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Cleveland Browns' Preseason Film Review: 11-10 Loss to Bills

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Chris Pokorny breaks down the Cleveland Browns' 11-10 loss to the Buffalo Bills.

Jason Miller/Getty Images

The Cleveland Browns' second preseason game ended without much offense as they lost to the Buffalo Bills this past Thursday by a final score of 11-10. With how good the Bills' defensive front is, I can definitely say that I am glad we don't have to face them in the regular season. Here is my film review of this week's game.

Preseason Week 2 Film Review

Buffalo Bills vs. Cleveland Browns

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  1. Goat of the Game: WR Vince Mayle - He had the chance to gain some ground on the depth chart, especially with WR Terrelle Pryor out another game. Instead, he finished with one catch on five targets.
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    After reviewing the tape, the only play that was really bad was the final offensive play of the game, when he couldn't haul this pass in on fourth down. The defensive back wasn't even trying to knock the ball out, he was just going for the tackle. With Mayle extending his hands, this should be a catch for an NFL player 99 times out of 100. I don't know how the heck he didn't haul this in. Can the coaching staff just say his thumb is still bothering him? Is that passable for an injured reserve excuse?

  2. Awarding the Game Ball: DE/OLB Armonty Bryant - He had a sequence in the third quarter that was dominant. Even if he took advantage of perhaps some poor backups in Buffalo, that performance elevated him from "roster bubble" to "roster lock" in my book.

  3. Better Against the Run: Let's take the Bills' quarterback rushing statistics out of the equation (those stats are still very much relevant to a run defense, but are a separate component). The Bills' backs (and one receiver end around) finished the game with 23 carries for 33 yards (1.43 YPC), a vast improvement in just one week's time.
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    Here is a 2nd-and-4 play on the Bills' first drive of the game. The Browns regularly lined Desmond Bryant up as the left defensive end with Randy Starks as the right defensive end. ILB Karlos Dansby blitzed the A-gap on this play and Starks gained inside leverage on the left guard.
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    Starks' penetration killed the play in the backfield as he swallowed up the back for a loss of 4 yards.

  4. Getting Off the Field on 3rd Down: The Bills converted three straight third downs on their first drive, coming on 3rd-and-7, 3rd-and-8, and then 3rd-and-4. It was a combination of vanilla defense by the Browns and some good decisions by QB Tyrod Taylor.
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    On this 3rd-and-8, the Browns show a heavy front but are going to drop OLB Paul Kruger into coverage over the middle. S Jordan Poyer, filling in for FS Tashaun Gipson, is taking the deeper stuff.
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    Kruger falls back into coverage, but TE Charles Clay gets enough depth on his route to lose Kruger and have a step on Poyer as Taylor delivers a strike for the first down. We're used to seeing Kruger in more of a pass-rushing role on third downs, but he's going into coverage a bit more while OLB Barkevious Mingo is recovering from knee surgery. In a regular season game, perhaps a combination of Mingo and Gipson can play this route a bit better and force an incompletion.

  5. A Familiar Look: Last week, the Browns showed a look against the Redskins that I covered in my film review. It came on a 3rd-and-6 at the 14 yard line. The Browns brought CB K'Waun Williams on a blitz from the slot from the same side that OLB Scott Solomon brought an outside pass rush and OLB Paul Kruger brought an inside pass rush.
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    Once again in the red zone and facing a 3rd-and-6, the Browns brought pretty much an identical look. Solomon takes the outside rush. Kruger, lined up right next to Solomon, rushes to the inside. CB Charles Gaines brings the blitz from the slot.
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    Last week, the blitz from the slot got a nice hit on the quarterback as the pass was released. This week, the running back slides over in protection to cut block Gaines. However, Kruger uses his quickness to slide around the guard and center.
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    The coverage is good and when QB Tyrod Taylor decides that nothing is doing on the right side of the field, Kruger is right in his face for the sack. The nine-yard loss turns a 37-yard field goal attempt into a 46-yard field goal attempt, and that was the difference in K Dan Carpenter pushing the kick off the upright for the miss. Will this be a defensive look the Browns bring often on third down in the red zone during the regular season, or is it just a vanilla blitz look that Jim O'Neil has on his playsheet for "3rd-and-6" in the preseason?

