I was going to write a long analysis of the Atlanta game, but the topic was so unappealing that I put it off until far too late. The key takeaways are:
1. The Browns lost 24-13. Atlanta could have had more points, but the backup kicker (who is only there to make sure the #1 isn’t hurt in a meaningless game) missed a field goal.
2. They weren’t facing a strong opponent. Atlanta went 8-8 and played the second-easiest schedule in the NFL last year.
3.Atlanta wan’t really trying. Their first team defense played much of the first half, but Coach Dan Quinn was shuffling players in and out, trying to see if his young players were ready. On any given snap, there would be 7-9 players who started in 2015, with the rest players they were trying to develop.
Atlanta didn’t even bother with their offense:
- Their #1 quarterback, “Matty Tank” Ryan got 21 snaps– the only reason he lasted until 14:57 of the second quarter was that you don’t pull a QB in mid-drive.
- WR Julio Jones (the player the Browns traded away for a handful of not-so-magic beans) played 12 snaps. Ryan threw to him once; he caught the ball for 20 yards.
- #1 running back Devonta Freeman played 9 snaps. He averaged 10.5 yards per carry, on 4 carries for 42 yards. Even if you toss out his best run (19 yards), he gained 23 yards on 3 carries (just under 8 yards)
4. Cleveland had their usual issues. The Browns have a patented formula for losing 10 games, and we saw it in this game again:
- Couldn’t stop the run: Atlanta gained 224 yards. When Freeman sat down, Atlanta used five other backs. Three averaged at least 4.2 yards a carry.
- Couldn’t run: The quarterback, as usual, led the team in both total yards (36) and rushing average (12.0). Take those away (and the kneeldown at the end of the first half by Josh McCown) and the Browns carried 16 times for 66 yards (4.1 yards a carry). Isaiah Crowell averaged 4.0 yards on 7 carries; Squire Johnson gained 6 yards on three tries.
- No defensive line push: They had 2 sacks, 3 stuffs and hit the quarterback only 5 times Other than DE Carl Nassib (another sack and a swatdown of a pass) and Cam Johnson (a former seventh-round pick of the 49ers in 2012), nobody placed any pressure on Atlanta.
- Inability to control the ball. As a direct result of the lack of rush, Atlanta had the ball for 39:59– one second short of 66% of game time.And that wasn’t due to the backups– Cleveland lost the time of possession 18:21 to 11:39 in the first half.
The only positive thing is that Robert Griffin did the two things everyone knows he can do: scramble and throw long passes. His TD to Gary Barnidge was a poor throw– Barnidge deserves most of the credit for bringing it down– although Griffin did at least throw it in a spot that nobody else could get to.
The pass to Terrelle Pryor was a good play, even if Falcon corner Desmond Truffant was loafing until Pryor got by him. Like Nassib, Pryor had another nice showing.
The goal for tonight would be simple:
1. Not lose the time of possession battle 2-1. In both exhibition games, the opponent has spent twice as much time on the field as the Browns. Green Bay held the ball for 39:44; Atlanta 39.59. Since coaches never play starters in the fourth game, tonight is the last chance to get anyone work. Since the offense isn’t getting enough plays to give people a chance to play, so many of the roster decisions can’t be based on game production.
2. Have some rookies play well. Corey Coleman hasn’t played at all; I’ve been told that coach Hue Jackson is lying about how serious his ankle injury is. DE Emmanuel Ogbah hasn’t been anything specia.
Of the third-rounders, Nassib has pl;ayed well, but OT Shon Coleman looks like a developmental player. Thgat’s a problem, because Cam Erving has looked as bad as every other Ray Farmer #1 pick. he might start the season at center, but John Greco will end up finishing it. That means the Browns will need both a right guard and tackle. So we’ll be lookign at Austin Pasztor and Spencer Drango.
The final #3, Kessler’s “Smooth As Silk” Whiskey has played like the low-round pick he should have been.With Austin Davis having a concussion, this means the Browns will end up cutting him and keeping Josh McCown, giving them by far the worst set of quarterbacks in the league.
They might look better tonight, because Tampa is such a terrible team. They went 6-10 a year ago, playing a weak schedule; new coach Dirk Koetter won’t be able to fix what is broken with QB Jameis Winston. The Browns will need to overwhelm them to show any evidence that they’ve improved; I don’t expect to see that