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Cleveland Browns' Preseason Film Review: 20-17 Loss to Redskins

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Chris Pokorny breaks down the Cleveland Browns' 20-17 loss to the Washington Redskins.

Jason Miller/Getty Images

The Cleveland Browns' first preseason game is in the books as they fell to the Washington Redskins this past Thursday by a final score of 20-17. Here is my film review of the game, mostly of the first half.

Preseason Week 1 Film Review

Washington Redskins vs. Cleveland Browns

1st 2nd 3rd 4th FINAL
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20
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17

  1. Goat of the Game: CB Justin Gilbert - It was not a good day at all for CB Justin Gilbert. He received an opportunity to start with three cornerbacks down with hamstring injuries and he stuck out like a sore thumb with the first-team defense. He allowed WR Pierre Garcon to be wide open for what should have been an easy 65-yard touchdown pass on the first drive. It's not even worth breaking down the television footage of it because I don't know what Gilbert was doing -- he just looked to be lost in space. For him to come out after the game and say that he played a "flawless" game except for that play is asinine too.

  2. Awarding the Game Ball: WR Brian Hartline - He played just 9 snaps but showed how reliable of a receiver he can be as he logged 3 catches for 30 yards. Can someone explain again why the Miami Dolphins stopped utilizing him last year?

  3. Defensive Personnel: During the preseason, I am less concerned with coverage schemes that are dialed up and more concerned with individual efforts and when we are using personnel groupings that I'm not as accustom to seeing.
    Pre1 Def

    On the first defensive play of the game, from left to right, the defensive line includes DE Desmond Bryant, NT Danny Shelton, and DE Randy Starks, a combination that has a good chance of being in there for opening day. In his first two years with the Browns, Bryant has primarily played on the right side, but here he starts off on the left. It pays immediate dividends as he knifes through the right tackle to stop RB Alfred Morris in the backfield. From the inside linebacker position, ILB Craig Robertson started things off and took on the fullback.
    Pre1 Def

    There is Bryant, stopping the play for no gain. Two players had their attention set on Shelton during the play, who keeps his position strong at the line of scrimmage.

    On third down, the Browns inserted DE Armonty Bryant into the game as a pass-rushing defensive end. Rookie safety Ibraheim Campbell also came on a safety blitz, all while OLB Paul Kruger dropped into coverage. The Redskins picked up a first down on a crossing route, but the personnel usage is what sticks in my mind.

  4. McCown Hits His Target: QB Josh McCown was 5-of-5 for 33 yards and 1 touchdown on his only drive of the game. McCown has looked comfortable this camp with the short passing game and then hitting the deep ball after a lull in the action.
    Pre1 Off

    On McCown's first completion, the Browns line up five wide with RB Isaiah Crowell at the top of the screen and WR Travis Benjamin in the slot next to him. WR Andrew Hawkins is in motion from left to right (and then back to the right, to see what coverage the defense is in). TE Gary Barnidge and WR Brian Hartline follow along the bottom of the formation. McCown can either go with the quick hitter to Benjamin at the top or a swing screen to Hawkins at the bottom.
    Pre1 Off

    McCown's decision is already made up from his pre-snap read and he gets the ball off quickly to Benjamin before taking a shot from the blind side.

  5. A Little Rust from Alex Mack? There seemed to be a little rust from C Alex Mack in his first live game action since breaking his leg last year. On the team's second run play of the game, his man blew by him to disrupt the Browns' run stretch play for a loss of a yard.
    Pre1 Off

    Later in the drive, QB Josh McCown ran a playaction fake on 1st-and-10 near midfield. This is how I think the Browns' offense will operate this year, based on what I've seen in camp: run the ball 42.5% of the time, throw quick/short passes 42.5% of the time, and then launch it deep 15% of the time.

    The Browns set up their first deep shot on their fifth play, only sending two receivers out into the route and having eight men in protection. Despite that, when McCown turned around, he saw a defender right in his face as Mack had let him get by. McCown didn't panic and stepped up in the pocket while keeping his eyes downfield.
    Pre1 Off

    McCown was prepared to launch the ball and then slipped as he was throwing it. The pass still went a long way and Benjamin, the intended target, actually drew pass interference. If this had been picked off, though, I imagine some fans would have started bringing the pitchforks out.

  6. Setting Up the Pick Play: Facing a 3rd-and-4 on QB Josh McCown's first drive, the Browns set up a nice little pick play to move the chains.
    Pre1 Off

    WR Taylor Gabriel lined up at the bottom of the screen, and he'll be running a slant to the middle. WR Andrew Hawkins is in the slot next to him, driving his defender back and then cutting to the outside.
    Pre1 Off

    With the depth that Hawkins drives his defender at and the Redskins being in man coverage, Gabriel's defender is basically picked and McCown has a clean lane to deliver the pass to Gabriel. RB Isaiah Crowell also provided a nice (even though it wasn't essential to the outcome of the play) block.

