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Film Study: Browns’ cornerbacks & big plays vs. Dolphins

In this week’s film study of this past Sunday’s Browns vs. Dolphins game, we’ll take a look at some of the bigger defensive plays of the game, largely focusing on the jobs done at the cornerback position by Jamar Taylor, Briean Boddy-Calhoun, and Tramon Williams.

1st Quarter

Interception by CB Jamar Taylor on First Pass Play

The Dolphins’ first play of the game was a run for no gain. On 2nd-and-10 from their own 25 yard line, QB Ryan Tannehill attempted his first pass of the game. Cleveland is in zone coverage. Tannehill is going to look at the trips bunch to his right as he drops back, but is trying to deceive the defense as he just plans on throwing the slant to WR Kenny Stills on the left.

As soon as Stills even makes the slightest movement toward a cut, CB Jamar Taylor sells out and jumps the route for the interception. It looks nice, but keep this in mind when I describe a couple of plays later on.

Dolphins’ First TD Pass, CB Briean Boddy-Calhoun in Coverage

The Browns couldn’t capitalize on the early interception, as QB Cody Kessler fumbled on his opening possession. After converting two first downs (one via a traditional run, one via a jet sweep) on back-to-back plays, Miami lines up in Shotgun. Cleveland is mostly in zone defense again, except CB Briean Boddy-Calhoun is playing man coverage on WR DeVante Parker wide right.

Ideally, when the receiver at the bottom of the screen does a shallow crossing route, Cleveland’s zone coverage could have shaded a bit toward the other side of the field. Instead, Taylor and the safety on that side are covering no one, while the other safety has to focus on the slot receiver instead of helping Boddy-Calhoun.

Parker runs five yards without a jam, takes a step toward the outside, and then cuts back toward the inside.

Boddy-Calhoun sells hard for the outside move, which gives Parker inside leverage when he immediately cuts back.

To his credit, Boddy-Calhoun is still doing a pretty good job staying in the hip pocket of Parker. An on-target throw will be good for a touchdown, though, and that’s what QB Ryan Tannehill delivers from 26 yards out to give the Dolphins a 7-0 lead with 10:16 left in the first quarter.

Here is the play in its entirety. You can see that we end up having four defenders converge on the slot receiver.

2nd Quarter

CB Briean Boddy-Calhoun With an Open Field Tackle

Some fans were probably rolling their eyes about CB Briean Boddy-Calhoun. He’s (in large part) never been heard of, and the first time fans see his jersey, he was giving up a touchdown. He made a pretty good impression in the second quarter to redeem himself, though.

Down 7-3 in the second quarter, the Dolphins are facing a 3rd-and-7 from their own 28 yard line. Boddy-Calhoun initially lines up over the wide right receiver. As that receiver goes in motion pre-snap, CB Tramon Williams signals something. Williams takes the receiver who went in motion, while Boddy-Calhoun ends up dropping back (to avoid getting caught up in traffic) but playing man on WR DeVante Parker. Parker ends up running a shallow crossing route.

Just because a receiver is open doesn’t mean a quarterback is looking at him the whole way. Boddy-Calhoun is well off of Parker, but QB Ryan Tannehill can’t safely anticipate that the defender in that direction will follow the receiver streaking upfield.

Tannehill waits for Parker to clear the traffic a bit and then fires a pass his direction. The pass isn’t the greatest — as you can see, it forces Parker to not jump out of his shoes, but still lift both feet off the ground and back toward the line of scrimmage. The impressive part is Boddy-Calhoun’s pursuit — he attacks Parker’s legs immediately, holding him to a gain of just two yards. In one game, Boddy-Calhoun made a more impressive tackle than Justin Gilbert or Pierre Desir had in two years.

Pick Six by CB Briean Boddy-Calhoun, Pressure by DE Tyrone Holmes

Mid-way through the second quarter, the good fortune for CB Briean Boddy-Calhoun continues. This time, Boddy-Calhoun didn’t have to do as much as defensive end Tyrone Holmes forced the bad throw that landed right in his lap.

