Browns-Rams comprehensive review.

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Andrew Hawkins captures the relief we all felt after the first TD for the starters this year.

I will finish up the BetOn-BetAgainst series with the AFC teams this week.1 But the chore of breaking down last night’s dress rehearsal2 game is insistent and important.

But it is a chore.  More disappointing Browns football.

As I write that adjective ‘disappointing’ and think deeper on it… disappointments in and of themselves are mildly malignant events that grown-ups should be able to handle.  But if I had a to assign a number to this, I’d say Browns’ football yields 80% disappointment.  The cumulative effect of participating in a hobby or activity or past-time that disappoints at that rate… it seriously can’t be great for one’s mental health.

[Re-do paragraph.]

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Scoreboards really did look good.

Adopting a familiar pattern, there was more disappointing Browns football in the admittedly vastly-improved, Sin Tax funded, public-utility sponsored, still-appropriately nicknamed Factory of Sadness.  The scoreboards do look great, do create an atmosphere where there was none, and the seats they replaced were shite.  Local taxpayers porked?  You bet.  But at least the project was executed professionally and the end result maybe even something to take pride in.

[Re-do para.]

While continuing to wait for tangible signs of life — i.e., touchdowns — from the first team offense, the defense kicked it into reverse in a disappointing dress rehearsal debut at improved First Energy Stadium.  I popped for the pre-season package3 so let’s make that $15 work and breakdown the regressive performance.  Or credit the Rams for being good.  Who knows maybe I’ll be able to make a case that Hoyer was okay and everyone else sucked — but since the metric that matters is touchdowns any such rational theses will ring hollow even to me.

Which is worse the Browns’ third down defense or third down offense?

Here’s ESPN’s box score and drive play by play.  If you look at it play by play isolating the first team offense and defense, the third down performance numbers confirm your eye-ball test.

Tall receivers winning jump balls over small d-backs.  A familiar story and a key to converting 3rd/25.

Tall receivers winning jump balls over small d-backs. A familiar story and a key to converting 3rd/25s.

Rams’ third downs against first team Browns’ defense.
  1. 3rd/1, converted:  Cunningham 3 yd run.
  2. 3rd/7, not converted:  penalty — illegal shift.
  3. 3rd/12, converted:  13 yd short pass Bradford to Quick.
  4. 3rd/20, not converted:  penalty — false start.
  5. 3rd/25, converted:  36 yd pass Bradford to Britt.
  6. 3rd/7, not converted:  Hill incomplete.  FG.
  7. 3rd/11, converted:  Hill pass to Cook.
  8. 3rd/2, converted:  Cunningham 21 yd run.
  9. 3rd/7, not converted:  penalty — delay of game.
  10. 3rd/12, not converted:  Hill incomplete.  FG.
  11. 3rd/10, not converted:  Davis sacked by Dansby.  (Three and out.)
  12. 3rd/19, converted:  Davis pass to Givens.
  13. 3rd/2, converted:  Davis pass to Givens, 75 yd TD.
  14. 3rd/5, converted:  Davis pass to Watts.
  15. 3rd/2, not converted:  Davis incomplete.  FG.
  16. 3rd/14, not converted:  Interception by Kirksey.

After these it looks like the Browns’ backups are in.

If we take out the stops the Rams did to themselves, that’s thirteen third downs; eight conversions.  That’s a 62% opponent conversion rate.  That’s bad.  How bad?  The worst team in ‘opponent 3rd down conversion rate’ last year was Atlanta at 46.2%.4  If you consider that in third downs greater than ten yards the Rams were a staggering 67% (four for six) — 67% and mind you just two of those converts were by the Rams’ first string QB — and it’s … well it’s disappointing and also familiar since the Browns were right behind Atlanta at #31 on that afore-referenced list.

They're not gonna catch him.

They’re not gonna catch him.

Defense was a disaster.  Gilbert looked rookie like.  The McFadden-Britt matchup illustrated with flawless perfection a familiar talking point here at Kanick.  But I really don’t think Haden and Skrine would have done better as there was no serious pass rush, no playmaking help from the safeties.5

As bad as the defense was… then there’s the offense and THEIR third down performance.

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What are you Fernando Rodney?

