Monday, October 12, 2009
The Cleveland Offensive Mystery
Our starting quarterback Derek Anderson went 2 for 17 with 23 yards and an interception, against the leagues 3rd worst pass defense. Not to mention, the Bills were missing 2 safeties and a cornerback, which should have made things easier. After this performance, by Anderson, and his ever so fantastic 3 interceptions in one half of football against Baltimore 2 weeks prior, I can only question what he's doing that is so much better than Brady Quinn.
Brady Quinn struggled in his first 2.5 games, and there is no doubt in my mind that there is a lot of improvements that need(ed) to be made. In his first start against Minnesota, he completed 21 passes out of 35 attempts for 205 yards had a touchdown, and an interception. He struggled on 3rd downs converting on just 25% of his passes, however was a victim to 6 drops in the game. 2 of the drops came on one drive by tight end Robert Royal, while he had another 3rd down drop. Joshua Cribbs had a drop on 2nd down in the 2nd quarter, and Mike Furrey had 2 drops in the game. Another problem was the running game. Jamal Lewis doesn't scare anybody. He dances to the line of scrimmage and doesn't hit the hole like 2003 Jamal Lewis does, which is expected with all of the carries he's had over his career. Minnesota's defense is 10th in the league in points against. They are very good, especially against the run. At halftime, the score was 13-10 Browns and it looked promising. Brady's one interception, it was a mis-communication with Braylon Edwards. Based on the coverage presented, Braylon ran the wrong route (one of many reasons he's a Jet now). He ran a seam despite being covered by the corner and having the safety over the top. The pass was thrown to the outside, where only Braylon could have caught it... had he ran the right route. Because the lack of first downs, however, the defense just could not hold AP any longer. He was held to 26 yards in the first half before exploding for 154 more in the 2nd half. The defense couldn't handle being on the field so much. Quinn's worst play of the game was him trying to scramble and throw on the run, in which he fumbled the ball trying to throw it, counting as a sack, and a fumble. Other than that, for his first start in 2009, against a top defense, his play wasn't as bad, given the circumstances.
Brady's second start was against the Bronco's, who have surprised many critics this season despite losing potential franchise quarterback Jay Cutler (trade), and the Brandon Marshall debacle. The Broncos are currently the best defensive in points against, and rank no worse than 6th in yards against in rushing, passing, and overall. For a first year 34 team, they've handled the transition very, very well. The Browns, once again, were in this game at halftime with the score being just 10-6, in Denver's favor. Quinn had a slightly worse game, throwing for just 161 yards on 31 attempts and 18 completions. However, once again, he can't get anything going for him on the ground, with Jamal getting 14 carries for 38 yards. He relies on his receivers to make plays, and his offensive line to block. One big problem for Quinn was the blocking from the right side of the line. Elvis Dumervil sacked Quinn 4 times, and twice on one drive. The worst part is that we were very close to our own end zone, and it was very close to being a safety. John St. Clair needed help, and we didn't adjust. Quinn and the offense struggled to convert on third downs yet again, converting only 21% in this game. Once again, the defense struggled in the 2nd half, and couldn't handle being on the field. The fatigue started to set in. On a crucial drive, Alex Mack fumbled the snap which hit Brady's ankles. Quinn tried to dive on it, and was too late, and we turned the ball over within the 5 yard line of our own field practically handing Denver points. Given the circumstances, Quinn played average. Last year, Denver was Quinn's first start and he played a very good game against them, only to lose thanks to a very poor defensive effort and dropped passes by Kellen Winslow. In the Denver game, the Browns had 4 total drops all by Cribbs, Royal, and one by former Brown Braylon Edwards. The Browns went on to lose 27-6.
Brady's third start was against the division rival Baltimore Ravens. It was Quinn's first start against a division rival. The game started out with an interception by Quinn on the first drive, leading to a Willis McGahee touchdown. The interception was all on Quinn as he didn't get enough air on the 10 yard out, which is a throw that he's always struggled with, even in college. After a few run, run, pass, punt drives by the Browns, we started to find ourselves in a hole, being down 20-0 against the division rival Ravens. Quinn was 6/8 for 34 yards and an interception in the first half. Yet again, the Browns struggled to run the ball against a great rush defense team, and we struggled to throw the ball down the field.
