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.
- Donte Whitner: +5.7 One of the two big free agent acquisitions, Whitner is finally making his presence known in Cleveland. His pass coverage has been up and down throughout the season, but against Tampa Whitner was impressive across the board. If he keeps this up the defense could really start humming.
- Joe Haden: +3.7 It's nice to see the secondary start to show up in these spots after a rough start to the year. Haden in particular is a good example of someone who came out of the gates slow but has really turned it on lately. The Browns' shut down corner is back to his old self, and he's going to be needed down the stretch.
- Joe Thomas: +2.5 I almost get bored writing about how good Joe Thomas is every week. For many tackles, a game like this would be their best all season, for Joe it might have even been a bit of a down week. Thomas is the top ranked tackle in the league in both run and pass blocking. Eat your heart out, rest of the NFL.
- Nick McDonald: -7.1 This is a comically bad grade. McDonald is shaking off the rust still, and Gerald McCoy isn't exactly a favorable matchup, but still. Center is going to be a big question mark for the rest of the season, hopefully McDonald (or someone else) can step up and avoid being a complete dumpster fire.
- Desmond Bryant: -3.5 Not a good week for any of the interior linemen, but Bryant in particular was disappointing. We're counting on him to make impact plays up the middle, and he was pretty lackluster against a weak offensive line. This is another area where the Browns must improve, and may look to upgrade substantially in the offseason.
- Buster Skrine: -2.8 I kind of feel bad for Buster, because he really didn't have a chance. Tampa may suck, but the lone bright spot on their team is the receivers. Skrine is a decent corner, but a decent corner is going to get abused by a great receiver all day long. Against most teams, Skrine doesn't have to cover anyone like Vincent Jackson or Mike Evans.
It was a total team victory against Tampa Bay, and that's reflected in the grades. There weren't a lot of players at the far end of the spectrum either way, and that seems to match up with what we saw on the field. Everyone was pretty average, and that was good enough to squeak out a win against a bad team. The schedule gets much more difficult starting tomorrow in Cincinnati, and I don't think what we've seen the last couple weeks will be enough to beat the Bengals. We're going to need some position groups to bounce back and we can't afford to have anyone slip either. I'm cautiously optimistic.
Season best: Joe Thomas +22.7
Season worst: Nick McDonald -12.0