Notes On Ugliness

I finally got around to making a spreadsheet with notes about last week's game from a Browns fan's perspective. Everyone thought the game was "ugly," and I don't disagree given the penalties and general incompetence we saw on both sides of the ball. At the same time, though, I think the Browns improved. McCoy had a bad day – by far his worst game this season – with a subpar 48.7% completion percentage. Yet I think the OL improved a tad, and Hardesty showed he can run. The defense made stops when it needed to, holding the Dolphins to field goals inside the red zone and forcing punts when it mattered. The secondary played well, our receiving corps wasn't bad, and we put pressure on Henne, making five sacks and vaulting us near the top of the heap in the NFL in that category. Colt redeemed himself on the last drive and we won the game, moreover, which is really all that matters.

That said, here are my observations and criticisms of last week's ugliness:

Offensive notes:

1. McCoy was playing “like garbage”, especially toward the beginning of the game. On the Browns’ first possession alone, he missed two open men and threw an interception. On the next possession he again missed two open receivers, including a wide-open Cribbs downfield in what easily could have been a TD if he placed the ball right. He seemed to settle in afterwards, with only four inaccurate passes for the rest of the game. Still, McCoy is usually accurate, and something must have been off. Hopefully Shurmur & Co. can figure out what went wrong and coach him through it.

2. The right side of the OL improved from Week 2 – but was still bad. Yes, it was nowhere near the shitshow we saw against the Colts. Nonetheless, both Hicks and Cousins got beat on critical plays, shortening Colt’s life in the pocket and stopping a couple of good drives. It seemed like Hicks was in at RT for more snaps than Cousins, though I don’t have any data to back that up. These guys need to get better fast, or else we need to replace them. Colt’s poor performance last week aside, a lot of the Browns’ “ugliness” this season has been attributable to weakness on the right side, in my view. Pashos clearly isn’t a viable option.

3. We saw good things from Hardesty. This is obvious and has already been discussed, so I won’t belabor the point aside from saying that we may need to use Hardesty more often this season, because he’s quick and can find a burst on swing routes and outside runs. Our inside run blocking has not been spectacular, which has in part accounted for Hillis’s less-than-stellar averages so far.

5. I like what the Browns’ offensive minds are doing with Cribbs. We’re seeing him line up as a receiver more, or so it seems, and he put in a good performance against the Dolphins. He had the TD catch, of course, and a couple other solid receptions. He muffed one pass that he should have caught, but I think we can forgive him that, especially after he got open in the first quarter for what should have been a catch-and-run for the touchdown. Ah, Colt.

6. It’s good that we’re seeing more of Little. He appears to be getting more passes thrown his way, and he played a role on that final drive. He hasn’t been targeted yet downfield, though, and perhaps it’s time to give him one or two chances. It’s impossible for me to tell what routes he’s running and whether he’s getting open, though.

7. The final drive was a thing of beauty: 2 minutes and 40 seconds, 80 yards and a touchdown. I’m not going to say anything about this one, because everyone else has. Yes, the excessive celebration penalty was absurd. Someone should be fired, not fined.

8. Momass is good.

9. Why don’t we use crossing patterns to tight ends more often? They worked very well last week.

Defensive notes:

1. Sheard is a beast. I thought he had his best game yet against the Dolphins, even if the stats don’t show it fully and despite the inadvertent head-knock on Henne in the end-zone that cost us a big penalty. He had at least six individual plays and helped put Miami’s offense off balance numerous times. If anyone deserves the game ball for this game, it’s the defense for stopping Miami on some crucial drives and holding them to field goals. And if anyone on the defense stood out, it was Sheard, although there’s a case that the secondary played a bigger role in preventing  Miami scores.

2. Our secondary looks good. Haden is playing like he’s slamming Tiger Blood before games or something. T.J. Ward is also playing well. I do see some issues with Sheldon Brown and Mike Adams, though. Brown gave up a couple big passes to Hartline and Bess. He missed a couple of tackles, too. I was concerned about Adams last week because he was acting emotional, pushing guys around after plays and stuff like that. It’s good to see guys amped up, but not if it might cost us some penalties and other problems. In my book at least, guys should play with determination, not emotion. The latter just doesn’t help the team.

3. The defense gets burned constantly by dump passes in the flat to running backs. Typically the play begins with a play-fake to the running back. Then the QB drops back to pass. Seeing no one open because the secondary has everyone blanketed, the QB fires over the middle in the flat to the running back, who by then has darted through (or around) the line. I don’t know what this play is called, but we’ve been gashed for 10 yards and more many times this season, including several times last week. I’m not sure what the right defense is, but the LBs certainly should be alert to this type of play (#s 4, 25 and 95 in the spreadsheet).

4. Rubin, Jackson and Gocong had good games.

5. I wasn’t impressed with Dmitri Patterson’s play, though he wasn’t terrible either.

6. Haden is having a great year so far, but let’s not get overconfident about him or the rest of our secondary. We haven’t faced a team with a dangerous passing attack, so it’s fair to say the secondary is good but somewhat untested.

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