Browns Review: Game 3 (@ Miami)

Try as I might, there just isn’t a lot I can add to the quick take I filed on Facebook. Watching Miami get squashed 22-7 by the Bengals on Thursday simply reinforced my opinion that Miami ia a terrible team, and Adam Gase isn’t much of a coach.

Last Sunday, trying to praise Ray Horton’s defense (which gave up 30 points, even though Miami never started in Cleveland territory until the very last drive) Solomon Wilcots described Gase’s system thusly: “He
sends out the personnel and gives the quarterback three plays he can
run. It’s the quarterback’s job to read the defense and pick the right
play.”

Oh, is that all?

I know Peyton Manning loved this setup, but not everyone wants that much
flexibility. Many of them just want to get a play and do it– with an option to switch out, but the default already set.

Gase was in Chicago last year and Jay Cutler grumbled about
the system. I know that means nothing– Cutler is always grumbling
about something— but Ryan Tannehill really doesn’t look comfortable.

Miami will probably cut Tannehill, either during the season or immediately
after it. He is signed to a huge contract that is only getting worse.
He’s getting $9.3 million and that jumps to $18 million next year.
Nobody will trade for him; the Browns could do a lot worse than picking
him up.

If you view that comment as a dig on Cody “Trust Me” Kessler, it is.

Defensively, Miami didn’t look like they had anyone who could cover– Cleveland receivers were open the whole game. On Thursday, Cincinnati shredded them, with Andy Dalton going 22-31 for 296 yards and a score– with A.J. Green catching 10 of 12 passes for 173 yards and a TD.

Obviously the Browns could have won. Just as obviously, they did not. Let’s run through the standard checklist:

  • The Browns could / couldn’t run the ball: The Browns had a genuinely good week running the ball: 32 carries for 169 carries (5.3 per carry)– the only team (in four games) to get 100 yards on Miami this year. Even if you subtract the 2-3 big runs, it’s still over 4 yards. Both Isaiah Crowell (15-79) and Duke Johnson (10-69) had good games. If the Browns can keep doing it, it’s a big plus.
  • The Browns could / couldn’t stop the run: Miami gained 115 yards on 26 carries– an average of 4.6 per carry. To be fair, 28 yards came on two carries; wipe those out and they’re down to 3.78. But since Miami had no idea who was going to carry the ball– they shuffled through their options– the Browns should have been able to do a little better.
  • The defense produced no pass rush: Miami had 39 pass attempts; the Browns produced one sack, six hits. After three games, they have three sacks. Tannehill, who threw a ridiculous interception on his first attempt– and another later– settled down enough to throw for 319 yards on 39 attempts, with three touchdowns.
  • The defense forced one turnover: Claude Lemonier certainly gets credit for the sack and the strip. But, I’m sorry, the two interceptions were gifts from Miami

Look, when the opposing quarterback throws the ball right to you, it’s your job to catch the ball. It’s like a pitcher throwing a hanging curve– you don’t say “What a nice piece of hitting” when that pitch travels 425 feet.

Sure, let’s give credit to Jamar Taylor and to Briean Boddy-Calhoun for making the catches– many of their predecessors have dropped gifts that were even easier to catch and return. But let’s not forget that a competent quarterback shouldn’t make throws like the two that Tannehill did.


I don’t criticize rookies playing their first regular-season game, unless he’s responsible for so many sacks and turnovers that it exceeds the “growing pains” mulligan. Kessler completed 63.6% of his passes, averaged a respectable 7.4 yards a pass, and most of the bad plays came early.

But when I look at where he throws the ball and how quickly it gets there (not very) and I simply can’t see a player who succeeds long-term.

He reminds me of Kelly Holcomb in one important respect. Holcomb had throws he loved to make– and could do them well. But when teams took those routes away, he struggled. It also appears that Kessler really likes to throw some patterns, but not others. You couldn’t see it Sunday, because Miami couldn’t do anything right on pass coverage. But a good defense will probably be able to make him uncomfortable.

Despite Jackson’s urging, I don’t trust his decision to pick Kessler in round three. Not yet. The best I can say is that he ought to be able to start the rest of the year, assuming the line lets him stay healthy.


Looking at the game again, I refuse to join the howling about Austin Pasztor.  I couldn’t have made my feelings about him more clear in the preview:

He’ll start the season at tackle, which he simply doesn’t have the quickness to play. He’ll get beat a bunch of times by speed rushers; at that point, a sane coach will move him inside to guard. He can play guard; his lack of quickness and coordination won’t be as damaging– and his willingness to battle in close quarters will be an asset.

The problem is that if Pasztor gives up a sack at a critical time– one that costs the Browns a game or gets the quarterback hurt– Jackson will blow a gasket and cut him. “We’ll find someone,” he’ll say. “Trust me.”

So Pasztor couldn’t handle either Cameron Wake or Ndumakong Shoe. That’s not a shock. The shock is that Cleveland seriously imagined he could. All they have to do the stabilize the line is to push Pasztor over and put either #3 pick Shon Coleman or #5 pick Spencer Drango at tackle.

They even have an excuse to do it now, with Alvin Bailey arrested. Pasztor plays guard, one of the rookies plays tackle.


The only other thing I have to say is this. If the Browns want to beat last season’s win total, they’ll have to make fewer mistakes than the other team does.

They had 13 penalties for 91 yards against Miami. They’re 27th in penalties (8.3 per game)– although they are only averaging 55 yards (14th). They haven’t given up the pass interference penalties that cost 20+ yards– it’s all been small stuff so far. But it can’t continue.

And it’s not something to blame the offensive line for. The Raiders led the NFL in penalties when Jackson was the head coach.

The other thing… not to beat a dead horse again, but they need more production on kicking teams. They’re 31st in punt returns (4.3) and 27th in punt coverage (13.4 yards). That’s nearly 10 yards lost every time they trade punts.

On kicks, Cleveland is 27th in returns (16.6) and dead last in kick coverage (29.8).

They’re 50% on field goal attempts. Amazingly, this is not the NFL-worst mark– Chicago is also 50% and Tamps is 33%. They’ve missed an extra point– but six other teams have too (a seventh, Minnesota, has missed two extra points).

I think the decision to stay with Cody Parkey is a mistake. But both the coach and the front office have decided to be stubborn about this. They can decide to show him support, but kickers are usually slump prone. When they miss three field goals in a game, they don’t normally come back from it.

A few years ago, the Browns decided to show support for long snapper Ryan Pontbriand after a few bad games. They didn’t stop, and they ended up cutting Pontbriand. If they end up dumping Parkey on Monday– or in a few weeks, after another loss– that’s entirely on the coaching staff.

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