Being down 20-0, Coach Eric Mangini wanted to provide a spark and opened up the 2nd half with Derek Anderson under the helm. Anderson's first drive, he threw an interception. He had about 8 yards to throw the ball in front of the receiver, threw it behind him, and it was picked off. A few drives later, Anderson see's Braylon Edwards down the field, and throws it into triple coverage. Braylon was clearly covered and he took a chance. That's the 2nd interception. Anderson leads us down the field on a solid drive getting us a field goal, providing some home for Cleveland to get a legit offensive touchdown for the first time in 9 games dating back to 2008. A drive later, Anderson throws yet another terrible pass behind the receiver, being intercepted. 3 interceptions in one half of football. The Browns went on to lose the game 34-3, and Cleveland was a mess. Keep in mind the Ravens defense is 12th in points against per game, and cause fits for many offenses.
Coach Mangini was quoted saying "What Derek did out there was impressive", speaking of the drive in which we got 3 points, and named Anderson the starter against the Bengals the following week. After 3 three and outs out of 4 drives, Anderson and the Browns took advantage of a Brodney Pool interception and drove the ball 39 yards down the field for the first "real" Browns touchdown in over half a season. That cut the Bengals lead to 14-7 after the Browns defense struggled early against the potent Bengals offense. Keep in mind the Bengals defense is 9th in points against, but are very suspect in the passing game, and only had 1 interception on defense through 4 games (J. Joseph). The next drive, Anderson leads the Browns to the Bengals 8 yard line for a potential game tying touchdown. Instead, he throws an interception, negating everything the offense did that drive. Luckily, the defense gets a stop, and Anderson hooks up with rookie wide receiver Mohamed Massoquoi for a 20 yard pass and a 13 yard pass. Jerome Harrison, the backup running back is in for an inactive Jamal Lewis, had a field day against the Bengals, and really loosened up the defense for Anderson, running for 121 yards on just 29 carries. Unfortunately, after scoring another touchdown, the offense could do very little. A big problem with Derek Anderson is his incomplete passes. When the pressure is on, he struggles to complete passes, especially short balls. Long story short, Anderson completes just over 50% of his passes, throws a touchdown, and an interception, and the Browns lose in a heartbreaker in overtime. The defense really stepped up in the 2nd half, allowing the Browns offense to try and come back. Josh Cribbs was really on his game with numerous nice punt and kick off returns allowing the Browns offense to start on at least their own 30 yard line seven times, including twice inside Bengals territory.
Finally, we get to the Buffalo game. You already know what happens. The Browns won a football game. It's true. But how did they do it while only completing two passes? As stated at the beginning, Anderson completed 2 passes on 17 attempts for 23 yards and an interception. At one point in time his Quarterback Rating was 4.9. Keep in mind under 75 is below average. Anderson threw two more incomplete passes and his rating actually raised to 15. How funny is that? I can tell you how the Browns won this game: Buffalo didn't want to win. Buffalo had 13 penalties in the game. They also had 3 turnovers, one in which proved to be very costly when wide receiver Roscoe Parrish fumbled the ball on the Buffalo 16 yard line, allowing the go ahead field goal. The only thing Cleveland really did well other than punting the ball was rushing. Jamal Lewis ran with a full head of steam.... and the Bills have the 29th ranked rushing defense in the league. Prior to yesterdays game, the Bills had the 3rd worst pass defense in the league as well, and despite missing two safeties and a starting cornerback, they made Cleveland look silly. Now, even as Derek Anderson's biggest hater, I will admit that there were about 4-5 passes that should have been caught that were not, one specifically by tight end Robert Royal that should have been 6 points. However, no matter what quarterback is playing, 2/17 and 23 yards with a turnover is unacceptable. As a quarterback, you need to make adjustments. The Cleveland defense played very well despite all the 3 and outs. But can you really give congrats to defense when they are playing a team that scores just over 15 points a game, and has an offense almost as bad as it's own teams?
Regardless, the Browns won that game, and it's nice to see as a Browns fan. It is also true what they say: there is no column for "Pretty" in the standings.
So what is the real problem with the Browns offense? Derek Anderson hasn't made a difference in the same amount of playing time that Quinn has had. Many Derek Anderson fans said that if this offense didn't improve with Anderson in there, than it's not necessarily Quinn's fault.