This was a 3rd-and-3 play from Miami’s own 21 yard line. The right end and slot left receiver are running crossing patterns in opposite directions, presumably intended to pick off a defender and free one of them up near the first down marker. For reference, Holmes and Boddy-Calhoun are the two defenders at the bottom of the screenshot below (Holmes is closer to the line of scrimmage).

ILB Christian Kirksey helps disrupt the underneath crosser by jamming him within the five-yard range. The top crosser is who QB Ryan Tannehill wants to hit, but with the Browns in zone coverage, our defender in green is just daring Tannehill to let loose. Meanwhile, you can see Holmes beating his man as Tannehill is trying to process this.

After Kirksey’s jam, his receiver (short of the first down) comes across. Cleveland would still have defenders in position to tackle him shy of the first down, but Tannehill gets ready to deliver a pass to him without his feet being set in the greatest way for a throw that direction. You can just envision Holmes getting ready to disrupt the pass.

Here is the play in its entirety, where you can see Holmes’ initial move to beat the right tackle, him forcing the high throw by Tannehill, and then Boddy-Calhoun doing the clean-up work for the pick six to give the Browns a 10-7 lead with 6:47 left in the second quarter.

3rd Quarter

Dolphins’ Second TD Pass, CB Tramon Williams in Coverage

It ended up being a 13-10 Browns lead heading into the half.

The Browns’ offense put together an 11-play drive lasting 7:33 to open the third quarter. That sounds great until you see that it ends in a missed field goal for Cleveland. QB Ryan Tannehill then made Cleveland pay, connecting with WR Jarvis Landry on a 42-yard touchdown pass.

On 1st-and-10 from the Browns’ 42 yard line, Landry lines up as the middle player in the three-receiver set to the right of QB Ryan Tannehill. This is a play where Cleveland’s cornerbacks are in man coverage as opposed to zone.

I’m not sure we can say that Williams did anything particularly wrong on this play; Landry simply beats him to the inside. Cleveland has a linebacker trying to play underneath zone to the play, but once Landry crosses, he can’t make a play on the ball in time.

This is one of Tannehill’s better throws of the game, but it’s also another instance in which Williams was victimized by an opposing quarterback. I say this all the time: I understand that cornerbacks get beat; it happens. However, to prove your worth, you have to make some positive plays here and there. With Williams, unfortunately, it’s been a lot of negatives.

Here is the play in its entirety. Cleveland can’t get any pressure with its four-man rush either. After the catch, SS Derrick Kindred misses an open-field tackle attempt. This put Miami up 17-13 with 5:17 left in the third quarter.

4th Quarter

Dolphins’ Third TD Pass, CB Tramon Williams in Coverage

I won’t get into too many of the details on this one. Facing a 3rd-and-1 from the Browns’ 10 yard line at the start of the fourth quarter, QB Ryan Tannehill runs a playaction and dumps the ball off to RB Damien Williams.

Cleveland doesn’t have a chance to stop the first down after Williams catches the pass, but you’d like to see him brought down to see if you can still hold Miami to a field goal. CB Tramon Williams whiffs on the tackle, though, making this one easy for the pass-catching back. This put the Browns down 24-13 with 14:17 left in the game.

CB Jamar Taylor Takes a Chance, Breaks up 3rd Down Pass

The Browns’ offense brought themselves all the way back to a 24-24 tie. Miami faced a 3rd-and-9 at their own 26 yard line with 2:22 left in the game. Cleveland will drop back in zone coverage. Wide left, WR DeVante Parker is going to run an in route right at the sticks with CB Jamar Taylor being the zone cornerback on his side of the field.

Much like Taylor did in the first quarter, as soon as he sees a cut by the receiver, he bolts to make a play on the ball.