  7. Keeping the Play Alive for the TD: Facing a 2nd-and-goal from the 2 yard line, QB Josh McCown connected on an unconventional touchdown highlight.
    Pre1 Off

    The Browns have trips receivers at the bottom. WR Travis Benjamin is the outside man, running a crossing route to the middle and then stopping. WR Andrew Hawkins is on the right of the trips formation, sliding under and to the outside. WR Brian Hartline fakes to the outside and then cuts back over the middle.
    Pre1 Off

    Based on the depth that Hawkins runs his route, my guess is that McCown was going to fake to Hawkins and then after Hartline's hitch, gun the ball to the back of the end zone to him, with Benjamin's route taking the underneath defender away from Hartline. However, Hartline slips right after this frame and a defender dives at the feet of McCown.
    Pre1 Off

    McCown rolls left, sees the congestion, and then rolls all the way back to his right. While this was happening, Benjamin lost the defense and went to the back of the end zone, while Barnidge went from being a blocker to a receiver at the front of the end zone. McCown delivered a nice pass for the score, but if nothing were here, he would've thrown the ball away and lived for a third down.

  8. Defensive Notes on 2nd Series: On the Browns' second defensive series, it took the Redskins three plays to pick up their first first down of the drive, and NT Danny Shelton was in on all three plays. I imagine he'll be utilized heavily this season, compared to most nose tackles.

    On more plays than not, DE Desmond Bryant is back on the right side, with DE Randy Starks on the left side. In nickel defense, they went with Bryant and Starks up front and OLB Paul Kruger and OLB Scott Solomon playing the edge. When it was time for Bryant and Starks to receive a break, the first defensive ends in the game to replace them were the tandem of DL Xavier Cooper and DE John Hughes.

    The run defense had been playing pretty well in the first quarter until a 4th-and-1 give to RB Alfred Morris that went for 18 yards. Kruger had the best shot at making the play but Morris continued taking the play outside as Kruger dove for him.
    Pre1 Def

    On the final play of the drive, CB K'Waun Williams came on the blitz in the nickel with a free shot on QB Robert Griffin III, thanks to our good friend, OG Shawn Lauvao. The Browns actually lined up Solomon and Kruger right next to each other on this play, with Solomon taking the outside rush, Kruger the inside rush, and Williams splitting the seam.

  9. Not Much to Analyze on Manziel TD: There isn't much to break down on QB Johnny Manziel's touchdown run.
    Pre1 Off

    They say that coaches do not game plan for opposing teams or players, and this is a clear example of that because no sane coordinator would open the middle of the field up this much with absolutely no spy for a mobile quarterback.

  10. A Day in the Life of Nate Orchard: When QB Kirk Cousins entered the game, it was pretty much all second-teamers on both sides of the ball. Rookie OLB Nate Orchard consistently lined up as an edge rusher on the right side on Washington's first touchdown-scoring drive of the game, so let's see what type of impact that Orchard had.
    Pre1 Def

    On this 2nd-and-11 play, NT Danny Shelton is being double-teamed in the middle as Orchard goes with a bull rush. He thinks he can get by for the sack, but the left tackle holds his ground enough for Cousins to dump off a completion to his running back.
    Pre1 Def

    A couple plays later, Orchard throws a different look at the left tackle by faking an outside rush...
    Pre1 Def

    ...only to dive inside and get a soft hit on the quarterback as he throws a pass up the right sideline.
    Pre1 Def

    Unfortunately, Cousins just seems to kill the Browns when he faces them. Despite CB K'Waun Williams having very good coverage, including his hand being wedged between the receiver's arms, the receiver comes away with the catch.
    Pre1 Def

    Just like the Manziel touchdown, if the Browns had game-planned for Washington, I'm sure Jim O'Neil would have warned the outside linebackers to watch out for the read-option. On this 1st-and-goal play, Orchard crashes the running back...
    Pre1 Def

    ...but Cousins keeps the ball and walks in for the score.

  11. Favorite Play for Manziel: This was my favorite play of the game for QB Johnny Manziel, even though it only netted a 6-yard gain on 2nd-and-9.
    Pre1 Off

    OG Karim Barton hasn't had the best of camps, and on this play, his pre-snap read was to help the center with a double team and let two blitzing linebackers come free at Manziel. Instead of running around, Manziel made the right read and hit WR Darius Jennings right out of his break.

  12. Special Teamers Trying to Play Defense: There is a reason why guys like ILB Tank Carder and CB Johnson Bademosi are known for their special teams abilities and not their playmaking ability on defense.
    Pre1 Def

    Because this is the preseason, we get to witness what life would be like if Carder was at inside linebacker and Bademosi was an outside cornerback. The result is a Redskins running back picking up 23 yards after Carder can't make the play in the backfield and then Bademosi doesn't contain the outside as much as he probably should have.

