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Cleveland Browns Progress Report Part Three: Individual Offensive Performances
Considering the Cleveland Browns did not have a game last Sunday because of their bye week, the regularly scheduled “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” game review will not appear in its normal format here. Instead, we’re going to take a look back at the first nine games of the season for the Browns, this time with an eye on some individual offensive performances worth noting. For a look back at overall offensive and special teams grades click here. For overall defensive and coaching grades, click here.
On most teams in the NFL this wouldn’t even be a conversation. The best quarterback under center is usually the same guy who has been under center all season, and probably the same guy who was under center last season and the same guy who will be under center next season. The Browns have not known this kind of stability however, and the 2013 season is no different. Cleveland has seen Brandon Weeden, Brian Hoyer, Weeden again and finally Jason Campbell take snaps for the Browns offense. But who has been the best?
We can eliminate Weeden right away. Aside from a few rare instances (Buffalo game, anyone?) he has failed to develop into the down the field passer he was thought to be when drafted.
Hoyer created the most buzz, and for good reason. He took over a team that was 0-2 and had just traded one of their offensive weapons in Trent Richardson. He won the next two games (against Minnesota and Cincinnati) and completed 59.7 percent of his passes for 590 yards, five touchdowns and three interceptions. He looked like he was going to lead the Browns to a modest season, before he became sidelined for the season with a torn ACL. However, Hoyer has not been the best quarterback we’ve seen this year.
That accolade belongs to Campbell.
Campbell doesn’t have the best record among the Browns starting QBs this year, as that belongs to Hoyer. However, Campbell has had the best overall performance and against stiffer competition. As a starter Campbell has completed 63.3 percent of his passes for 555 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions. His ability to extend plays and not turn the ball over is a big reason why he’s been so effective in his two starts.
The biggest differentiating factor between Campbell and Hoyer however is how they’ve done under pressure. For Hoyer, 30 of his 104 drop-backs have been under pressure while Campbell has seen pressure on 35 of his 85 drop-backs, a much higher percentage. While under pressure, Hoyer was sacked six times, threw no touchdowns, one interception and completed 45.4 percent of his passes (10-of-22). Campbell, on the other hand, has only been sacked three times, has thrown three touchdowns, no interceptions and has a 62.9 percent completion percentage. Campbell’s ability not only to handle pressure, but have success under pressure, is a big reason why he’s been the best quarterback for the Browns this season so far.
Mack in the Middle
Generally speaking, the offensive line hasn’t been very good overall. While injuries were a factor and they’ve played better as of late, Browns quarterbacks have been pressured on average 37.6 percent of their drop-backs. Despite this, two guys have had success in pass protection and it’s exactly who you’d expect – Joe Thomas and Alex Mack.
Thomas has allowed 19 total QB pressures so far this season (sacks+hits+hurries=QB Pressure), second best on the team. It is Mack, however, who has done the best in terms of pass protection. Mack has only 15 total QB pressures (a sack, three hits and 11 hurries) and has done his part to keep the pocket intact. Just imagine how good he could be if he had good, consistent guards on either side of him. Mack has also been the Browns best run blocker on the o-line, and it’s not even really close.
It has been reported recently that Hall of Fame receiver Michael Irvin has spoken with the Browns as a team as well as acted as a mentor to Greg Little and Josh Gordon. In honor of the original Playmaker, who has been the Browns best play maker this season for Cleveland?
Ever since he returned from a two-week suspension, Gordon has been electric. He’s averaging a little better than 89 yards and five catches per game (over seven games) while hauling in three touchdowns. He has good numbers, but in terms of reliability Gordon could stand to pick things up a bit.
While Little gets the most heat for dropped passes (although Davone Bess has received deserved criticism as well) both Gordon and Little have dropped five passes each. While Gordon has the lower drop rate (12.50 compared to 15.15 for Little) he has dropped a couple passes this year that would’ve gone for big gains. Looking at deep passes (pass traveling 20-plus yards in the air), Gordon has been targeted 13 times, catching four passes for 156 yards and three touchdowns. Three of his five drops have come on these deep passes as well.
While Gordon’s numbers are good, a case could be made that the Browns best overall receiver has been tight end Jordan Cameron.
Cameron has been just as good as or better than Gordon in nearly all facets of the receiving game. The biggest difference between Cameron and Gordon are average yards per game. While both have similar yardage totals (Cameron 600 yards, Gordon 626 yards) Gordon’s have come in two fewer games.
However consider this. Cameron has proven to be the more reliable target; he has caught 50 of his 71 targets and has only dropped three passes, giving him the lower drop rate by far. As far as deep passes, Cameron hasn’t been targeted as many times as Gordon (which could speak to playmaking ability), but has been nearly as successful and more efficient. Cameron has been targeted five times on passes traveling 20-plus yards in the air, catching four of them for 130 yards and a touchdown. Cameron also has six touchdowns this season.
The edge in playmaking ability may go to Gordon (more deep pass targets, more yards, fewer games), but Cameron has been the most reliable target for the Browns so far this season.
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