This screenshot may look deceptive — “I thought Taylor was darting to the inside?” He was, but QB Ryan Tannehill ended up throwing the ball way to the left of his target. I don’t know if this happened because the pass was just inaccurate, or if as he was winding up, he saw Taylor jumping the pass and reacted by throwing it away from the inside. Taylor sees the ball in the air but can only tip it a tad, forcing a punt.

OLB Corey Lemonier Stuns Dolphins, Sets Browns Up for Game Winner

Cleveland got to midfield, but with under a minute to play, they had to punt.

Miami faced a 2nd-and-1 from their own 35 yard line with 0:26 left in the game. They had no timeouts left and needed about 25-30 yards to have a realistic chance at trying a last-second field goal.

Cleveland is playing this safe with as simple of a zone coverage you can imagine. They are letting the short stuff go and are trying to also prevent the sideline pass — sort of an umbrella defense, but not quite as drastic.

QB Ryan Tannehill could dump it off to the running back, but that’s basically a waste of a play, so he’s still looking downfield. Miami has contained Cleveland’s four-man rush at times, and that’s all they bring here. Cleveland is running a stunt on the right of the screenshot below with Joe Schobert cutting inside and OLB Emmanuel Ogbah going around him. However, the person who ends up getting to Tannehill is OLB Corey Lemonier. He beats the right tackle straight up, much like DE Tyrone Holmes did earlier in the game on the pick six.

There is Lemonier stripping the ball as Tannehill looks downfield.

Here is the play in its entirety. Lemonier got the sack, strip, and recovery, giving the ball to the Browns with 0:20 left at the Dolphins’ 27 yard line. One kneel down and then a timeout set up the 46-yard game-winning attempt by new K Cody Parkey, but he pulled it left right away.


CB Jamar Taylor’s Risk-Taking is Finally Taken Advantage Of

The Browns’ defense forced a stop to begin overtime, but their offense punted right back and Miami had good starting field position.

Facing a 2nd-and-9 from the Browns’ 43 yard line, WR Jarvis Landry is lined up as the only receiver on the left. CB Jamar Taylor is over him. Landry is going to run toward the outside, take two steps back to the inside, and then cut back outside.

Remember when Taylor bit hard in two of my other breakdowns earlier? The first time, it led to an interception. The second time, it led to an incomplete pass. This time, the Dolphins wisely put a double move on Taylor...

...and the result was Landry being wiiiiiiiiiiiiiddddddddeee open for 32 yards, down to the 11 yard line. They punched it in on the ground the next play to win the game.

Cleveland’s only chance of covering for Taylor’s risk was for pressure to get to Tannehill. OLB Joe Schobert came close, but not close enough.

CONCLUSION: You can give up yards as a defense, but what really defines the unit is how many turnovers and key third-down stops they can generate. Cleveland’s defense did that against Miami. The pick six gave them the lead. They gave up a couple of touchdowns in the third quarter, but then tightened up in the fourth quarter to help supplement the offense’s efforts to get back into the game. The forced fumble set up what should have been the capper to the comeback.

That’s the encouraging stuff. As far as the cornerbacks go, I like Jamar Taylor’s aggressiveness to an extent, but it’s already been a big problem. Mike Wallace was wide open in Week 2 because of it, and Jarvis Landry was wide open in overtime this week because of the same thing. If I can see it on tape, opposing offensive coordinators are going to set that up — run the slants (but tell the quarterback not to throw it there), and then at the right time of the game, go for the double move.

Tramon Williams just isn’t making plays. The success rate against him has to be significant. If Joe Haden is able to return this week, and if Williams’ shoulder injury keeps him out, I’d like to see Briean Boddy-Calhoun get a shot as the outside cornerback with Jamar Taylor as the nickelback. Boddy-Calhoun was impressive for his first week, and Taylor’s aggressiveness is better served for the nickel role, where you’ll see less double moves downfield.