However, because of this win, many people seem to think that Anderson is a much better fit than Quinn, even though in less attempts, Quinn has more yards, less interceptions, a better QB Rating, better Yards Per Attempt, and the same amount of touchdowns.
It's unfortunate for Quinn who, while he didn't play well, didn't really get a fair chance. As soon as Anderson was noted to start against the Bengals, the coaches made a few offensive changes. They started playing Hank Fraley at right guard instead of Floyd "Porkchop" Womack, who had become a liability, they gave rookie wide receiver Mohamed Massoquoi a chance to start games instead of Mike Furrey and Josh Cribbs who both had many drops in the first 3 games, and most importantly, they put in a running back who hits the holes, and gets quality yardage. What happens if you give Quinn what was given to Anderson? Maybe Quinn gets time to throw the ball. Maybe the defense respects the run and has to put more men in the box. Maybe he gets an option to throw to that doesn't drop the ball as often (perhaps not the case as Massoquoi dropped 2 passes yesterday).
The play-calling has been very suspect by offensive coordinator Brian Daboll. Daboll is a rookie coordinator who is, obviously, learning the ropes. Prior to Braylon's departure, the wide receivers ran 5-7 yards routes, while Braylon ran a 15-20 yard route. Braylon being a very, very good receiver, was covered over the top with a safety roughly 80% of the time. Remember, with the lack of a running game, and the ineffectiveness of an offensive line, teams could rush 3 and 4 guys and get into the backfield, leaving more options to cover the already below average wide receiver corps in Cleveland. Add in the fact that we are running consecutive wildcat runs up the middle in the red zone, and drawing up poor running plays, and you have a recipe for disaster.
Another problem is the lack of adjustments made by the coaching. In the Denver game, Quinn was sacked 4 times by one player. After the 2nd sack, you need to make an adjustment and put a tight end next to the offensive tackle (in this case John St. Clair), to help out with the blocking. Was that adjustment ever made? No. Yesterday, we had Buffalo putting 9 men in the box (surprising right?), and we have a quarterback that can throw the ball down the field, and what happens? We run right up the middle. Somehow it worked for us (it was Buffalo), and it's not nearly as bad as what it could have been.
I think the biggest issue I have with the lack of adjustments is the fact that we are making a blocking tight end run a 10-15 yard route 60% of the time he runs routes. He's usually running a route 85% of his plays as well, and he has roughly 7 drops on the season, already. His drops have been very costly as well, a few of them on third downs, and 1 that would have been a touchdown. Not to mention, we are struggling to protect our quarterbacks, so why are we trying to keep a running back that struggles to block back to help, when we can keep the tight end out, and use a running back that's good at catching out of the backfield to run a route.
Hopefully Coach Mangini will give Brady Quinn a chance before he trades him off, however. You simply can't judge an NFL player after 5.5 games, let alone an quarterback. Imagine if we judged Eli Manning after just a few games. How about Drew Brees, and even Peyton Manning? Especially with the lackluster talent around him. Even Charlie Frye got 19 starts. Ryan Leaf got numerous starts, as did Akili Smith, Cade McNown, and numerous other first-third round quarterbacks.
I suspect that a big reason to pull Quinn was to prevent him from getting his bonus. Cleveland isn't a playoff bound team, and it would be silly to play a QB 70% or more of the snaps and pay him significantly more money if it won't benefit you. Recent speculation has been that Brady Quinn could be leaving Cleveland as early as this week, but most likely it'll be at the end of the season.
Personally, I don't want to let go of a promising young quarterback until we are sure that he's not the future. It's apparent that Anderson is not a franchise quarterback and he needs A LOT of help, and playing bad defenses to succeed in Cleveland. We also can't afford to pay Anderson's 7.45 million dollar base salary next season, which is significant compared to his 1.45 million base salary from this season. Quinn is only to make 700k this year and next, and is an experiment and we'd be foolish financially to get rid of him, as well as mentally considering he is a talented, hard working player. Could Brady Quinn bust? Definitely, but it's way too early to tell.
Overall, getting off the Brady/Anderson talk, this offense is scary to watch. I almost feel that an SEC offense can put up more points on some teams than this putrid Browns offense. Hopefully we'll start to see progression, but it's unlikely with the lack of wide receivers, running game, and quarterback play.