Grading the Browns overall strategy against the Panthers in Week 1

Browns, Kevin Stefanski. Mandatory Credit: Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports
Browns, Kevin Stefanski. Mandatory Credit: Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports /
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Browns, Myles Garrett, Martin Emerson. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports /

Grading Defensive Strategy

If anyone should know how to game plan for Baker Mayfield, it would be the Browns. The Baker vs the Browns was all the hype leading up to the game. There were reports of Mayfield making claims, T-shirts, and the Browns saying they were motivated. Some even speculated that the pre-game build-up was unfair to Mayfield.

But in the end, Mayfield is Mayfield and he played like he usually does. Cleveland’s defensive strategy was perfect. If perfectly executed, the Panther may not have even scored on Sunday.

The book is out on No. 6. Make him stand in the pocket, read the defense and beat you with his arm. On top of that, take away his first read forcing him to hesitate or scramble. The Browns executed this with precision.

Cleveland played a lot of press coverage forcing receivers to fight off the line. This is a risky strategy as a good move could result in a big play. But the secondary held together, for the most part. Credit needs to be given to rookie cornerback Martin Emerson. Targeting a rookie is an easy offensive strategy. But the Panthers rarely looked his way.

Mayfield likes to read defenses deep to short. It is a carryover from his Air Raid days. The Browns took away the deep option and forced him to be patient and throw underneath. Traditionally, he hasn’t been good at being patient. He was not patient on Sunday either.

The defensive line put on a heavy pass rush against a poor Panthers offensive line. Myles Garrett abused rookie left tackle Ikem Ekwonu all game. Even with help, Ekwonu was overmatched. Mayfield had pressure in his face all game. In the second quarter, in particular, Mayfield looked rattled. The sideline reporter at the game reported that Baker had to be calmed down by teammates.

If this was the whole story, the game would have been a blowout. But there were some issues. Not with strategy per se but with execution. There were two busted coverages that led to touchdowns. A broken play resulted in chunk yardage leading to points. A missed ineligible player downfield who blatantly blocked in the back call combined with a personal foul penalty set up the Panthers’ final score.

The Browns defense has some communication issues and penalties to clean up. But overall a good plan against the Panthers that was well executed. The above-mentioned four plays resulted in or led to all the Panthers’ points.

Grade A – The plan was solid, but the execution needs work. 

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