  6. West Showing Off the Moves: RB Terrance West finished the game as the leading rusher with 11 carries for 42 yards (3.8 YPC), but he made some nifty moves to get some of those yards.
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    On this 1st-and-10 play from beyond midfield, TE Jim Dray is trying to block the wide end to the outside while LT Joe Thomas gets to the second level, forming a lane in between he and Dray.
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    OLB Jerry Hughes gets around Dray too quickly, so West has to make a jump cut immediately upon getting the handoff. Because LG Joel Bitonio has been pushed back, West then makes another cut back toward the originally intended gap.
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    WR Taylor Gabriel is losing his man on the outside, so West makes another cut back to the inside before C Alex Mack's man finally catches up to him. The whole effort only earns three yards, but I don't think he could've done anything else here.

  7. McCown's First INT: After re-watching QB Josh McCown play, my assessment is that he didn't really make any terrible decisions in which he read the defense incorrectly. However, he took a couple of sacks that put the team in 3rd-and-long situations, and then rather than playing it safe in those situations, he took risks downfield that did not pay off.
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    On this 3rd-and-15 play, OLB Jerry Hughes makes a nice inside move on LT Joe Thomas. As QB Josh McCown reaches the end of his dropback, he sees this and then starts to bail from the pocket...
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    ...despite the fact that Thomas recovers and LG Joel Bitonio does a nice job coming over to help flatten Hughes. If McCown had more trust in his linemen and stood his ground, he probably could have shifted to the left here to buy a little more time. Instead, he rolls all the way to his right...
    w2o

    ...and finds TE Gary Barnidge. It's a very tight window with two defenders right on Barnidge. On first glance, I thought that Barnidge dropped this past. Upon review, though, it appears as though the underneath defender gets his hand on the ball right as Barnidge reaches out for it, which puts the ball up for grabs. Barnidge took a shot that removed him from the game, and Cleveland lost field position with the interception.

  8. Kruger in the Slot: I don't recall OLB Paul Kruger doing this last year, but maybe I'm wrong. I envision this as another example of him taking over OLB Barkevious Mingo's role as a coverage linebacker.
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    Kruger is lined up in the slot, but he's going to blitz right from the get go as the safety assumes man coverage on his receiver.
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    Kruger is probably our best one-on-one pursuit player of the quarterback, and QB Tyrod Taylor is looking for the tight end coming across the formation. Both of the Browns' inside linebackers are swarming him in coverage.
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    Taylor backpedals enough to evade Kruger's rush, and now the two inside linebackers continue their pursuit. Taylor throws the ball out of bounds to avoid taking a sack.

  9. Third-Down Blocking: We don't know what role RB Duke Johnson will ultimately assume but right now the team is looking for any form of advantage that RB Isaiah Crowell or RB Terrance West might offer.
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    West had an iffy block attempt in the first half, but on this play, Crowell gives a nice cut block to the rusher coming from the middle. McCown is then able to stand firm in the pocket and deliver a 16-yard pass to TE Rob Housler for a first down.

  10. McCown's Second INT: I'll beat the dead horse one more time: one of QB Josh McCown's favorite things is to lob the ball downfield to taller receivers, and he often does a pretty good job at it.
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    Facing a 3rd-and-11, McCown lobs the ball downfield.
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    If this is WR Dwayne Bowe out there, I don't mind the attempt at all because I'd like to think that he'd have a decent chance of either catching the ball or knocking it away. The problem here is the personnel -- WR Andrew Hawkins, at 5-7, is on the receiving end. I'll go ahead and be optimistic and *hope* that we don't plan on doing this with our under-sized receivers during the regular season.

    Also, remember that with all of these plays, I don't have the coaches film available, so I have no idea what was going on in the secondary or with other receivers.

