Hello, how are you? You woke up today, so you are already winning. It’s October. The weather is cooling down. Fall season has come upon us and football season is underway.
Four weeks into the season, the Cleveland Browns sit at 2-2, 3rd in the AFC North. Offensively, it hasn’t been the best but defensively the unit has performed well above expectations. Going to give my thoughts about both sides of the ball, coaching and overall assessment of the team.
Let’s talk about it. From an offensive standpoint, Cleveland has been a bag of mixed results. Week 1 against the Cincinnati Bengals (despite playing in less-than-ideal weather conditions) the running game was working but the passing game was spotty (again the weather wasn’t cooperating). Week 2, Monday night against the Pittsburgh Steelers it was a bad showing in both the running game and the passing game (running back Nick Chubb getting hurt doesn’t help either.).
Week 3, against the Tennessee Titans the offense was much better and it appeared to be trending in the right direction. The passing game, for once, seemed to be trending in the right direction while the running game is trying to find some footing. Then Week 4 happened. I’m willing to throw that in the trash because quarterback Deshaun Watson didn’t play but it wasn’t a good performance across the board.
If I had to give the offense a grade through 4 weeks, it would be a C-. It hasn’t been good but it could be a lot worse, look at the Cincinnati Bengals.
Despite it being early in the season, the Cleveland Browns are 29th in offensive EPA per play/which isn’t good. The week 4 performance is likely for why the EPA is where it is now but that doesn’t account for all of it.
This list of the bottom 6 offenses in terms of EPA/P would have been (mostly) pretty shocking a month ago. pic.twitter.com/w8pY3lgixb— Seth Walder (@SethWalder) October 2, 2023
Let’s talk about the quarterback. When it comes to evaluating Watson, you can point out the positives instead of focusing on just the negatives. You can also be critical of him as well.
If I had to give Watson a grade, like the offense I’d give him a C-.
Week 1 wasn’t the best but he made the plays he needed to make, Week 2 was downright atrocious and Week 3 was probably the best game he has played as a Brown. As far as Watson not playing in Week 4, I had no problem with Watson not playing. I saw what happened when the previous quarterback tried to play through a shoulder injury, we all know how the movie ends.
In terms of how Watson has looked, from a physical standpoint he looks fine. The arm strength and mobility is there, as well as the athleticism. From a mental standpoint, it appears that his confidence is starting to come back. Against the Pittsburgh Steelers, he looked indecisive, was forcing things that weren’t there, and late with his reads. Week 3 against the Titans, he didn’t look anything like that. Watson was going through his progressions, not being late with his reads and processing what was in front of him.
Watson has all the room to improve, and I believe he will.
When it comes to the offensive line, I don’t know what’s going on. The run blocking hasn’t been the best and the pass blocking it’s been spotty at best.
Some of the sacks that the line has given up is due to Watson holding on to the ball for too long. When it comes to left tackle Jedrick Wills, here are my thoughts about him. Most Browns fans want him gone, but I’m in the small minority of not moving off him…… yet. He’s inconsistent, which has been a problem for quite some time but only move off of him if you have a backup plan in place.
Offensive line coach Bill Callahan is one of the best coaches in the league and he is probably working with Wills more times than not. Wills is average, which is fine but he isn’t a below-average tackle. The unit needs to play better but the run blocking needs to be improved.
As far as the receivers go, I would like for wide receiver Elijah Moore to be in the slot and not in the “Deebo Samuel type” role, it hasn’t worked out.
The defense is free from the shackles of Joe Woods
No team needed an upgrade in terms of coordinator than the Cleveland Browns. Almost everyone was done with defensive coordinator Joe Woods and defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz is an upgrade in every way.
Schemes, utilizing players the right way, mindset everything. Cleveland’s biggest problem last season was the defensive line, mainly the interior. It’s no longer a problem. Defensive tackles Dalvin Tomlinson, Shelby Harris and Maurice Hurst have been absolute god-sends.
