The Cleveland Browns' Offense...and Defense: Rufio's Notes Week 3

I updated the spreadsheet.

Sorry it's later than usual this week, I've been bogged down by "work" and "responsibilities." An ugly win is still a win, and late is better than never. With that, here are some of my observations from last week's game against the Miami Dolphins.

Defense:

  • Joe Haden followed Brandon Marshall all over the field, even into the slot. This is as opposed to previous weeks where he did not follow AJ Green or Reggie Wayne. Making this the case only some weeks means we are harder to prepare for. We've created two possible scenarios for the opposing offense.
    • Early on, the Dolphins saw this, and put Marshall in motion to test if Haden would follow him. Haden didn't follow him in zone coverage, but did in man.
    • I cannot say enough about Haden's performance. Of Marshall's 4 catches, Haden was in man-to-man on two, and only one was reasonably defensible by Haden. Holding a 6'4", 230lb man who has been a 1,000 yard receiver each of the past 4 years to only 43 yards isn't bad, either.
  • We played in a 3 DL nickel package last week. Sheard and Mitchell were outside at 5-techniques, while either Rubin or Taylor were inside at a 1 tech. Gocong, Jackson, and Fujita were LBs, with Fujita often playing in man against the TE.
  • Part of the reason D'Qwell Jackson has been more productive in terms of "impact" plays has been that we are turning him loose to blitz his A-gap against the run. As soon as he reads run, he runs as hard as he can through his gap and tries to get the ballcarrier in the backfield.
    • The Dolphins noticed this and began scheming against it with counters in an attempt to let D'Qwell run himself out of the play. We later countered by calling off this run blitz.
  • Rumors of Sheldon Brown's demise have been greatly exaggerated. On one of Hartline's catches, he simply made an amazing play. Perfect defense beats perfect offense everytime in today's NFL. The deep pass to Hartline was Brown's fault, but he was running stride-for-stride with Hartline and it looked like Hartline may have gotten away with a little hold/pull near the sideline. Regardless, Sheldon didn't magically get slower last week, and I still trust him against most #2s.
  • This might not make a whole lot of sense to people who haven't played OL, but its something I hope we carry over into today's game against the Titans. In 3rd and medium-long situations, we often used zone blitzes to try to get untouched rushers to the QB and force a "hot" throw. These "hot" routes are typically under 5 yards, and we were looking to force these short throws and then tackle the receiver short of the first down. Look for this when we go to 3 DL.
  • Miami's OL, outside of Jake Long could not block us. Even Long got beat at least once in pass pro.

Offense:

  • Runs of 0-1 yard kill us on drives. It doesn't seem to be as bad when we get 3 or even 2 yards on a run play, but getting absolutely nothing hurts us bigtime.
  • The light is starting to go on for Greg Little. He's becoming a bigger and bigger part of our offense, and he showed flashes of what he can do for us in the 4th quarter. He's hard to bring down for any NFL corner.
  • Speaking of Little, he and Massaquoi are our top receivers. They are almost always in the game in key situations and passing downs. When the game is on the line it's those two, Ben Watson, and a back. At times the last skill player has been Brian Robiskie, Josh Cribbs, and Jordan Norwood.
  • Our line did a better job of getting to the 2nd level on run plays, but there is still plenty of room for improvement, especially from the guards. When Lauvao and Pinkston execute their assignments they can be good in the run game, they just need their minds to catch up with their bodies. More core strength wouldn't hurt, either.
  • In the running game, we did a better job of running into a numbers disadvantage and neutralizing the extra defender either by running away from him or letting RB Montatio Hardesty suck him into a hole, then bounce the run.

Coly:

  • Colt McCoy by no means played a solid game. But he wasn't as awful as I thought. He had a few passes that were inaccurate, but other problems with the offense weren't due to losing the strike zone.
    • On Colt's interception, he simply was not on the same page as Mohammed Massaquoi. Typically when the QB scrambles like that, there is a protocol for the WRs to follow. The outside receiver clears deep, while the others work their way to flood the sideline the QB is scrambling to. Massaquoi was doing his job by the book--but that was the problem. There was a defender on the sideline, and Massaquoi was running into the coverage instead of sitting where he was in the hole.
      • These kinds of INTs are always on the QB. Massaquoi didn't do what he should have done, but McCoy cannot throw this ball unless he knows Mohammed will be there.
    • Later, on a seam route to TE Ben Watson, Colt's throw appeared to be "behind" Watson, even drawing criticism from the TV commentators. While it was not a perfect throw, Colt was faced with a zone blitz coming from the right and the MLB dropping and widening to Watson. Additionally, Watson had been re-routed and pushed inside at the line. Colt had to put that ball out of the reach of the Mike, and he hit Watson's torso.
    • These two throws are examples of McCoy using his accuracy in an attempt to throw his receivers open, something that he will undoubtedly have to do to succeed in the NFL. The outcome of these plays was not positive for us, but it wasn't because McCoy lost the strike zone.
    • Another thing Colt needs to improve at is adjusting his protections and being ready for pressure before the snap. I'll have more on this later, but there were definitely several times where it appeared the right side was just playing poorly when in reality they did their job and we just didn't have the play set right. That falls on Colt's shoulders.

That's all I have for now, but today you can watch for our 3 DL nickel package to force short throws with tacklers nearby when we are on defense. On offense, watch for Colt changing plays or making blocking adjustments at the line, and the success of our WRs at beating tight man coverage. If we can stop the Titans on 3rd down, utilize all of our pass protectors, and beat tight man, we'll have a solid chance to win. GO BROWNS!

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