Grading the Browns overall strategy against the Panthers in Week 1
By Joel W. Cade
Starting a backup quarterback left the Cleveland Browns coaches with a limited playbook on offense. But the defense was where the lapses occurred. How did they grade out strategy-wise?
If ever there was a football game that football traditionalists long for, it was Cleveland Browns against the Carolina Panthers in Week1.
The game was defined by a run-heavy strategy. Even though analytics have shown that passing gains more yards thus leading to wins, the Browns came out running the ball. Then they ran it some more. And for good measure, they continued to run the ball. Somewhere a football traditionalist is smiling.
This traditionally played game in which teams ran first and punted for field position was ultimately decided by a field goal. Browns rookie kicker Cade York became an instant hero in Cleveland making grown men cry. Even the punter put on a good performance securing good field position for the Browns.
But it is time to grade how the coaches faired in game planning and strategy.
Grading overall Browns strategy against the Panthers
It would be shocking to give special teams anything but an A after the heroic performance of Cade York, but the punt return game almost cost them severely.
Punter Corey Bojorquez kicked a masterful game. There is no doubt that Bojorquez has a strong leg. The question surrounding him was the ability to place the football strategically inside the 20. The other question surrounded him over-kicking the coverage.
Bojorquez did an excellent job of kick placement in Week 1. Twice he was able to pin the Panthers inside the 20. But the most impressive strategic decision took place late in the fourth quarter. Instead of attempting to pin the Panthers back, the Browns had Bojorquez punt the ball out of the end zone. It was a brilliant move that limited a return and didn’t take an unnecessary chance.
There was one punt that Bojorquez over-kicked his coverage. This allowed a short return of about five yards. Had he kicked the ball five yards shorter a fair catch would have been called. The ball would be in the same place without the possibility of injury, penalty, or a long return. Bojorquez has improved but still needs to work on placement.
Cade York was as cool as a peppermint patty kicking two extra points and three field goals. The game-winner sent Browns fans wild.
Jerome Ford had a quiet day returning kickoffs. As in, there were no kickoffs to return. The Panthers didn’t purposely kick them all out of the end zone. One kickoff landed about the 10-yard line, Ford identified the bounce and showed excellent restraint allowing it to roll through the end zone. It was an underrated play. But it was a smart play.
Running back Demetric Felton needs help. Unlike Ford, Felton seems exceedingly interested in making a return. On two occasions, Felton should have called for a fair catch. His failure to do so resulted in no gain. One punt he muffed which, luckily, did not result in a turnover.
Overall a good day for special teams.
Grade A- Special teams did an excellent job. A minus for punt returns.