Browns’ first team offense third downs.
  1. 3rd/5, not converted:  Incomplete to Benjamin (thrown away).  Punt.  (This was the only drive in first quarter.)
  2. 3rd/18, not converted:  Give-up draw play to Lewis.  (Three and out punt.)
  3. 3rd/7, converted:  Hoyer to Hawkins.
  4. 3rd/9, not converted:  Incomplete to Austin (behind open crossing receiver… catch-able… but bad pass).
  5. 3rd/1, converted:  Run by West.
  6. 3rd/3, converted:  Pass to Hawkins.
  7. 3rd/1, not converted:  West TFL.  (Three and out punt.)

And then Manziel took and runs a short TD drive.6

The math is seven third downs for the Hoyer offense, three converts.  That’s actually a 43% convert rate and puts you in the Saints echelon; a top five number.  I know right?  On the other hand, that’s also the Falcons’ 3rd down conversion rate.  Having our defense and offense mirror last year’s Falcons is a formula for 4-12.  Avoid.

To answer my original question on which was worse, the defense was worse.

Excuses and rationalizations section.

The offense wasn’t good but I can find some signs of life:  Austin contributing, growing rapport between Hoyer and Hawkins.  In some significant foreshadowing,7 Gordon didn’t play and I suppose we have to get used to that.  Cameron only had two targets which, as much as I love Alec Ogletree and as nice as his pick was,,, Ogletree was thrown at 87 times last year.  Any Rams game plan is heavy on tight end use.  So it appears the game plan was designed to see what Austin (six targets) and Hawkins (five) could do… that might artificially hamstring an offense.

This ended badly.

This ended badly.

The defense was without Haden.  This increased the heat on Gilbert and frankly exposed him.  While I’m sure all NFL opponents would have planned to target Gilbert, this film will ensure it.  He looked way over his skiies.  McFadden also got the start and maybe hasn’t picked up his assignments yet?  I kinda like him in coverage… but his size is a problem and he’s still learning how to play.  Seemed like Sheard (Mingo started.) sat out a lot; seemed like they were giving Mingo a lot of time.  Mingo is better than last year but he’s not close the Sheard, we’re all on the same page on this one right?  Desmond Bryant was also out but Armonty Bryant was a bigger impact player than Desmond Bryant has been and that’s not a knock on DBryant, just high praise for ABryant.


 Instructive highlights.

Can’t do every play and let’s cull through the highlights that catch our interest.8

You can click the ‘expand’ icon inside the player and it should go to full screen for a better look-see at these clips.

Defense.

First play.  While Sam Bradford is pointing at the linebackers he intends to throw underneath, Leon McFadden is pointing at the receiver he’s probably responsible for but not sure so when in doubt drop into a zone 20 yards of LOS amirite?  Watch Quick saunter underneath into more green than you should ever find five yards behind the LOS.  Too easy.  Blown defense?  Let’s hope.


Straightforward third and short run play by the Rams.  Watch Saffold vacate the hole at left guard and know his assignment and seal off half of the Browns line while Cunningham hits the hole with power.  This is not a simple play, it just looks simple.  It’s the quick inside trap, the same play Chuck Noll ran for decades.  You have to do it right; it’s run to perfection here.  I do not think Kyle Shannahan has this in the playbook.


Example of no pass rush.  Mingo seems to be attempting to bullrush Saffold (on an apparent o-line pass block stunt!) with hilarious results.  It’s possible Gilbert settled into a slightly wrong zone as he almost gets a hand on it.  Safeties?  Where the safeties at?  In the end you can watch Aaron Barry getting abused by TE Lance Kendricks on an out route that was there for Bradford if he wanted it.


Ok how about a good play?  Mingo just flat beats Chris Long coming inside.  Could it be that all 2013’s outside moves were all intended to set up the unveiling of the 2014 Mingo inside move?  If so, he’s already surpassed Kameron Wimbley.  Kruger gets credit for a QB hit but really, all Mingo, play blown up, probably should be a grounding penalty.


