Preseason Week Three Notes: Who Stood Out?

August 30th, 2013

Brandon Weeden turned in an up and down performance against the Colts. (photo: washingtonpost.com)

DraftBrowns.com Editor: Brendan Leister

In their third preseason game, the Cleveland Browns lost to the Indianapolis Colts by a score of 27-6.  Although losing is never the goal, the more important thing that we can take away from the game is an evaluation of the Browns’ players in new schemes on offense and defense.  In this piece, I will mention some players who stood out in a positive or negative way while analyzing the game.

Offense

When the first-team offense was in the game, Norv Turner relied on 11 personnel (one back, one tight end) on 16 snaps, 12 personnel (one back, two tight ends) on 12 snaps, 21 personnel (two backs, one tight end) on eight snaps, and 22 personnel (two backs, two tight ends) on three snaps.

Brandon Weeden turned in an up and down performance against the Colts.  He made some accurate throws early on and threw with plenty of velocity, but it seemed that there were too many times where he was unable to find the open receiver or throw open receivers when they were unable to separate.  Weeden’s habits of patting the ball before throwing and staring down intended receivers caught up with him as he only completed 12 of 25 pass attempts for 105 yards.  Although Weeden did not throw an interception, there were at least two throws that could have easily been intercepted had the defenders not dropped the ball.   After throwing 21 of 25 passes from shotgun (84%) in the first two preseason games, only 14 of Weeden’s 25 pass attempts (56%) came from shotgun.

Related Notes: In contrast to 35 out of Brandon Weeden’s 50 pass attempts (70%) coming from shotgun this preseason, 32 out of 34 run plays (94.12%) by the first-team offense have come with Brandon Weeden under center.  To put this in simple terms; when Weeden has been under center, the Browns have typically ran the ball.  When Weeden has been in shotgun, they have typically passed the ball.  Regardless of the fact that it is preseason, these unbalanced numbers support my case for the Browns to implement the Pistol as a staple of their offense in 2013.

Against the Colts, Trent Richardson looked quicker and more explosive than at any point during his rookie season.  He carried the ball seven times for 31 yards and caught one pass for ten yards.

Jamaine Cook looked like he could be a solid receiving option out of the backfield in his 25 snaps of action.  Cook was decisive when running the football and showed the ability to make defenders miss in the open field.  He finished the game with two carries for 11 yards and three catches for 24 yards.

Josh Gordon caught two passes for 24 yards, but had a really bad drop on a slant route early in the third quarter.  The play occurred on a third and five and would have resulted in a first down had Gordon caught the ball.  It looked like Gordon took his eyes off the ball as a safety closed in on him.  The ball should have most certainly been caught.

Alex Mack and John Greco each stood out in the run game.  They each did a great job of staying engaged with defenders and sealing them off to create a running lane.

Oniel Cousins, on the other hand, was on the ground too often and really struggled to stay engaged at the point of attack.  On a power run play where he was asked to pull, Cousins got blown up by the right outside linebacker and ended up on the ground behind the line of scrimmage.  It actually wasn’t a bad play by Cousins because he took the outside linebacker out of the play with the collision, but it was certainly noteworthy.

The entire starting offensive line did a good job in pass protection.  Brandon Weeden typically had plenty of time to operate in the pocket and find the open man down the field.

Backup left tackle Rashad Butler really struggled in pass protection as he surrendered one sack and two quarterback hits.  Butler has shown throughout the preseason that he lacks foot quickness and is not a natural knee bender.

Defense

When the first-team was on the field, Ray Horton’s defense lined up in a 3-4 front on 15 snaps, a 2-4 front on nine snaps, a 3-3 front on 19 snaps, a 4-2 front on two snaps, a 4-4 front on one snap, and a 5-3 front on one snap.  As all defensive coordinators do, Horton matches up his defensive fronts to the opposition’s offensive personnel.  When the Colts relied on 11 personnel and 20 personnel (two backs, zero tight ends), Horton matched up with a 2-4, 4-2, or 3-3 front on every snap except for one (the one exception came on a third and two early in the second quarter.  Horton matched up with a 3-4 front against the Colts’ 11 personnel on the play).  When the Colts resorted to 12 personnel and 21 personnel, Horton matched up with his base 3-4 defense.  When the Colts used 22 personnel, Horton either relied on a 3-4, 5-3, or 4-4 front.  The 19 times that the Browns showed a 3-3 front, their personnel was the same as in the 2-4.  The only difference between the 3-3 and the 2-4 was that one outside linebacker (Paul Kruger or Quentin Groves) got down in a three-point stance in the 3-3; making them “defensive ends”.  On the one snap where the Browns went to a 4-2 front, both outside linebackers (Paul Kruger and Quentin Groves) got down in a three-point stance; making them “defensive ends”.

