Talking to Browns fans following Sunday’s bitter home opener loss to the Dolphins, everyone seems to have their theories for who exactly was to blame for the shortcomings of the Browns offense. The first and most obvious individual to single out was quarterback Brandon Weeden. Weeden’s supporters countered by laying blame on the receivers or the offensive line. It seems the fan base will be all-consumed with Weeden Watch ’13 and time is ticking for the second year quarterback to earn his keep in the hearts and minds of the Cleveland faithful.
With all this going around, I thought it would be interesting to evaluate Weeden’s performance individually on each play, as a coaching staff does at any level prior to the film study session for that week’s game. For the record, Weedenalysis is the evaluation of Weeden’s performance as quarterback, and not a drug test.
Essentially, you assign a positive or negative grade for an individual player on each play. Did the player execute their assignments correctly? You then assign a percentage grade for the individual based on the number of total plays that were executed correctly by the individual. This was the fairest way to evaluate Weeden because it looks at how he executed the play, as opposed to the outcome of the play. This is evident in the first half being Weeden’s strongest, despite the three interceptions thrown, two of which deflected off the hands of the receiver.
Weeden deserves a negative grade for only one of the three interceptions, which was an atrocious one into double coverage on an opening drive that the Browns really should have come away with points on. Some have said that this interception was like a punt, pinning the Dolphins back at the one. But this was by far the best drive of the game for the run game and the Browns were within yards of field goal range, when Weeden threw a near pick, followed by the deep pick. They ended up chasing points the rest of the game.
Any way you slice it, Weeden got worse in the second half, a less than desirable fate for any quarterback. That’s due in part to the Browns falling behind and having to throw on every down. This is why you see the numbers fall off sharply in the fourth quarter. But even prior to that, Weeden stalled in a third quarter that was anybody’s game at that point.
The stats are deceiving, as there were some killer drops, sacks that stalled out drives, and some nice completions that were called back on penalties. But there were also a handful of near interceptions and many throws were off target. Receivers were running open often, unbeknownst to Weeden who was staring down his first read on nearly every throw. The dropped passes weren’t going to raise Weeden’s stat line from 31st in the NFL to a winning or even mediocre stat line in this game. For those who think the criticism of Weeden is unfair, this is the same scrutiny that all 32 starting quarterbacks face on a weekly basis. As fair or unfair as it is, quarterbacks are ultimately judged by wins and losses and how they perform in crucial spots in the game. Weeden simply wasn’t good enough to give the Browns a chance at winning this football game.
So, it’s Weeden’s fault then? Nope. The truth is no single player cost the Browns a victory on Sunday. The Browns offense was a comedy of errors at times. We saw a receiving corps that looked subpar without top weapon Josh Gordon. We saw an overmatched offensive line and baffling pass protection scheme. The harsh reality is the Browns look like they’re more than one player or blown assignment from serious competitor in a wobbly AFC North.
Week 2 Keys to the Game
- Rice in the Slow Cooker
The Browns rush defense had a field day against the Dolphins last week and actually led the league in yards against, allowing just 20 yards on the ground. The likely return of Barkevious Mingo this week will only add to the defense. Matching up against a top-flight running back in Ray Rice will reveal if this was an aberration or a sign of good things to come for the Browns defense.
- Stretch the Field
While a point of emphasis this week might be to get Trent Richardson more carries (he tallied just 13 against Miami), defenses will continue to stack the box against Richardson until Brandon Weeden can prove he can consistently beat them through the air. Tight end Jordan Cameron emerged as a crucial vertical threat for the Browns in Week 1 and with receivers Greg Little, Travis Benjamin, and Davone Bess struggling to replace the deep threat of the suspended Josh Gordon, the Browns should look to build on what Cameron can do downfield to keep the Ravens defense honest.
- Protection for Weeden
A major disappointment in the Browns offense against Miami was the play of the offensive line. In re-watching tape of the offense, I didn’t have a problem with the play selection or passing scheme; I thought the pass protection was the area where scheme or miscommunication or both let down personnel. Sure, you can ask a replacement lineman like Oniel Cousins to do a better job or try harder, and we can all hope for that. But really, an effort needs to be made by the coaching staff to put the personnel the Browns have up front in better situations in pass protection. There was a fourth down play late in the game where running back Chris Ogbonnaya swung around to chip defensive end Cameron Wake, the focal point of the Miami pass rush, which resulted in an embarrassingly easy sack for Wake. Better schemes will limit terrible personnel matchups like that.