A Last Second Loss for the Browns
Clearly the zebras did not want the home team to win on Sunday – and a pair of suspect calls ensured that the team in purple got to steal a victory. In the game, there were some encouraging things – but at the end of the day they did not pull out a win (despite leading 20 – 0 at one point). Let’s look back:
Quarterback: Despite Baltimore’s best efforts to injure the signal caller, Josh McCown finished the contest. He played well (outside of two poorly thrown passes) and was an improvement over Robert Griffin. However, McCown will definitely not finish this season looking at the way he plays. However, the quarterback was not a liability for the Browns in this contest – as he his Corey Coleman twice in the first quarter. We’ll see his availability going forward.
Running Back: Isaiah Crowell had a tremendous touchdown early in this game. The runner has improved significantly from his 2015 form and I expect this to continue all season long. He has been hitting open holes with authority and finding yards on the ground. It would appear that Duke Johnson’s role is limited to occasional receptions – the back has breakaway speed, Perhaps he will see more touches down the road, but the opponent might dictate that.
Wide Receiver: Corey Coleman and Terrelle Pryor are growing in this offense. Each made multiple receptions and moved the ball well from the quarterback’s hand. What was great to see was Pryor excelling at crossing routes – something not seen in the preseason. I expect more big things from this duo. Meanwhile Andrew Hawkins has been a guy who can move chains and is a key for this offense. Hopefully the other rookies can find their roles in this offense as well.
Tight End: Gary Barnidge has reemerged back into this offense; the veteran made some plays in this contest and is contributing to this unit. I figure McCown (or Kessler) will be looking his way a fair amount the rest of the campaign. I don’t know if Seth DeValve will be inserted into this lineup following the injury to Randall Telfair – but the Browns would be wise to carry two active members at this position group.
Offensive Line: Overall, the offensive line improved significantly from week one. Cameron Erving made a critical error in the third quarter, but it still was not as bad as his high snap. Sacks and pressures are going to happen agains the Ravens, but I felt that the guys upfront did their job to limit the number of these occasions. They have another tough test next Sunday on the road.
Defensive Line: Carl Nassib continues to play well upfront, and I saw a fair amount of him coming off the edge. The guys upfront played exceptionally against the run; hopefully this is a building block where they can improve upon this performance. There were no long gashes, and the team did not surrender several consecutive long gainers. Danny Shelton did not stand out either positively or negatively in this matchup; I feel he is starting to settle in the middle of the defense. I can’t wait to see them play next week.
Linebackers: On the outside, Emmanuel Ogbah was all over the field both against the run and the pass. The rookie was not dominant, however he continues to be solid in his production. Nate Orchard tallied three tackles and could have been more involved in this matchup. Meanwhile, Demario Davis and Chris Kirksey combined for sixteen stops and were around the ball consistently. Dennis Pitta made too many receptions to my liking, but the linebackers cannot be perfect. I would really like to see these guys take down quarterbacks more often; the came close multiple times, but Flacco was able to squirm away with little to no damage.
Secondary: Amid much criticism, Joe Haden returned to form on Sunday. The veteran hauled in two interceptions and kept Steve Smith in check (despite several passes headed his way). It will be difficult to replicate this type of output, but I would not be surprised to see Haden play more like this than he did in Philadelphia. As far as the safeties are concerned, Derrick Kindred showed he is an upgrade over Ibraheim Campbell. The rookie was extremely active and his physicality was infectious. He nearly had an interception as well – the Browns’ defense needs more players like him on this roster.
Special Teams: Here is a spot where the Browns might have lost this game. A blocked extra point, which was returned for two points by the opposition, and another field goal was tipped and sailed wide. The Browns are not good enough (at this point) to surrender points these ways and still come out ahead. Hopefully this will get cleaned up immediately.
Coaching: It’s easy for some to blame Hue Jackson for the play calling after the first quarter. However, the Browns had two third down conversions in the second half wiped out by penalties (which could have led to points). Jackson knows what he’s doing and talked some sense into Coleman after his penalty. The Browns are in good hands for the future, but there will be growing pains (which we saw on Sunday).