In this weekly series, I break down the three best and three worst Browns of the week, according to Pro Football Focus. A couple notes before we get to it. First, PFF isn't perfect, these ratings aren't supposed to be the final word. But they do represent the view of impartial observers who watch the game a lot more closely than most of us. For more information on exactly how these ratings are produced, see the PFF website, linked above. Second, ratings don't really compare between positions. A wide receiver with a +2.5 ranking isn't necessarily better than a +2.1 linebacker. So with that in mind, don't assume that the guy with the highest rating necessarily had the best game. These articles are just here to give you a general idea of who played well and who didn't. So let's get to it.
- Joel Bitonio: +4.8 The rookie guard continues his stellar start to the year. It's a shame linemen don't usually get rookie of the year consideration, or Bitonio would be in that conversation right now. He excelled in every facet of the game this week, but the real strength of his performance was run blocking, where he had an incredible +3.9 rating.
- Alex Mack: +3.7 Mack has also been on a tear to start the season, earning every bit of his new contract and then some. Mack was slightly above average in pass blocking, and continues to thrive in his run blocking. The former all-pro has made an easy transition to the zone blocking scheme, and has used his superior strength, athleticism, and intelligence to dominate interior defensive lines all year. The Browns offensive line in general has been awesome so far, and Mack is a big reason why.
- K'Waun Williams: +3.1 Surprise! This is kind of nuts, isn't it? The Browns drafted two corners in this year's draft, but it's the UDFA Williams who stole the show this week. Finding value after the draft is over is difficult to do, but in Williams it seems Ray Farmer has done just that. Williams' grade is driven almost entirely by his +2.5 coverage rating.
- Buster Skrine: -4.3 Skrine had by far his worst game of the season. PFF did not treat him kindly, giving him an extremely poor coverage grade and also downgrading him for two penalties. Skrine was never in danger of being considered a shutdown corner, so weeks like this are to be expected from time to time. Hopefully he bounces back next week.
- Christian Kirksey: -2.5 Kirksey is still learning on the job, perhaps being given a little more responsibility than he's ready for. He has struggled against the run, and that really showed this week. He posted a -1.3 run defense rating despite only playing 13 snaps in run defense.
- Phil Taylor / Paul Kruger: -1.9 (tie) Taylor played a grand total of nine snaps before being injured this week, so take this rating for what you will. I'm tempted to throw it out altogether. Kruger, on the other hand, played over 50 snaps, and the kindest thing PFF had to say about him was that he was average in his four coverage opportunities. Kruger has gotten some pressure this season, but if these numbers are to be believed, it has come mostly as a result of good coverage rather than anything Kruger is doing. This seems incongruous with what I see watching the game, so don't shoot the messenger on this one.
Not a single player on the Browns offense was given a poor rating this week. That's pretty cool. Things have been streaky, but in general the offense looks like the strength of the team. Raise your hand if you expected that in August. On the flip side of that, the defense continues to disappoint. It's hard to point to any one thing the defense does well. The one consistency is that our corners aren't playing up to snuff. Maybe K'Waun Williams can help stabilize the position a bit in coming weeks, but I wouldn't count on it. Look for the defense to continue struggling until key players like Joe Haden and Donte Whitner get it turned around.
Season Best: Joel Bitonio +9.9(!)
Season Worst: Phil Taylor -7.6