Review of Cleveland @ Cincinnati – Game #2
Another frustrating loss for Browns fans – losing by seven is never a good thing, even if the team scores 27 points (tying the most points the team scored in a game last season). Unlike week one, this contest was different, in terms of the team’s offensive and defensive outputs. Like the first game, there were encouraging parts of the team (like scoring a third quarter TD, a rarity last season) as well as disappointing ones (like the secondary’s play).
Offense: Brandon Weeden actually looked like an NFL quarterback in this game – he hit open receivers, threw a couple TDs, and avoided a fumble when pressure came. I did not envision him throwing for over 300 yards, but the rookie was able to accomplish that feat. He also completed just over seventy percent of his passes – something not seen by a Browns’ quarterback in awhile. What impressed me was the fact that Weeden improved throughout the game – the opposite was the case last week. It was not a perfect performance, but a huge improvement from the opener, and if the rookie can continue to play like this, the team will be able to win some football games. I had confidence in Weeden and felt he could make plays entering the contest; Sunday’s performance helped solidify this belief.
The other first-round draft pick (and rookie) also improved from week one. Trent Richardson had a great game – rushing for over 100 yards (on only nineteen carries) and having 30 yards receiving with a touchdown scored each way. His vision of the field while running seemed better – Richardson saw holes close up and changed his direction immediately, on a few occasions. He is a dependable asset and will continue to get better – the Browns offense will rely heavily on him this season. I was surprised to see Chris Ogbonnaya get as many snaps as the third down running back – Brandon Jackson played well last week in this spot. Ogbonnaya had six catches for seventy-three yards (and ran hard) but had a huge drive-killing fumble.
Mohammed Massaquoi continues to lead the team in the receiving department, in terms of yardage. The veteran had ninety yards receiving and appears to be the best option for Brandon Weeden. Going forward, it will be important to have a reliable target for the quarterback – Massaquoi has proven his ability to hold on to the football and make a play. The other receiver that finally stepped up was Greg Little, who not only got his first catch of the year, but his first touchdown as well. It gave me much comfort that the second-year veteran was able to shake off his problem of dropping passes and have a solid outing. As far as tight ends go, Alex Smith had a few good grabs – as long as he can extend drives, the offense should be in good shape.
I though the offensive line played ok, which has been a huge improvement for the Browns. It appeared every lineman got beat on one play or another, but the quarterback was sacked only two times. Mitchell Schwartz seemed be in several individual battles to avoid giving up a sack, but the bottom line was that right tackle did not allow Brandon Weeden to get hit. The offensive line created holes for Trent Richardson to run, which the runner took advantage of. Room for improvement still exists from the line, but this was a step in the right direction for the unit and I hope they continue to work well together before the next game.
Defense: Even with the injury to starter to Billy Winn, the defensive line found a way to make plays. The Browns held their opponent to less than one hundred yards rushing as a team – this has been a difficult task over the past few seasons. This gives me hope next week against a team that features a solid running attack. Juqua Parker had a fine outing, recording both a sack and a hit on the opposing quarterback. John Hughes also had a good performance – the rookie was able to beat the Bengals’ offensive line (causing disruption) on several plays. The production of Jabaal Sheard and Aythba Rubin was not great, but the two have proven they can be dependable players who, at the worst-case scenario, can be in defensive line rotations.
The only Browns’ linebacker who did not take a step back from last week was D’Qwell Jackson. The veteran had three sacks, several hits on Andy Dalton, and the lone turnover forced (interception) by the team. Should the younger players struggle with inconsistency – having Jackson play well is paramount for the Browns’ linebackers to be (at least) respectable. Craig Robertson and Scott Fujita overall had decent games for the team, while L.J. Fort and Kaluka Maiava failed to make impactful plays. (Having Fujita return did lessen the number of snaps for the younger outside linebackers, however). I believe this unit did not have a terrible game though and the players will play better in the coming weeks.
The secondary for the Browns struggled mightily throughout the game. The absence of starter Joe Haden (and to a lesser extent, Sheldon Brown) was apparent – the Bengals picked on Buster Skrine most of the game. Trevin Wade showed both poor coverage and tackling ability on the Andrew Hawkins’ fifty-yard touchdown play (Eric Hagg also had poor pursuit angles and was unable to run down the receiver). There was an additional forty-four yard touchdown surrendered by the secondary, these types of plays are not acceptable (especially when they come from “non-Pro Bowl players”). The Bengals were successful in employing several quick throws to A.J. Green – the cornerbacks for the Browns were more than ten yards off the receiver. I understand the team did not want to get beat deep, but Dick Jauron felt a huge cushion was necessary; this helped the opponent compile stats and put their team in a better position to score.
Special Teams: Back to the drawing board for the Browns’ special teams; the first punt coverage was simply embarrassing – many several missed tackles led to an Adam “Pacman” Jones touchdown. If the team wants to win games, this must be avoided. Reggie Hodges had a solid day (sans one short punt), while Phil Dawson made a great fifty-yard field goal. I thought Josh Cribbs could have taken a few knees in the endzone; he opted to return these kickoffs and could not bring it past the twenty-yard line (thus giving the offense worse field position).
Coaching: I liked the offensive play calling this game; a couple end arounds by Travis Benjamin is a good option for gaining yards. Weeden worked the middle of the field and had success – including a touchdown to Greg Little on a skinny post route. I liked how the team continued to use Richardson in the passing game, even though the running back dropped one last week. The defensive play calling was conservative, especially in the secondary (which was expected). This will likely continue for the next three weeks until Joe Haden comes back, I just hope Skrine, Wade, and Patterson improve vastly in both coverage and tackling.