Review of Dolphins @ Browns – Game #1
Another home opener for the Browns, and yet another atrocious performance. The Browns were equally bad in all aspects of this contest – the offense turned the ball over, the defense couldn’t stop the pass, and the special teams couldn’t return well. It appears to be another long season yet again for the young Browns, as the team could not take advantage of a home opener against a mediocre Dolphins team. Let’s take a look at what went down for the first game of the regular season.
Offense: In a replay of the 2012 opener, Brandon Weeden had multiple interceptions. It could be debated that only one of his three picks were his fault, as two throws were tipped off by wide receivers. However, he still made mistakes and the offense suffered as a result. Weeden was able to garner nearly 300 yards through the air, but could not make it count when it mattered. He had a touchdown called back late – thus proving he couldn’t catch a break. Unless he turns it up significantly, I do not envision the team sticking with him in 2014. It’s very unfortunate, but that’s where the front office appears to be. Nonetheless, his next opponent is one that allowed seven passing touchdowns last week – we’ll see what Weeden does.
After a great start, it was tough sledding for running back Trent Richardson. The back only touched the ball fifteen times on Sunday – thirteen of those were on the ground for forty-seven yards. He also tallied two grabs for thirty yards; the playmaker had his moments, but never had any “wow” moments. I hope he continues to work hard; better times will be ahead for the former Alabama product. Fullback Chris Ogbonnaya had one catch for ten yards, but he missed a key block (which lead to a sack). The team clearly has no confidence after Richardson, so if they want to have any success in 2013 – they must find a way to use him effectively.
The absence of Josh Gordon was a huge detriment for this offense; the suspended wide out forced Travis Benjamin into more action. The University of Miami star made three grabs for forty-four yards, but also had a costly drop and was a part of Weeden’s first interception. At this point, he is not a starting NFL wide receiver. Davone Bess made a few nice plays – including converting a couple third downs. I would like to see Weeden look for him more in next week’s game. Greg Little and Tori Gurley combined for only forty-one yards on five grabs – the former was expected to step up without Gordon, but that was not the case. The lone bright spot of the offense was tight end Jordan Cameron. He finished with nine receptions for 108 yards and the team’s only touchdown. Chud has been known for his prowess with tight ends – it’s early, but Cameron appears to be the beneficiary thus far.
The Jason Pinkston and Shawn Lauvao injuries showed the team’s lack of depth. It’s safe to say Oniel Cousins struggled mightily against the Dolphins. The guard acquired penalties (one that negated a touchdown), allowed defenders to blow by him, and failed to open holes for Richardson. I want rookie Garrett Gilkey to start next week. Mitch Schwartz had a tough task of attempting to block Cameron Wake. The second-year pro held his man to only four tackles, but the Dolphin also had two-and-a-half sacks. The only two linemen who stood out were John Greco and Alex Mack. Neither of the two was flagged for a penalty nor gave up a sack. It was overall a poor outing by the offensive line, but a couple of Browns’ members had satisfactory performances.
Defense: The offseason was quiet for Desmond Bryant, but the former Raider had a terrific outing on Sunday. He had a pair of sacks; a pass defended, and hit Ryan Tannehill on four occasions. John Hughes, Billy Winn, and Phil Taylor accompanied him to be a part of a unit that did an excellent job versus the run. They allowed only twenty yards on the ground; this may have been one of the best performances against running backs I have seen from the Cleveland Browns. With Ahtyba Rubin coming back from injury, this might be one of the best defensive lines in the league – however, the overall defense is far from stout.
The play of the linebackers ranged from good to subpar. Paul Kruger had four tackles and a sack, while Quentin Groves also notched his first sack as a member of the Cleveland Browns. I though Jabaal Sheard had a disappointing outing; he had trouble getting to the quarterback and never appeared to be dominant. Craig Robertson and D’Qwell Jackson totaled fourteen stops in the inside. The duo was stout in stopping the run, but they were hurt in the passing game. Charles Clay had timely catches and picked up key first downs against the Browns. The fullback was wide open on multiple occasions and made his opponent pay. The linebackers, overall, had their moments but still have room to go until they are great.
The secondary of the Browns (outside of Joe Haden) had a horrible performance. Haden blanketed Mike Wallace all day long; the cornerback did not have a bad play except for one dropped interception. On the other hand, Chris Owens and Buster Skrine allowed Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson to have big days. The cornerbacks surrendered 191 yards and a touchdown to this duo, and the Browns looked very porous against the pass. I hope Leon McFadden comes around quickly; the team desperately needs another reliable cornerback – they do not have one right now. T.J. Ward had a few hits in this game; however, he didn’t have any specular plays and also dropped an interception. At the free safety spot, Tashaun Gipson played well – he had an interception and three tackles. However the secondary was the reason why the Browns defense was not great, it was (somewhat) expected but still bad.
Special Teams: Outside of a nice Travis Benjamin punt return; the Browns were not good in the return game. Bobby Rainey tried his best to take back kickoffs, but he only crossed the twenty-yard line once. Spencer Lanning had a fantastic outing; this might prove to be a great find for this front office. The punter averaged forty-five yards per punt and avoided a shank that his predecessors might have succumbed to. He only had two opportunities, but Billy Cundiff made the most of them.
Coaching: Offensively, the play calling could have been more run-heavy. It might not have made much of a difference, but Weeden completed just over half his throws. Perhaps Richardson could have put the team in more advantageous spots. For the defense, Horton employed rushes and blitzes regularly. They didn’t start working until later in the contest, but I liked how he was persistent. I don’t know if he can make the secondary play better, but he’s got to try.