All have made contributions to the run defense which was something that was missing all of last year. The interior defensive linemen last year were getting pushed 4 to 5 yards off the ball, which made the linebackers' jobs more difficult than it had to be. That’s not the case anymore.
In terms of pass rush, probably the best pass-rushing defense that we have seen when it comes to the Browns defense. Trading for Za’Darius Smith and signing Ogbo Okoronkwo have been paying dividends. Defensive end Myles Garrett was my preseason pick to win Defensive Player of the Year, and so far my agenda has been thriving.
As far as the secondary goes, it’s been stout (aside from the week 4 game). Safety Juan Thornhill has been a positive, and the cornerback trio of Denzel Ward, Martin Emerson and Greg Newsome have been playing their best football in quite some time.
The only concern that I would have is that the team is too reliant on man coverage, meaning that sometimes Cleveland will leave the corners on islands without any help over the top. Cleveland played primarily zone last season, which didn’t fit what the playstyle of the corners that they had at the time. The defense has room to improve as a whole but if I had to give them a grade through the first four weeks it would be an A-.
Thoughts on Coaching and overall thoughts about the season
I might as well give my thoughts on head coach Kevin Stefanski while we are here.
Some fans hate Stefanski and want him gone, while others support the head coach. In terms of grading Stefanski right now, I would give him a C. Some might say I am generous but I’ve seen worse coaching through four weeks of the season.
Stefanski is a good coach, not great but good. We saw what Stefanski did in 2020, he turned Baker Mayfield into a competent quarterback and was able to develop a top-10 offense in terms of EPA/per play. The problem that Stefanski has had to deal with is the lack of consistent quarterback play. The play-calling can be better in some areas but I’m not gonna sit up here and act like the play-calling is the main issue with the coach when the players aren’t executing.
Fans wanted Stefanski to give up play-calling duties last season despite the team having a backup quarterback for most of the season. Stefanski tends to get all the blame when the team loses but rarely gets the credit when the team wins.
As far as what happened last Sunday, Stefanski could have done a better job of game planning to help rookie quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson in his first start, but I don’t think it would have made a difference. Without Nick Chubb, Stefanski is going to change the offense and make it more tailored toward Watson, something that is new to him since he’s been there. Here are the things that I hope Kevin Stefanski would change in terms of the offense.
- Move Elijah Moore out of the Deebo Samuel role and put him in the slot
- Bench tight end Harrison Bryant, utilize Jordan Akins and David Njoku
As far as the season goes, here is where I’m at. Am I surprised that the Browns are 2-2 heading into the bye week? No. I’m more surprised with Cleveland being 1-2 in their own division if anything.
The Pittsburgh game was winnable but the offense fell flat on their faces and as for the Baltimore game when your star quarterback is sitting out to prevent further injury to a bruised shoulder and you don’t have a solid backup plan in place for your backup quarterback, those are the results you get.
What I don’t understand is that half of the fans believe that this is a bad football team despite being 2-2. I know people don’t want to hear this but it could be worse. The Cincinnati Bengals are 1-3 and their offense has been abysmal. Not to mention their quarterback isn’t healthy and despite not being healthy he has also been atrocious. Despite a valiant effort from quarterback Zach Wilson on Sunday night against the Kansas City Chiefs, the New York Jets are wondering if Zach Wilson can replicate that performance for the rest of the season.
I see fans complaining on social media about a team being 2-2, and how the team isn’t a good football team and just acting entitled for no reason at all. I follow the team, and this is the first time in probably a long time that the Browns have a talented team. This team is capable of making the playoffs if things go the way they should. Cleveland plays San Francisco after their bye, and that game won’t be easy. Wyatt Teller said it best.
#Browns RG Wyatt Teller: This team does not suck. This is a great team.— Scott Petrak ct (@ScottPetrak) October 2, 2023
I shared the same sentiment last Sunday after the game was over.
Take the bye week to reflect and not have a doom-and-gloom mindset. Things could be worse. Everything is in front of them, and it’s up to the players and the coaching staff to come through.