Browns-Rams comprehensive review.
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.
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.
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.
Rams’ third downs against first team Browns’ defense.
- 3rd/1, converted: Cunningham 3 yd run.
3rd/7, not converted: penalty — illegal shift.
- 3rd/12, converted: 13 yd short pass Bradford to Quick.
3rd/20, not converted: penalty — false start.
- 3rd/25, converted: 36 yd pass Bradford to Britt.
- 3rd/7, not converted: Hill incomplete. FG.
- 3rd/11, converted: Hill pass to Cook.
- 3rd/2, converted: Cunningham 21 yd run.
3rd/7, not converted: penalty — delay of game.
- 3rd/12, not converted: Hill incomplete. FG.
- 3rd/10, not converted: Davis sacked by Dansby. (Three and out.)
- 3rd/19, converted: Davis pass to Givens.
- 3rd/2, converted: Davis pass to Givens, 75 yd TD.
- 3rd/5, converted: Davis pass to Watts.
- 3rd/2, not converted: Davis incomplete. FG.
- 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.
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.
Browns’ first team offense third downs.
- 3rd/5, not converted: Incomplete to Benjamin (thrown away). Punt. (This was the only drive in first quarter.)
- 3rd/18, not converted: Give-up draw play to Lewis. (Three and out punt.)
- 3rd/7, converted: Hoyer to Hawkins.
- 3rd/9, not converted: Incomplete to Austin (behind open crossing receiver… catch-able… but bad pass).
- 3rd/1, converted: Run by West.
- 3rd/3, converted: Pass to Hawkins.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
- NFC preview here; all the college teams here. [back]
- 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]
- I really really wasn’t going to do it this year. [back]
- Need I tell you who was 31st on this list? Yes, you already know. [back]
- 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]
- 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]
- In spite of Petting saying the DNP was due to medical reasons. [back]
- That is, I’m not going to dig into where Aaron Berry is out of position. Only so much bandwidth. [back]