Browns v. Pittsburgh – Week 2

Injury update (unless noted, scheduled starters are starting):

WR: Stallworth, Jurevicious

OL: Tucker

LB: Peak

DB: Holly, Jones

QB

Anderson passed the ball very well, but two things are very apparent: 1) His a lot more problem with teams sitting in a zone and rushing 4 players then he does when they blitz.  I believe this is a result of him having a hard time making the correct reads.  When a team blitzes him, he knows he’s got 1 on 1 coverage and Winslow and Edwards (at least last year) can beat the man covering them.  In a zone coverage, Anderson is forced to predict defensive player movements, and he has trouble with this (interception at end of the half).  2) He’s not football smart.  Before Crennel gets blamed for the time management, Anderson needs to be questioned first.  Here are the situations that bothered me the most:

1)      Last week, end of 3rd quarter, about 30 seconds left on the game clock, Browns can’t get a play off

2)      This week, before the 2-minute warning, Anderson got the play off 1 second before the 2-minute warning (also the reason why Polamalou was able to time the snap).  Prior to the play call you could see Anderson looking to the sidelines waiting for the call.  This is unacceptable.  Anderson should be able to run to the line, call a play without needing to depend on the staff to send it in

3)      The 3rd and 1 sneak.  Despite what Madden said (he and Michael’s are clueless half of the time), this was the perfect play call.  However, again you could see Anderson waiting for at least 5-7 seconds waiting for the call.  That situation dictates either a QB sneak or a quick run.  Anderson should be able to call that play without needing sideline help.  Problem is he just doesn’t.  This is a huge problem with judging a QB based on his arm strength and stats.   Football smarter QBs know what needs to be done there.  (on a side note, I have complete faith that neither of these would have been an issue with Quinn).

RB

Again, I’ll take fault in believing Lewis wasn’t going to be good this year.  He runs hard, breaks tackles, and the change of pace with him and Harrison is exactly what we need on an ongoing basis.  I realize that we average 2 yards a carry, but Lewis reads his blocks well, and does a good job in pass protection.  Vickers needs to get mentioned as well.  He’s a great lead blocker.  My only fault with him is that despite his 250 lb size, he always seems to get tackled by 1 DB going low on him when he catches passes

OL

Keep in mind,  Pittsburgh has a very good front 7.  Hadnot is a dramatic improvement over McKinney, and did a good, not great job handling Casey Hampton with Fraley.  Steinbach does a good job pulling and keeping blockers away from Anderson, but struggled a little again with blocking at the point of attack.  As always, the pass protection was almost perfect.   They only gave up 2 sacks, and one of them Anderson held the ball too long.  I love the overload package, and will elaborate more on that in later on.  

TE

Again, K2 looks as scary as ever.  He seems to get open easily and doesn’t drop much.  Obviously, he’s a liability in blocking.  The only thing I’d like to see more of is him split out opposite of trips on the other side.  I don’t think there’s a corner in the league that can get inside position on him, and he ran away from Palamalou and 2 separate occasions.  As mentioned above, the team doesn’t really need a blocking TE, because they use Vickers and overload a tackle in those situations.  Dinkins will be off the team as soon as Rucker returns from injury.

WR

Dropped by Edwards showed up again, but also displayed that he’s still very good at getting separation.  However, he did alligator arm the post route and took a good hit.  The larger problem was Syndric Steptoe’s inability to block.  There were at least three occasions where he was actually a detriment to the play (one of which he went flying in the air and hit Lewis).  There are two problems with this: 1) Jamal won’t break any long runs if Steptoe can’t block.  2) I have no idea what Chud asked him to crack back on a DE on a sweep play I think in the 4th quarter.  Clearly, someone on the team may be better than him at this (a flexed out Winslow?).  I get not sacrificing Cribbs on this play and asking him to do this.  Chud should learn from President’s Bush’s mistakes,  if you don’t have the armor, don’t go to war.  There’s nobody on the Browns active roster at WR that can make this block, but Steptoe’s the worst.

Overall Offense

Despite the incredibly slow start, this was a pretty good game all clock management issues aside. The weather was obviously a factor and slowed both teams at the beginning, but Chud was incredible in his play calling.  The steelers had no answer for the overload formation (Madden did an excellent job calling this out.  The Browns did this a lot last year and not a single announcer focused on it like Madden did), and the team converted on some pretty crucial 3rd downs.