Here’s the Bradford injury.  Inexplicably WKYC does not show a replay so this is all I’ve got.  Looks like a clean hit.  Bryant comes in high right after the release.  Seems like there’s an o-lineman tangled in his legs so he might have pulled Bradford down awkwardly.  Here’s hoping Bradford is ok and I suspect he is.  (Update:  he isn’t.)


Offense.

Moving to offense, someone wake up Dave Kolonich because:  HEY LOOK A SCREEN PASS!  Schwartz is fine taking up space but looks like Janoris Jenkins out quicks him to cap the gain at twelve yards.  Miles Austin is no Greg Little for better (catching) or worse (blocking).  Even so, Austin did his part here.  Of interest:  at the end of the play you can see four o-linemen more than ten yards downfield ready to pick off people.


What do we mean when we talk about QB/WR ‘chemistry?’  Here is an example.  I suspect this is a broken and free play.  After looking downfield and finding nothing Hoyer looks underneath.  At the same time Cameron breaks off his route and runs to where there aren’t defenders.  Plays like this look easy and probably should be but as we saw last Monday, they can’t be taken for granted.


What do we mean when we talk about Zone Blocking Scheme and ‘one-cut’ running backs?  Here is an example.  Play sets up like a USC “Student Body Right” but then Dion Lewis takes his one cut and find a decent hole created by Mack and Bitonio.  Mack gets initial block on Langford then hands him off to Bitonio who gets leverage and keeps it moving Langford out of the play.  Nice play by all.


“How to kill a drive, part one.”
Long beats Schwartz here.  Let’s remember that Chris Long was a second overall pick even though he’s never been a pro-bowler he did just get an extension with 27MM guaranteed.  But yeah, Schwartz is blown up and then Long takes down Tate.  From second and short to third and a problem.


“How to kill a drive, part two.”
Here we have a Shurmur play call.  Third and six with no one underneath.  No safety valve.  Three receivers bunched to the left with the play designed to go right.  That’s three receivers out of the play.  By design.  With no received at move-the-chain-ville on the side the play is designed to go.  On a simple third and six.  A true WTF play call and design with predictable results.  (And when the coaches film becomes available I think we’ll find out that at least a couple receivers are in the same zone.)  Here comes the punt unit.


Last four:  INT (on Hoyer), FUM (A. Donald beats Schwartz), Stop and INT (by Kirksey), TD (Hoyer-Hawkins).

This is a true WTF throw by Hoyer.  There are no mitigating circumstances:  no pressure, no bad routes, no surprise linemen dropping deep.  Just a bad QB locked onto his target to the extent he either doesn’t see or didn’t care about the four Rams immediately adjacent to his target.  Ok, Ogletree makes a feint toward the line and run cover and maybe Hoyer saw that and crossed him off the list but… nah.  This is the Hoyer who didn’t get drafted and was cut a couple times.  No excuse.  I got nothing to bail out Hoyer on this one.  I wish to point out that back foot jumpballs were a tendency even in the two Hoyer wins last year.  He’s definitely not perfect but the hope is that he fixes those tendencies rather than reverts to them.


This play is so Aaron Donald.  We can kill Schwartz and probably should but the set is weird.  Donald is at tackle with the end seemingly doubled by Cameron and Dray.  You just don’t expect an outside move into two tight ends from a tackle but that’s EXACTLY what Donald does.  Yeah sure it’s on Schwartz to protect that.  But damn, that play is so Aaron Donald.  I got in on Kelvin Benjamin for OROY; now looking at how to profit from Aaron Donald.  He’s going to break into the starting lineup and he’s going to dominate.


Nice back to back plays by Kirksey.  In the first, he just keeps the play in front of him closes fast and caps gain to one yard.  ONE YARD.  The interception is interesting because Kirksey is actually lined up to blitz up the middle then BUSTS ASS IN HIS DROP to get in position to make a very athletic play on the ball.  We may finally FINALLY have the first playmaking linebacker around here since Chip Banks.


Let’s finish this with to the touchdown.  You’ve got that same bunched formation that sucked so hard earlier in the game.  And it’s about to suck here too as the Rams have it covered really well initially.  It’s Hawkins’ (well-documented) quickness and Hoyer’s understanding that the linebacker (undrafted Philip Steward) can’t cover him that makes this touchdown happen.


Ok here’s the Michael Sam sacking Manziel clip.