  13. Not Setting the Edge: The Browns' backups had a difficult time setting the edge when defending the run, which helped Washington's rushing yards pile up by the end of the game.
    Pre1 Def

    Here, you see OLB Nate Orchard crashing the inside instead of staying outside with no help. If Week 1 were coming next week and I had to pick a starter, I'd say that Mike Pettine and coaching staff have the depth chart correct with OLB Scott Solomon, OLB Barkevious Mingo, and then Orchard. Orchard can be an asset in pass-rushing situations to start the year off.

  14. Notes on Roster Bubble Players: Here are a couple of thoughts on potential roster bubble players who I have not already discussed:

    -WR Shane Wynn: It hurt that he didn't catch a third down pass from QB Johnny Manziel. Upon further review of the tape, I can see why it was a little tough for Wynn. Before he came out of his break, Manziel had let the ball loose for him to stick his route right where he was. When Wynn came out of his break, he planted his foot to angle toward the sideline. When he tried to reach back for the ball, he was off balance and the defensive back was able to drive right through him for the breakup.

    -WR Darius Jennings: A 54-yard kick return was nice to see, but the more and more I see the receiving talent on this team, I can't see the Browns keeping a player to be a returner only. Jennings would only make the roster if he starts receiving first-team receiving snaps over WR Travis Benjamin, and right now that's not happening.

    -OL Cameron Erving: It wasn't a poor day for Erving at left tackle, contrary to what some have said. However, I wish he would have seen more action at right guard, a position he could contend at for a starting role. NOTE: Erving is not a bubble player, I just didn't know where else to stick this note.

    -DL Jamie Meder: It is going to be nearly impossible for guys at the bottom of the depth chart on the defensive line to make this club, but Meder did a good job wrapping up a ballcarrier and forcing a fumble. Plays like that, coupled with him making some noise at the end of last season, could open a spot on the practice squad for the local kid.

    -ILB Tank Carder: Defensively, it's not going to work with him, but we already knew that. If Jim O'Neil truly thinks he has a niche as a blitzer, then let's see him with a first-team rep or two next week.

    -OT Michael Bowie: One awful play is one awful play too many for a player who was a dark horse to contend for the starting right tackle job. He let a guy blow by him in the third quarter and sack QB Connor Shaw. Shaw was driven into the ground on his right hand, and you have to wonder if that is where he suffered the broken thumb that he'll now need surgery for.

  15. Special Teams Notes: On the first punt return of the game, the two outside players who would be blocking the gunners were CB Justin Gilbert and WR Darius Jennings.

    On the first kickoff return of the game, CB Justin Gilbert was the return man, and his first three lead blockers were DE Armonty Bryant, TE Jim Dray, and S Jordan Poyer.

    On the first punt of the game, CB Johnson Bademosi and WR Marlon Moore were the gunners, and Moore stripped the returner of the football with Bademosi recovering.

    On the second punt of the game, WR Vince Mayle and WR Josh Lenz were the gunners. Lenz got free from his two blockers right away, but Mayle was pretty much stone-walled the entire duration of the kick being in air. RB Isaiah Crowell made a nice tackle on the play.

    On the third punt of the game, CB Justin Gilbert and CB Charles Gaines were the gunners.

  16. Snap Counts on Offense & Defense: If you missed them, here are the links to our snap count trackers for offense (link) and defense (link). On offense, OL Cameron Erving played 88% of the game. On defense, S Ibraheim Campbell played 74% of the game.

  17. Brownies: P Andy Lee was awe-inspiring with his punts, and that's going to turn out to be a heck of an acquisition by GM Ray Farmer. ... WEWS (Channel 5) had a bunch of issues with their pre-game show and the audio during the broadcast, but it wasn't too bad listening to Mike Patrick call the game. ... TE E.J. Bibbs seems well on his way to taking what was originally thought to be TE Rob Housler's roster spot.

    DT Xavier Cooper had the only sack of the game for Cleveland, coming on an impressive inside rush that stalled a Redskins drive as they were approaching the red zone. ... Give the running game another couple of weeks to succeed; the sample size for RB Isaiah Crowell and RB Terrance West is so insanely small. ... C Ryan Seymour was beat a couple of times, bringing back the horrid flashbacks of why our offense faltered last year without C Alex Mack. ... NT Phil Taylor was held out of the game. ... K Carey Spear received the first kicking reps over K Travis Coons and hit a 47-yard field goal. ... I thought the new uniforms looked great on TV, although the helmet logo at midfield looked too red.

Up next, the Browns take on the Buffalo Bills this Thursday at home. Keep it tuned to Dawgs By Nature for our coverage leading up to the game!