There’s absolutely no excuse for the field goal attempt.  Michaels and Madden are completely wrong about kicking the field goal there.  The worst case scenario is a slightly upset offense frustrated with their performance and a defense heading out on to the field with the statement “the game’s in our hands” in their head.  This is even a larger problem based on last week’s field goal attempt.  Crennel could have used this opportunity (the team had just converted on 4 previous 3rd downs) to say to the offense, you can win us the game.  Instead he fed his unhealthy field goal obsession (or helped his fantasy team with Dawson on it) and kicked the field goal.

 

Defense

DL

As I said last week, “Rodgers is almost impossible to stop when he’s fresh”.   He’s an absolute monster, and is probably the top interior lineman in the league.  He almost impossible to block with 1 guy, and when he does get double teamed, he doesn’t get pushed back 4-5 yards (Ted Washington and Jason Fisk’s favorite moves).  So when Michaels and Madden were beating him up for getting pushed to the ground at the line of scrimmage, those were actually incredible plays by Rodgers designed in the defensive system.  This is exactly what you want your 3-4 NT to do.  He’s quite simply, amazing.   If you take out Parker’s 19 yard run and the other 12 yarder (courtesy of Willie McGinnest – more on this in a second), the Browns held him to 26 carries for 74 yards.  If Robaire Smith’s injury is serious, this could be very big problem as Crennel will rely on Rodgers too much.  Also, watch Rodgers on any play on the outside, he’s trying to chase much faster RBs down.  His effort is also exceptional.

Not to take any credit away from Williams, Shaun and Robaire Smith, they also played great games.  The pass rush was there because these guys occupied blockers so FS, and LBs could blit (except for when the Steelers were pinned down – more on that in a second)

 Willie “statue” McGinnest sucks section:

Typical game for Willie.  Three good plays, and the reason for every long run by the opponent.  This week’s mistakes were less about his speed (or lack thereof) and more about the fact that he didn’t close down the hole.  On Parker’s two long runs, the TE double teamed the defensive end, leaving McGinnest unblocked temporarily before the pulling lineman or TE came.  The first time, Willie charged the QB, leaving a gaping hole for the RB.  The second time, he did a little bit better, and only left 5 feet for Parker to run through.  It’s a very simple concept, when the TE doubles the guy inside you, close the hole down and force him outside.

Again the real issue here is lack of a better option with Peek hurt.  Alex Hall played some, but he’s not big enough to play on run downs.  He was on the field when the Browns had the Steelers pinned down, but didn’t get far with his pass rush.  He’ll be better next year when he’s 10-15 lbs heavier.

Switching to a 4-3 may be an option since “statue” doesn’t do much in pass coverage, but the Browns don’t have a 2nd DE (outside of Williams) that can play that role either. 

LBs

Again, with the DL doing their job, the LBs were able to play well.  Jackson missed a tackle, but overall, this was a good performance.  Madden needs to get off Wimbley’s back.  He still gets double teamed or chipped on every play.  Since you read last week’s column, you know that the issue isn’t Wimbley, it’s that Wimbley doesn’t have someone on the other side.   For example, Shaun Phillips (OLB – San Diego).  He had 4 sacks in his 1st year (pre-Merriman), since he’s had 7, 11.5, and 8.5.  I’d be shocked if he gets more than 6 this year (through 2 games – 0).   Wimbley’s good against the run, which is why teams run right at “Statue”

DBs

Another tough matchup for the Browns, but Pool looked better in coverage.  With Holly, this would have been a very good group, without him, it’s below average.  If you could choose 2 position injuries that would hurt the browns the most this year its CB, and OLB. 

An injury to Thomas would hurt, but Steinbach or Shafer would shift over, and Hadnot would play G, with Tucker moving to G or tackle respectively. 

Lewis getting hurt would be very bad, But Wright is serviceable (at best), and the Browns could pick up Benson, who wouldn’t be Lewis, but would be a lot better than he was in CHI.

Even losing Rodgers (I’m starting a fan club), would hurt, but the addition of Williams still makes the team better than last year.

Special Teams

 Zastudil is a good punter.  Dawson’s making his kicks.  Cribbs needs another game to get his feet underneath him (the weather didn’t help)

 Overall

I give this performance a B.  The defense played very well.  Crennel either needs to empower Anderson to make the decisions (if that’s the issue), or train him to make the right ones when the clock is running.  The schedule doesn’t get easier.  At 0-2, here’s my prediction for the season

@ Balt – W

@ Cin – W

Bye

NYG  – L (closer then you think.  We negate their best attribute, pass rush)

Wash  – L

Jax –  W (they’ve lost 3 starters on the OL)

Balt – L

Denver – L (WR will kill us)

BUF – L

Hou – W

Colts – L

TEN – W

 

PHI – L

Bengals – W

Steelers – L

6 wins total

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