Sign Sheard now.

Sign Sheard now.

On further review.

The offense looks better on film than they did in real time.  By better I mean “positive trajectory.”  I do not mean good.  Yeah sure, the bar was set very low after the Skins game but improvement was required and achieved.

The defense though.  My god.  You know who else –besides the starting QB– is not signed and possibly/probably a UFA in 2015.  Jabaal Sheard.  This defense was a giant bag of suck without him.  I think his absence was a bigger factor than Haden’s.  This is a worry.

Here’s where I’m at:  I can still see this team playing at playoff level.  They have the talent, I’m sure.  But the regression on defense and the slow progress on offense tells me that the ‘sit the starters in game four’ unwritten rule needs a re-think.  These guys need real-time snaps.  Here’s hoping Pettine won’t be bound by convention and gives his starters the work they need next week.


  1. NFC preview here; all the college teams here. [back]
  2. Speaking of dress:  lose those God awful brown pants.  IT’S NOT A GOOD LOOK AND IF YOU THINK IT IS YOU’RE WRONG.  Period. [back]
  3. I really really wasn’t going to do it this year. [back]
  4. Need I tell you who was 31st on this list?  Yes, you already know. [back]
  5. In another familiar talking point, Tavon Austin:  one target, zero catches.  You want to wait a year before calling his pick in the top 10 one of the worst pick in the last 20 years?  Ok, we’ll wait. [back]
  6. Seemed like a very Manziel series in that we went from 1st and goal from the 1 to 2nd/goal from the 16 but yet still managed a TD. [back]
  7. In spite of Petting saying the DNP was due to medical reasons. [back]
  8. That is, I’m not going to dig into where Aaron Berry is out of position.  Only so much bandwidth. [back]
  • bupalos

    Hey JK how are you doing your vids as far as compression and format and whatnot? I have a hard time finding the right mix for size and quality on stuff I want to share off gamepass.

    • welp, i’m using Screenflow (paid app) to capture my desktop and I dont tweak any settings. the settings are below. and then i export to an mp3 file. mp3 is uploaded to wordpress same as a jpg. and THEN.. i use a free plug-in by jwplayer to get the embeds in the post.

      i did export to youtube and no lie, nfl has those videos killed within 24 hours.

      let me know if that helps or if you want more data.

  • nj0

    So WKYC did a piece on Swagger before the game on Saturday. Don’t think he’s a rescue.

    I also thought (quite morbidly) about how Bull Mastiff’s have relatively short lifespans for dogs. Even our mascots are going to see a lot of turnover. 🙁

  • actovegin1armstrong

    Sorry to interrupt kids, but I need to post this before the game and I may soon be away from the magical interweb for a few days. (Well…. I guess it is up to my Parole Officer.)

    ****S Caroline -9 (or whatever the line is) over TAMU**** Essay gang aft aglee

    A&M has had and lost the best Left Tackles in the last two drafts.
    Word on the streets is that Cedric Ogbuehie is better than Joeckel and Matthews. The local pundits even say that because of his “superior physicality”, he will be far better than Jake Matthews. There is a reason that these chumps are sports journalists in a podunk, cowtown like College Station and not making the big bucks in Bristol. They are a bunch of idiots and they also think they are using the word “Physicality” correctly. Sadly enough, in this case they may inadvertently be using it correctly, but I prefer to give Cedric the benefit of the doubt. (I would love to have them use the word simplistic in a sentence.) Cedric has talent, but he cannot hold a candle to Matthews. There is a very important component to pass blocking consisting of reading defenses, scheme blocking and scouting your opponent. Last year Matthews frequently coached Ogbuehie pre-play, now with no Matthews and Ogbuehi moving to the blind side, the A&M line will make mistakes that will put their inexperienced QB in jeopardy. Ogbuehi is a terrific run blocker, as are most of his fellow linemen, so the Aggie’s only hope is on the ground. Not as in “on the ground” where their QB shall spend most of the game, I mean with an effective rushing game.