The starting defensive line of Ahtyba Rubin, Phil Taylor, and Billy Winn stood out consistently in their time on the field.  Each player was stout at the point of attack and showed a high motor in pursuit.  Rubin was especially active when rushing the passer as he produced multiple quarterback hits and hurries.

Brian Sanford’s athletic ability was on display once again as he recorded a tackle on punt coverage.  He also penetrated into the backfield and tackled the running back for a three-yard loss on another play.

Paul Kruger consistently made his presence felt off the edge as he produced a sack and multiple quarterback hurries.  His strength and quickness on inside moves was too much for Colts right tackle Gosder Cherilus.

Quentin Groves did a nice job of converting speed to power to push the left tackle back toward the quarterback a few times.  Groves nearly sacked the quarterback on the play where Kruger got his sack.  Groves bull rushed Colt left tackle Anthony Castonzo and pushed him back into right tackle Gosder Cherilus.  Groves dove onto the quarterback just after Kruger brought him down.  Castonzo was injured on the play.

Justin Cole showed his explosive first step once again as he recorded two quarterback hits in the game.  Cole came through the B-gap between the left guard and tackle unblocked on one and he used his hands and lateral agility to perform an inside move on the left tackle on the other.

D’Qwell Jackson and Craig Robertson were very active in pursuit and typically did a good job of avoiding blocks.  Robertson especially did a good job of using his hands to keep blockers from getting into his body.  Officially, Jackson finished the game with five tackles and a tackle for a loss and Robertson finished the game with two tackles.

Note: Like I have said many times in the past; without access to coach’s tape, it is nearly impossible to properly evaluate defensive backs.

Joe Haden missed two tackles in run support and I found one catch given up in what looked like man to man coverage on a comeback route by Colts wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey.  On what was probably Haden’s best play, he ran with Colts wide receiver TY Hilton deep down the left sideline and stayed on top of him throughout the route.  The pass was overthrown, but Hilton was unable to create even an inch of separation.

Buster Skrine turned in a strong performance as he broke up two passes and was in tight coverage for most of his time on the field.  I found two catches given up by Skrine in what looked like man to man coverage.  They were each to Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne.  Skrine also recorded four tackles.

Each of Leon McFadden’s four catches surrendered looked as though they came while he was in off-man coverage or responsible for a deep zone.  McFadden also broke up one pass on a Slant route while covering the slot and finished the game with four tackles.

Abdul Kanneh played well overall in his 27 snaps of action.  Kanneh dropped an interception on a curl route which he played perfectly and also recorded two tackles in the open field.  The one pass that Kanneh (may have) surrendered came on a boot-action fake where he over pursued the run to the inside as a receiver came across the formation and ran a flat route into his area of the field.  Kanneh may have been blitzing on the play so it is impossible to tell if he was really responsible for the completion.

TJ Ward looked rusty overall in his preseason debut.  He recorded three tackles and missed another.  Ward also came free on a blitz and hit the quarterback just as he was releasing the ball.

Tashaun Gipson made what was probably the play of the game when he made a juggling interception on a tipped pass inside the five-yard line late in the second quarter.  Gipson was also in on two tackles.

Josh Aubrey recorded one tackle on the punt coverage unit and also made a tackle for a loss on a run to the outside.  Aubrey slowly pursued downhill and as soon as he saw a hole open up, he exploded through and made a big hit on the running back to bring him down for a one-yard loss.

Tags: 2013 Preseason Notes, Ahtyba Rubin, Brandon Weeden, Cleveland Browns, Craig Robertson, John Greco, Josh Gordon, Paul Kruger, Phil Taylor, Trent Richardson

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