  11. Not a Bloodbath: I'm often harsh on unknown players who are praised by coaches before I actually see them doing anything worth gushing over. It happened a couple years ago with FS Tashaun Gipson, and he made a believer out of me. When it comes to OLB Scott Solomon, he has a long way to go.
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    On this play, Solomon crashes hard on the running back, but QB Tyrod Taylor keeps the ball and scampers for a gain of 21 yards. This one play isn't the only reason I'm ragging on Solomon. While other players have had their individual moments, I'm still waiting for Solomon to show why he's anything more than a backup.

  12. Uh-Oh: I wonder what RB Isaiah Crowell was thinking when he peeked left and saw four members of the Bills all past the Browns' linemen? The play resulted in a loss of four yards (but this was with the reserve linemen in the game).
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  13. Sealing the Edge: The Browns' defensive front clogged the running lanes and wrapped up well against the Bills, as I noted the improved run defense statistics earlier.
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    They also set the edge better, as you can see OLB Nate Orchard doing above (he ends up combining on the tackle for a 1-yard gain). It was a much better Week 2 preseason game for Orchard, who might have earned some first-team reps with a performance like this.

  14. The Armonty Bryant Show: This was a stellar game for DE/OLB Armonty Bryant, who had his way with the Bills' second-team offense in the third quarter.
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    On this 3rd-and-5 play, Bryant beats the right tackle with an inside move and makes a beeline for QB E.J. Manuel. Manuel does complete the first down pass to his left, but Bryant hits him just after he releases the pass.
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    After a false start, DT Jamie Meder stuffing a run for a loss of a yard, and an incomplete pass, the Bills faced a 3rd-and-16. This time, Bryant lined up at the bottom of the screen with OLB Nate Orchard at the top. Orchard beats the right tackle on an inside move again (maybe this right tackle just absolutely blows), while Bryant is going really wide in pursuit of Manuel.
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    Orchard's pursuit forces Manuel to take off to his right. He stumbles a bit, but would have gotten up here (doesn't look like it from the still shot). Just as he tries to stand upright after re-gaining his balance, Bryant's motor pays off for the sack. He doesn't get credit in the stat sheet for the sack, though, because a penalty on CB Johnson Bademosi gave the Bills a fresh set of downs.
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    On the next play, Bryant is lined up on the edge and the fullback meets him with a block.
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    The fullback doesn't deter Bryant's pursuit whatsoever, though, as he penetrates into the backfield and combines for a two-yard loss with ILB Chris Kirksey.
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    On the very next play, Bryant beats his man again, and it forces Manuel to tuck the ball and move around like a chicken with its head cut off over the middle. He eventually walks into the arms of DT Xavier Cooper for the sack, but Bryant's initial rush is what disrupted the play.

  15. Take Some Notes, Shanahan: Last year, former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan had a good thing going with QB Brian Hoyer on the bootleg rollout. I thought the play would be even more dynamic with QB Johnny Manziel, but he completely abandoned our most effective play when he entered the game.
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    We got a glimpse of it here with new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo. Manziel play fakes to the running back, and WR Darius Jennings at the top of the screen will be running a deep crossing route to the other side of the field.
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    Manziel is able to use his mobility to get around the defender on the edge and then uses all the open field to his advantage by lobbing a strong throw downfield -- either Jennings will catch it, or nobody will. Jennings does catch it as the 37-yard hookup is the biggest play of the game.
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    Two plays later, Manziel connected with WR Shane Wynn for a 21-yard touchdown pass. I wish I had the All-22, but because I don't, I can only guess what happened. Wynn lines up in the slot and runs an out-and-up.
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    The Bills are in man coverage and the cornerback must bite on the out. The timing between Manziel and Wynn is good as he steps up in the pocket (can't imagine a defense giving Manziel that pocket in a regular season game) and hits him for the touchdown.

