Review of Browns @ Ravens – Game #2
Yet another dismal streak continues for the Cleveland Browns – they have now lost eleven consecutive meetings against the Baltimore Ravens. The first half gave fans of the visiting squad hope, as they lead 6 – 0 over the reigning Super Bowl champions. However, mistakes and the inability to move the football ultimately cost the Browns. It was very disappointing; they are getting close but still cannot get over the hump. Cleveland now faces a 0 – 2 record and a possible start to another long season.
Offense: Well, there were some positives with quarterback Brandon Weeden. The signal caller avoided turning the football over all game long. He also completed twenty-one (which could have easily been twenty-six completions) of thirty-three throws for 227 yards. His toss to Jordan Cameron was solid and set up the Browns’ first score. Although his receivers let him down from time to time, the overthrow of a wide-open Chris Ogbonnaya stuck with many Browns’ fans. Weeden did not find the end zone, and fans’ patience appears to be wearing thin with this offense. The group has only scored sixteen points in their first two contests combined, while other teams in the league are scoring four or five touchdowns a game.
It can be argued that opponents are solely game planning to stop Trent Richardson. Regardless if that’s true or not, the first-round draft pick is struggling to find yardage on the ground. He toted the football for just fifty-eight yards on eighteen carries (with the longest rush being nine yards). Through the air, the running back caught all five passes his way for twenty-one yards. Richardson can be a productive NFL player, but it’s starting to become apparent that he is not one of the better backs in the league. The long runs and running through defenses have not been on display for quite some time, but he is the best option the Browns have. I would not be surprised to see the team draft another rusher next fall, but I am still pulling for Richardson to get back to where he was at Alabama.
Once again, the only dependable receiving option for the team was tight end Jordan Cameron. He lead the Browns with ninety-five yards from Weeden; the former USC star is really putting together a nice season. The same could not be said for the wide outs. Aside from a couple catches from Davone Bess on third down, (which became first downs) the targets could not make a play. Greg Little had four grabs on twelve targets – he had multiple drops and many were disappointed with his performance. Travis Benjamin caught the only pass thrown to him for twenty-two yards, but the coaching staff was content with not throwing multiple passes his way. I doubt Josh Gordon can transform this unit into a successful one, but its not like there are any options out there who are better.
The offensive line is the most overrated unit on the team; the once-perceived best part of the team has just been dreadful. Weeden was sacked five more times and the running “attack” put up just sixty-five yards. After a complete disaster last week, Oniel Cousins played better this week. He did not excel by any means, but the guard played adequately on Sunday. Will Shawn Lauvao make this front five better? I have been more than frustrated that Weeden has been pressured and holes are not available for Richardson, but getting a right guard back will likely help minimally. Right tackle Mitch Schwartz appears to have regressed from his rookie season – the right side of the line looks porous. I am willing to see if this group can improve as the season goes along, but if it remains status quo then changes will need to be made in the offseason.
Defense: Once again, the defensive line was dominant for the Cleveland Browns. While Phil Taylor clogged the middle and incurred several double teams, the beneficiaries were Desmond Bryant and Billy Winn. The pair combined for nine tackles and accompanied Jabaal Sheard with a quarterback sack. Filling in for Taylor (at times) was Ishmaa’ily Kitchen, who also had three stops in this contest. Whenever Ahtyba Rubin returns from his calf injury, this front will be one of deepest – and best – in the league. They have been shutting down the run (ninety-nine yards on thirty-six carries) and forcing opponents to pass. They face a tall order next Sunday, but if they keep it up then they will routinely give the Browns a chance to win.
Despite playing significantly less than the starters, Barkevious Mingo’s impact was fully on display in Baltimore. Batting down passes, garnering a sack, and hitting the opposing quarterback all occurred in his first game as a professional. Jabaal Sheard had eight tackles, a half of a sack, and a hit on Joe Flacco. Paul Kruger and Quentin Groves (who left the game with a sprained ankle) each had a decent game – they both had a tackle for loss but were not entirely disruptive. D’Qwell Jackson and Craig Robertson tackled the opposition fifteen times and surrounded Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce when they had the ball in their hands. The coverage for this duo improved from week one – I have been impressed so far with both inside linebackers.
It was more of the same for the cornerbacks. Joe Haden allowed Torrey Smith to have a big third down completion in the second half, but he played excellent overall (and was not the problem). Flacco found Marlon Brown and Brandon Stokley several times en route to converting eight of sixteen third down attempts. Who was covering this duo? You guessed it, Chris Owens and Buster Skrine – the two are good enough to not get burned but have not shown an ability to defend the pass regularly. I hope the safeties provide a little more help to these cornerbacks, as it is needed. Tashaun Gipson finished with eight tackles; he and T.J. played well in spots but had their issues as well. The secondary will be the Achilles’ heel for this defense until the cornerback play improves. If Skrine and Owens continue to surrender long completions, the Browns will have to turn to rookie Leon McFadden.
Special Teams: The Browns lost every part of the special teams battle – with one exception. Kicker Billy Cundiff made two field goals (including one from fifty-one yards), while his counterpart missed both of his attempts. Spencer Lanning did an ok job punting, but his touchback hurt the team, as the ball was close to being downed on the one-yard line. Bobby Rainey finally crossed the twenty-yard line on a kickoff, but the return units continue to be unimpressive.
Coaching: The three delay of game penalties are unacceptable; the visiting team looked unprepared. That rests on the coaching staff; they must do a better job on the road next week. Offensively, they employed Richardson a bit more (which was nice to see). They did not make Weeden throw too much and put him in more comfortable situation – the shotgun. However, it did little as the offense sputtered again. The defense eased in Barkevious Mingo, who got his first sack and was disruptive. Horton can try his best to make Owens and Skrine improve in coverage, but its becoming apparent they are the weak spots of the unit.