs coach of my career,” Cleveland running back Nick Chubb told reporters on Thursday.
But it’s not just some of Kitchens’ former players with the Browns who appreciate the coach. Kitchens will likely play a larger role in planning the Giants offense this season as a higher ranking staff member than last year, and Giants tight end Evan Engram already took note of his expanded role and impact.
“In his position now, he’s able to work with the line and then kind of work with us and kind of oversee the offense. His input on a lot of stuff helps us and he’s been around ball a long time. He’s been in every position room, so he knows a lot. Last year it was good working with him. For him to have a little bit more freedom this year around the offense is a big help for us,” Engram said Thursday.
Evaluating Kitchens’ impact on the coaching staff
The decision to promote Kitchens to senior offensive assistant is widely seen as a response to Jason Garrett’s offensive struggles in his first season. The Giants didn’t have a very good offense under Garrett, but with a full offseason to make changes, one of the minimum expectations is that the Giants try different things in offensive schemes and playcalling this year.
Kitchens has coached running backs, tight ends, and quarterbacks during his career at both the college and pro level. Before his stint as a head coach, he served as both an assistant head coach and an offensive coordinator in Cleveland. In other words, he brings plenty of experience coaching offense and may be an influence in spicing up a dry offense that led to many struggles for the Giants this year.
The statement from Engram seems to confirm that Kitchens has taken well to a role looking after the entire offense rather than just the tight ends, and with the Giants adding a number of new weapons this offseason and getting back Saquon Barkley, we should expect to see a lot of new offensive looks come September.