Cleveland Browns Week One: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Updated: September 10, 2013

Well, that was not exactly the start Browns fans were hoping for. The Cleveland Browns lost their home/season opener to the Miami Dolphins by a score of 23-10. By and large this was a disappointing game with only a couple of bright spots. Many fans left the game saying things like “same old Browns” or “I thought Pat Shurmur was fired”. Without further ado here is the good, the bad and the ugly from game one of the NFL season for the Cleveland Browns, with the help of some stats from Pro Football Focus.

The Good

The Browns defense as a unit, specifically the front seven, played very well.

For starters, running backs Daniel Thomas and Lamar Miller only had 17 yards on 18 carries combined. Miami only rushed for 20 yards on 23 attempts (Ryan Tannehill added three yards on five carries) as the Browns defense absolutely stymied the Dolphins ground game. In the passing game, Joe Haden played very well. Whether this was a product of poor coverage on the other side of the field (Buster Skrine and Chris Owens) or not isn’t clear, but what is clear is that Haden basically shut down the speedy Mike Wallace. For the day, Haden only saw five passes come his way (all while covering Wallace). Of the five attempts, only one was completed for a 15-yard gain. The only thing Haden could’ve done better was lock up an interception that went through his hands. Tannehill’s QB rating while throwing at Haden was 39.6.

The Browns were also able to generate a decent pass rush. Cleveland got to Tannehill for four sacks (losing 17 yards) while putting ample pressure on him all afternoon. In addition to the four sacks, the Browns had three additional QB hits and 13 hurries for a total of 20 QB pressures on the day, all this without Ahtyba Rubin and Barkevious Mingo.

If this game was any indication of things to come for Jordan Cameron, then we are looking at a future Top 5 tight end. Cameron was targeted 11 times (nine catchable) and had nine receptions for 108 yards and a touchdown. He was a constant mismatch for Dolphins defenders, and he did not drop one pass all afternoon (according to Pro Football Focus).

Brandon Weeden didn’t play a terrible game. Before you close this article and say this writer’s an idiot, consider this. Weeden was sacked six times for 45 yards and was under constant pressure all day thanks to a very poor performance from the offensive line (more on them later). While you may not believe it if you watched the game, Weeden was able to drop back a few times during the day without pressure, 29 times as a matter of fact. He was 21 of those 29 attempts (72.4 percent) for 213 yards, one TD and one interception for a 90.2 QB rating. Imagine if he didn’t have 30 additional drop backs while under pressure.

The Bad

The Browns decided to completely abandon the running game, forcing Weeden to throw the ball 53 times. Trent Richardson ran the ball 13 times for 47 yards. In a post game press conference head coach Rob Chudzinski said he was trying to keep Richardson fresh. Bob Evans wrote how the misuse of Richardson was troubling. What’s more puzzling is that they only ran Richardson to the left three times. When going left Richardson managed gains of nine, (off the left edge) eight (behind Joe Thomas) and seven (behind John Greco) yards. His other 10 rushes (none designed to the left) netted him just 23 yards (including a 10-yard gain off the right edge). It’s unclear to this writer why Norv Turner and Chud didn’t try to run more behind the better run blocker in Greco (who admittedly wasn’t spectacular on Sunday) on the left side or why they didn’t run more in general. This just put more pressure on Weeden.

Browns receivers dropped four passes and accounted for two interceptions off tipped balls. Greg Little (two drops), Travis Benjamin and Chris Ogbonnaya (one drop each) each dropped passes, while both Cameron and Little had balls bounce off of their hands that resulted in interceptions. It’s unclear to this writer how Cameron was credited going 9-of-9 on catchable passes when a ball hit him in the hands and was picked off, but aiding to these two interceptions (along with many others throughout the day) was Weeden throwing passes high and behind his receivers.

Weeden was not as good as the numbers mentioned above. Weeden showed no touch on many of his passes, he missed a couple open receivers downfield and tried to force balls into places they shouldn’t be thrown too (resulting in an interception on a deep ball to Benjamin). This writer maintained patience with Weeden in his rookie year, but he is now on a 15-game clock in order to prove himself. Certainly that clock is much shorter for the Browns front office.

The Ugly

For starters the offensive line was deplorable.

In 59 passing plays the offensive line allowed five sacks (the 6th sack can be credited to Ogbonnaya in a pitiful display of pass blocking) eight QB hits and 13 hurries for a total of 26 QB pressures. They had a pass blocking efficiency rating of 64.8. For comparison, the Cincinnati Bengals had a PBE of 93.4, the best of week one going into the Monday Night Football games. Oniel Cousins and Mitchell Schwartz were two revolving doors on the right side of the line. Together they allowed five sacks, two QB hits and seven hurries. Yes, Schwartz had the unfortunate assignment of stopping Cameron Wake. No, that is not an acceptable excuse for allowing nine total pressures. As for Cousins, when he wasn’t letting the Dolphins defense blow up the backfield, he was getting penalized. Cousins was penalized four times (two holds, one false start and one illegal hands to the face) and at times was a bigger asset to the Dolphins defense.

Speaking of penalties, the Browns were penalized nine times for 57 yards, but this isn’t bad when you consider Cousins was responsible for four flags and 35 yards.

Combined the duo of Skrine and Owens saw 20 passes come into their coverage. They gave up 15 combined receptions for a total of 165 yards and a touchdown (to Brian Hartline, Skrine in “coverage”). They allowed 56 yards after the catch (46 of those allowed by Owens) and were part of the reason Haden only saw five passes come into his coverage.  To put it more into perspective, Tannehill had a QB Rating of 103.8 when throwing into Owens’ coverage and 117.1 when thrown at Skrine.

As good as the Browns defense played, they couldn’t get Miami off the field. On the day the Dolphins were 8-for-16 on third down conversions. The only thing uglier is that the Browns were 1-of-14 on third down conversions.

In Conclusion

To say the Browns struggled is an understatement. Obviously the offense learning another new system along with injuries to Mingo, Jason Pinkston, Shawn Lauvao and Rubin, combined with the suspension of Josh Gordon didn’t help matters. The bottom line is that this team has to be better; otherwise Cleveland will be in for a long season of miserable football.

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