Game #9 Analysis – Browns @ Bengals
Could the tides have been turning in this contest for the Cleveland Browns? Sure, they got killed (and my astute prediction was very spot on) – but several young athletes made contributions in this contest. I would like to think about them as growing pains and expect to see improvement over the next seven contests. However, let’s review what went down last night.
Quarterback – I have to admit that I am pretty amazed at where Johnny Manziel was versus a year ago. The signal caller had pocket awareness, zip on his passes, and many of his completions were due to drops by his wide outs. I hope he gets the nod the rest of the season, and want to determine whether this game was a fluke or if Manziel really is getting better and can be a franchise quarterback someday.
Running Back – Once again the stable of running backs could not excel in rushing the ball. Manziel and Crowell each eclipsed thirty yards, but that is not enough in the NFL (especially for a running back). In the second half, the team was down a wide margin and runs did not appear to be fruitful – so I understand why the team turned to the pass more often. Duke Johnson as a receiver continues to make sense for this team.
Wide Receiver – Dwayne Bowe finally got into game action and hauled in three passes, meanwhile Marlon Moore (a special teams ace) did an ample amount of blocking when in the slot. The drops by Taylor Gabriel were disappointing, as he is fighting for his professional career this offseason – and these types of plays surely will not help. Perhaps having Hartline and Hawkins back next game could assist the passing game for Manziel.
Tight End – Gary Barnidge made a couple nice receptions, but it was nowhere near the level of play he has been having. He missed a key third down grab when he stuck his hand out in the first half, and was unable to haul in a touchdown grab as well. E.J. Bibbs was actually active in this contest, alas he was not in the game plans to catch passes and make plays.
Offensive Line – For the first time in the season, I actually saw a Browns’ quarterback have a clean pocket. Granted, it was not on a consistent basis – but it goes to show the potential for the guys upfront. During run blocking, they still had their issues (and the Joel Bitonio injury scare did not help). For what this franchise wants to do, they need to have five guys open holes better than what they are doing. A shakeup is needed in this part of the team.
Defensive Line – The idiocy of Randy Starks amazes me; the underperforming tackle single-handedly gave the Bengals seven points. Committing dumb penalties is unacceptable by the veteran. Desmond Bryant and John Hughes each made a play or two – and Danny Shelton keeps on trying. Overall, they gave up over 150 yards on the ground, which is to be expected, sadly. This offseason will be huge to get another guy (or two) to keep trying to improve the run defense.
Linebacker – Karlos Dansby led the team in tackles, meanwhile Paul Kruger was finally able to generate a sack. The two veterans could have been much worse in this contest. I liked the play of rookie Nate Orchard, who outplayed Barkevious Mingo on the outside spot. I anticipate the team moving on from the first round bust and utilizing another draft pick to compete with Orchard and possibly Kruger.
Secondary – I understand that Joe Haden was not in this contest, but to allow Andy Dalton to complete twenty-one of twenty-seven passes is unacceptable. The secondary was very giving to their counterparts and Pierre Desir and Tramon Williams were far from spectacular at times. It was not an exceptional performance, but I hope this was Justin Gilbert’s entry into this defense. The second year player was at least decent and should be afforded an opportunity going forward.
Special Teams: Pretty much status quo for the special teams. Andy Lee had a few disappointing punts, but made up for them with a great one in the third quarter. Ultimately, this was not the reason why the team lost the contest however.
Coaching: I thought offensively this was the right game plan for both the offense and defense. Manziel was able to execute at times and did not commit a turnover in doing so. They only found the end zone once however and must improve in that department. Defensively, they forced Dalton to beat them and a depleted secondary allowed it to happen. The execution must get better, but I see what the staff was trying to accomplish.