  16. Pylon Cam: Fastfoward to the end of the game with under two minutes to go.
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    Facing a 4th-and-goal from the 14 yard line, QB E.J. Manuel tosses the ball to the left corner of the end zone for WR Andre Davis. Davis has been one of the Bills' unknown studs this camp. In real time, I thought this was a good play by CB Joe Rankin. Upon replay review from ESPN's sweet pylon cam, though, you can clearly see Rankin holding back the jersey of Davis, and you can see how the play would have been in bounds. A penalty on both sides made it a re-do.
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    On attempt two, Manuel went to the other side and Davis beat CB Aaron Ross for the touchdown. The Browns brought a heavy blitz, but the Bills were all packed in tight to block it and Manuel knew wear to throw the ball with one-on-one coverage. After converting the two-point play, the Bills went up 11-10 and Cleveland's comeback attempt ended after WR Vince Mayle's drop.

  17. 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 was nice that he caught the touchdown pass and had a big punt return (brought back due to penalty), but those things are more likely to land him on the practice squad. He only saw six snaps at receiver, the fewest of any active receiver.

    -TE Rob Housler: He caught a pair of passes, but both were on pretty basic routes. It is a step forward that he did not drop either pass, but he still has to go above-and-beyond over the next couple of weeks to re-establish his position on the roster.

    -TE E.J. Bibbs: He continues to make people miss, and the coaching staff has to know that yardage and first downs will be hard to come by at times for this offense. Having a guy who can make something out of nothing with dumpoff passes at the line of scrimmage will be a huge asset, and a skill that I don't think any of our other tight ends possess.

    -DL Billy Winn: It was good to see him back in uniform this week, but has he missed too much time? I don't see him being anywhere close to Starks or Bryant in the starting lineup rotation.

    -DL Jamie Meder: The local product had another pretty good effort this week, and I'm starting to think that if the Browns were to keep an extra, extra lineman between Meder or NT Ishmaa'ily Kitchen, it might be Meder.

    -ILB Tank Carder: I saw some maximum, brute effort from Carder at inside linebacker this week, including one where he had a pretty vicious collision with the fullback.

    -CB Kendall James: Earlier this camp, James had a few plays in which he missed possible interceptions. At cornerback, he seems to be holding his own with a few veteran players out, and that type of play might earn him a practice squad spot. However, I don't see him being utilized on special teams as a gunner, which likely hurts his 53-man roster odds.

  18. Special Teams Notes: On the first punt return of the game, the four outside players who would be blocking the gunners were CB Charles Gaines & CB Johnson Bademosi on one side and WR Darius Jennings & S Landon Feichter on the other side. S Ibraheim Campbell was the upback and WR Travis Benjamin fielded it at the goal line, I assume so the unit could get some live punt return work. Campbell was replacing S Jordan Poyer, who was out with a concussion.

    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 RB Timothy Flanders. Flanders was replacing Poyer (concussion).

    On the second punt return of the game, the four outside players who would be blocking the gunners were WR Josh Lenz & CB Joe Rankin on one side and WR Darius Jennings & S Landon Feichter on the other side. RB Timothy Flanders was the upback with WR Shane Wynn handling the return.

    K Travis Coons hit a 41-yard field goal this week. P Andy Lee continued his punting clinic, including one in which WR Josh Lenz downed at the 1 yard line.

  19. 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 Eric Olsen played more at center than OL Ryan Seymour did. On defense, ILB Karlos Dansby played more snaps than any other defensive starter.

  20. Brownies: The Browns and Bills had two practices in which the defense won on both sides, there were a couple of big plays by the Browns near the end, and Bills won some one-on-one battles with our defensive backs. ... Looking back at the game now, doesn't the description of those two practices match what happened in the game? ... WR Taylor Gabriel and WR Andrew Hawkins each had quick bubble screens thrown to them, with Gabriel's going for a first down and Hawkins' being sniffed out for a loss. ... NT Phil Taylor sat out again. ... DT Xavier Cooper had two sacks in limited snaps. ... NT Danny Shelton once again helped control the line of scrimmage for Cleveland, but Buffalo did have one effective double team and a couple of cut blocks on him.

Up next, the Browns take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this Saturday on the road. Keep it tuned to Dawgs By Nature for our coverage leading up to the game!