    A&M had terrific talent, they had three players drafted in the first round, but one must remember, they had three players drafted in the first round and while they may be replaced, the first game of the season will not be enough time to groom their replacements.
    A&M and our JFF guy are still living off of one good game against Alabama. This may very well be the “what have you done for me lately” year in the land of the psilocybin fields.
    The biggest thing A&M has going for them is another fantastic punter, a great punter is a tremendously valuable asset and A&M will really rely upon him. (That does not bode well for their ability to matriculate the ball downfield. With all due respect to Hank Stram.) Also, there is not a clear QB of quality to replace JFF. They have a QB who can run and a QB who throws it a little, and they may form some hybrid offense designed to use both QB’s…. no, wait, that is the Browns. oops.

    South Carolina did lose a better QB than A&M, but they have an exceedingly adequate replacement with plenty of experience. Experience shall mean a great deal in game one and adequate is a big plus as well. Many people are lamenting the loss of Jadaveon Clown. OVERRATED!! Connor Shaw and Bruce Ellington were SCAR’s big losses, they do however have a quality running back and they are loaded with a tremendous depth chart of adequate players.

    South Carolina is an easy pick here.

    • Petefranklin

      I think the line will be 10.5 for you, but it still wins IMO.

  • Dave Kolonich

    If the Week 3 Preseason is any indicator, we’re probably looking at a bottom five offense (again).

    2011 – Week 3 – Couldn’t score against the Eagles
    2012 – Week 3 – Same Story
    2013 – Week 3 – Destroyed by the Colts

    With the exception of Josh Gordon’s breakout last season, Week 3 was a harbinger of bad offense to come.

    2014 – Week 3 – Could barely even score against the Rams’ backup D.

    As I said a few weeks ago in “The Hater’s Guide”, this offense has the potential to do little more than run into 8-man defensive fronts all year.

    And as I’ve been saying for a couple years now, Greco and Schwartz = Trouble.

    • Sam Gold

      Hope dashed. Sigh…

      • Petefranklin

        And I put money on these Clowns!

  • nj0

    Hoyer: Preseason has all but negated any positive feelings from his short stint last season.
    Mingo: Nobody gets to where they don’t need to be faster than him.
    Kirksey: So THAT is what a linebacker is supposed to look like. Interesting.
    First drive kill: Agree that it wasn’t Schwartz so much botching the block, but the whole right side being unable to make a hole where one was needed.
    Second drive kill: Easier said than done, but I think a more experienced QB steps up into the pocket and can at least try to make a play there. Same on the Sam sack.
    Playing calling: Seems like a big concern right now; blaming “new offense” for now.
    Zone blocking: While that was just a short gain, it illustrates why it’s effective: all the defense is moving the other way after the cut. You can see how a play like that can go for a big gain with a missed tackled or one defender over-pursuing.

    • Dave Kolonich

      Mingo: Nobody gets to where they don’t need to be faster than him.

      Well done, sir!

      • humboldt

        Mingo is living confirmation of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle

        • actovegin1armstrong

          Infinite Improbability Drive

          • nj0

            Yes, a way to get in on the play without all that tedious mucking about with tackling.

  • humboldt

    Great work JK. I missed the game on television but this is an extremely useful Cliff’s Notes.

    As a fan given to irrationality, I can safely say that preseasons tend to more frequently be inflationary of our hopes, making us think a 10-6 season is within reach, or that Brandon Weeden is finally turning the corner, etc. This year, the preseason performance has a distinct ‘deflationary’ feel to it – I just can’t believe the team is as inept as they have looked at various junctures. Perhaps this un-artful lowering of expectations/hopes will prove to be a boon for the 2014 Browns? Even so, would be nice to see some cohesion and dominance (ok, just cohesion) from the starters in some aspect of the game on Thursday.

  • Capitalgg

    Fun fact: the white jersey, brown pant look is the single least successful in franchise history having never produced a win in the preseason or regular season. And I don’t think a single game has been winnable

  • Sam Gold

    Some serious questions/observations:

    “How to kill a drive, P1”: It appears the play was designed to go to Schwartz’s left next to Mack with Greco out front lead blocking. Is this really a Schwartz failing or a Tate misread?

