With two weeks down in what appears to be a typical Cleveland Browns football season, a few clear patterns have emerged. We’re starting to see who/what on this team is good, bad and downright fugly. Let’s break the team down and get this ball rolling.
1. The Good – The Outside Linebackers (Kruger, Sheard, Groves, Mingo)
Let’s start off with a good point. I like to be positive, even while drowning in the sea of suck that has been the start of the Browns 2013 campaign. The outside linebackers have been causing opposing QB’s to rush through progressions, make hasty decision, and have been putting sacks, tackles for loss, and hits on the quarterback on the board. These guys have been playing top quality football for three quarters a game thus far. They are a big reason why the Browns have only given up a total of 6 first half points in two games. They’re causing timing issues, bad throws and getting in the heads of decent quarterbacks like Tannehill and Flacco. This is without doubt the most solid unit on the team.
2. The Bad – Buster Skrine/Chris Owen
Its not all sunshine and roses on defense. The lack of a servicable corner opposite Joe Haden is becoming more problematic than what I think anyone thought. With Haden taking out QB’s #1 receiving options, any team with a decent #2 or slot option is going to take us to the cleaners. You saw that with Brian Hartline having a big day in week one, and with Marlon Brown going off in the second half on Sunday. Skrine started to actually make hits against the Ravens, but his size/speed disadvantage is really a gaping hole in the Browns defense. I really wish we would have signed one of the decent CB free agents during the offseason, someone like Brent Grimes would make a world of difference playing opposite Haden.
3. The fUgly – Mitchell Schwartz/Oniel Cousins
Has there been a more frustrating position to watch on this team? Cameron Wade was having zero problems cutting through both of these clowns in Week 1, and the Ravens pass rush was crashing our right side all game long. They’re making it next to impossible for the entire offense to get in to any sort of rhythm, both due to bonehead penalties (I’m looking at you Oniel), or from lazy blocking (looking at you Mitch). Trent can’t cut back to the right, and is even getting hit by linemen on sweeps to the right. Weeden is getting murdered from the right side, 11 sacks all coming from that side of the line in two games. If we don’t get Lauvao (who I wasn’t even a fan of last season, but now looks like a savior two weeks in) and Pinkston back soon, we’re going to be in for a brutal season offensively.
4. The Good – The Defensive Line
Man, I knew Phil Taylor was going to solid, was excited about Des Bryant, and had a feeling Rubin would be good. Even with Rubin sidelined due to a calf strain, Billy Winn has stepped up big time. These guys have blocked running lanes, made a ton of tackles for no gain/loss, and have been able to create single unit pressure on the quarterback. They have been playing, much like the linebacking corp, grade A football for the first three quarters of both games. Realistically, this unit has kept us from getting blown in both weeks, play by play.
5. The Bad – Trent Richardson
I don’t honestly know who to blame for T. Rich’s lack of production so far. The numbers don’t lie though. 31 attempts, 105 total rushing yards, 3.4 yards/carry. No touchdowns. Longest run was for 10 yards. I still think Trent has the ability to be an explosive playmaker. The Browns playcalling hasn’t been great, as they seem to quit trying to rush very quickly, and never seem to let Trent get into any sort of rythem. He hasn’t been explosive, and instead of putting his shoulder down and hammering would be tacklers, he’s making a lot of bad cut backs for loss. Weeden refuses to look to him on option passes, and there don’t seem to be many designed pass plays or screens with Trent. I think part of his poor performance falls on play calling, but he’s definitely missing something in terms of his own explosiveness and descision making.
6. The fUgly – Brandon Weeden
You knew it was coming. I know, the receivers can’t catch. I know, the right side of the line might as well be cardboard cut outs. I get it. He’s had obstacles. So do a ton of other QBs. The Browns defense was making Ryan Tannehill’s life a nightmare in the first three quarters of week 1, but you had to see the difference in his poise. He didn’t panick. He didn’t make bad throws. He took accurate shots when they were available. Weeden does none of those things. He has weapons on offense. Bess is a surehanded guy, even if Little and Benjamin are not. Cameron is a stud. Trent can catch the ball if you let him. He has at least three options, even if Little and Benjamin are better suited to be quick decoys. But the truth is ugly. Weeden is a highly inaccurate quarterback with a big arm. He is as slow as any quarterback as I can remember, both in reads and footwork. He looks like a guy wearing a ball and chain with his shoe laces tied together trying to scramble. Terrible. He knows pressure is coming from the right, but he still takes ages to go through his progressions and can never seem to find the open check down man. He refuses to make the defense pay for rushing him. His mechanics are awful, his throwing motion isn’t much better, and his inability to adjust to the defense on plays is what has, and will continue to cost the Browns games as long as he’s under center. Bring on the back ups, please.
7. The Good – The Inside Linebackers (Jackson/Robertson)
Man, these two have been scary good. They haven’t gotten the press that the OLB guys or D Line guys have, but D’Qwell and Craig have been dominant with run stopping, and have faced a couple of solid tight ends and given up little in terms of passing across the middle. The middle of the field has been a kill zone, and unlike the rest of the defense which tends to get gassed by the 4th quarter, those two are like energizer bunnies. They have been a joy to watch. The key here is keeping them injury free, as we don’t have much (read: any) depth at the spot.
8. The Bad – Offensive Playcalling
Ugh, this has been frustrating to watch. Plays that are designed to Little and Benjamin despite their inability to get open or hold on to the ball. Read options for Weeden who can’t read defenses and doesn’t have the athletism to run an option. Throwing on first down, then running on 2nd and 15’s. I still have faith in Norv that he’s going to adjust, but man is it hard to keep on believing. Thus far the Browns offensive scheme leads me to believe that they aren’t able to actually see what’s happening on the field in the booth.
9. The fUgly – The Receivers
I’m giving Devone Bess a pass out of this one, because he’s been reliable when he gets targeted (which isn’t often *cough* Weeden *cough*), but Greg Little and Travis Benjamin have been simply unwatchable at times. This is Greg Little’s third season as a starting wide out, and he still hasn’t figured out how to catch a routine pass play??? Further, I thought Little had speed? Where, oh where, might that be hiding? He’s getting covered by teams 2nd and 3rd corners without any separation issues. And Benjamin. Look kid, I love how fast you are. I love that you give guys fits running down field. But for pete’s sake, it doesn’t count for anything if you can’t pull the flippin ball in. Neither one of these clowns would have made any other NFL teams final roster. Terrible.