    “How to kill a drive, P2”: It appeared the play was designed to go left as Hoyer was focused left at the snap and remained so until he felt the pressure of #23 blitzing. Hoyer may have exited the pocket too soon as Lewis appeared to block him behind Hoyer if he had taken a step forward. Why there was no one underneath is baffling but Cameron was open at the 1st down marker in the flat.

    “Interception”: When Hoyer surveys the D pre-snap on this play #52 & #53 are close to the line and it appears he has decided what he’s doing before he turns his back to the D for the play action. When he turns around he is locked onto Austin and sees nothing else. This seems like the kind of error he made against MIN and when he saw what he did on tape afterward he corrected the following week at CIN. Per Pettine’s statement that Hoyer is in many ways still a rookie couldn’t this be chalked up to a lack of experience error that will get corrected when he sees it on tape?

    “Sack fumble”: This is what I keep seeing Schwartz do: he seems to get so locked in on the schematic movement he’s been taught for the specific play called that he has no situational awareness to adjust to what the defender actually presents to him. He clearly knows from the snap that Donald is his responsibility but he can’t adjust out of his assigned movement to the left dictated by the play call. Metaphorically, he’s the definition of book smart but not street smart.

    What a friggin’ find Kirksey looks to be.

    My take is that the O is out of sync and virtually no one has their assignments dialed in…yet. We knew Shanahan’s scheme was difficult going in. They did, however, improve on just two days practice from game two to three. They may not come out blazing on Sep 7 but I think the reps they get between now and then coupled with one more practice game could/should allow them to hang ‘til the end with a Pittsburgh team that doesn’t look all that polished either and maybe, maybe, maybe pull out a win.

    • Warburton MacKinnon

      Wow…can I borrow those rose colored glasses till the seasons over on thinking we have a chance in the season opener.

      • Sam Gold

        It’s how I keep from ending up naked on the roof with a deer rifle.

    • 1. i went back and looked at it frame by frame expanded and you might be right. the play starts out blocked fine and as tate approaches the line there’s a seam – a small one, but a seam – between schwartz and greco. it’s after tate kicks it outside that it looks like schwartz is blocked into him but really it’s more tate running into him. cant be positive but that looks like a great catch.

      2. correct again. none of the bunched receivers are even look back until he’s been flushed. hoyer could have stepped if he had a receiver to throw open but you cant tell from the clip if anyone qualified. this brings up another point: hot reads. i know hoyer knows about them from his brady years. browns were once masters (sipe, kosar) at this but it’s been a very long time.

      3. yeah. i mention ‘four players adjacent to the WR’ but the only one who matters is ogletree and he may have baited hoyer and hoyer bit hard. i’d have to go back and check but there was a greenway INT that bupalos was harping hard on… that might be the similar play. also there were a couple mistakes in the cincy game too, bengals just didnt catch the ball.

      4. maybe. maybe if schwartz just manages just a shoulder or even a push this turns into a harmless mingo-style overrun. still.. donald.

      5. was a really good play by kirksey. right now he and bitonio are duking it out for top rook.

      6. it’s ‘damning with faint praise’ to say they improved over monday night but still, they did. pettine really needs to junk convention and play his starters against the bears. the final audition for the taxi squad needs to take a backseat to getting both sides of the ball more snaps. the experiment to give mingo sheard’s snaps and west tate’s.. end it. end experiments and use the bears scrimmage to get ready because theyre not and still have a very long way to go.

      • Sam Gold

        Forgot to say thanks for this very well done review. Really appreciate the vid footage.

        • yeah, we’re trying to get those videos in under the cover of darkness. if i’d put them on youtube or vimeo they’d be dead links by now. hoping that since the mp3 are stashed on my webserver it’ll avoid nfl scrutiny (which is efficient and ferocious).

  • Sam Gold

    “The cumulative effect of participating in a hobby or activity or past-time that disappoints at that rate… it seriously can’t be great for one’s mental health.”

    http://media.giphy.com/media/12b3InV7F4o5X2/giphy.gif

  • Warburton MacKinnon

    Thanks for being close to brutally honest…not many outside of the National media are being so,but you bring an actual Browns perspective to the suckitude.

  • Petefranklin

    This coaching staff looks like they were picked off the curb.
    I really hope Whitner just had a bad game.
    The O line really should wear Brown pantsuntill further notice.

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