Takeaways From The Browns 23-10 Week 1 Defeat To The Miami Dolphins
Originally posted to theclevelandfan.com on September 9, 2013
The Browns struggled mightily in their 17-16 Week 1 loss to the Eagles…no, wait, that was last season. Let me try again. The Browns blew their opening day game to the Cincinnati Bengals by a score of 27-17 after a miscommunication left star receiver A.J. Green wide open…nope, that’s not it either, that was two seasons ago. I got it now. The Browns got a nice defensive performance, but the offense led by Jake Delhomme struggled on their way to a 17-14 defeat to the Bucca…crap, that’s not it either.
Unfortunately, the Browns 23-10 Week 1 loss to the Miami Dolphins looked the same as any other Browns Week 1 debacle since the team returned in 1999. The roster and coaching staff may be different, but it’s the same old story on the lakefront. Here are the takeaways from the game.
All eyes were on Brandon Weeden heading into the game against the Dolphins, and his performance was as underwhelming as fans feared it might be. I’m not the first one to point this out, but the scary thing about Weeden’s performance as it relates to his development is that there was no discernable difference in his play from last year to this year. Weeden displayed the same scattershot accuracy and slow decision-making that plagued him last season. The play that most exemplifies Weeden’s lack of progression was the third interception he threw on the pass to Jordan Cameron. On a pass that required touch and accuracy, it looked like Weeden was trying to impress a pretty girl in the stands by showing off how hard he can throw the football (Weeden did the same thing on the interception off the hands of Greg Little). Remind you of anyone?
At the same time, Weeden got precious little help from the rest of the offense. As poor as some of Weeden’s throws were, the dropped passes are tough to overcome, especially when the tips lead to interceptions. Outside of the passing game, the hope going into the opener was that we would see a refreshed Trent Richardson become the focal point of the offense. Richardson did look good early, going for 26 yards on four carries before Weeden’s first interception. But after that first drive, Richardson was seldom used, and he was ineffective when he did get carries.
However, it’s tough to pin the blame on Richardson for a slow day when he was running behind the mess that is the Browns’ offensive line. Oneil Cousins was a disaster at right guard, and Mitchell Schwartz wasn’t much better at right tackle. It makes sense that Norv Turner abandoned the run because there was absolutely no push from the interior of the line. There’s no point in continually running Richardson if the opposing defense is getting penetration up the middle and the tackles and tight ends are unable to seal the edge. Hopefully at some point this season we’ll get to see Richardson run behind an offensive line that can create a few running lanes.
The lone bright spot from the game was the performance of the front seven. That group effectively shut down the Miami run game and, for three quarters at least, kept constant pressure on Ryan Tannehill. Ray Horton talked during the preseason about being able to line up in multiple fronts, not just a base 3-4 alignment. Horton backed up that sentiment Sunday as the Browns displayed all sorts of different looks, such as having only two down lineman or lining up Jabaal Sheard over the outside shoulder of the offensive tackle, ostensibly making him a defensive end in a two-point stance. The different alignments paid off early on, as Miami wasn’t always sure which linebackers were blitzing and which were dropping into coverage. Even without Ahtyba Rubin and Barkevious Mingo, the Browns showed they have a lot of guys who can rush the quarterback and plug up running lanes, and this unit should only get better as the year goes on.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t all roses for the Browns’ defense. I wrote last week about concerns over Ray Horton’s aggressive defensive schemes leaving the Browns vulnerable in the secondary. The aggressiveness worked for three quarters, but once Miami shifted to more max protection passing concepts and the defense began to tire, all the blitzing led to a lot of open receivers down field. The secondary only has two bonafide starters in Joe Haden and T.J. Ward (who both dropped interceptions), and it showed on Sunday. As it stands now, there doesn’t seem to be any kind of scheming Horton can do to hide the shortcomings in the secondary. The Browns’ front seven may be one of the best in the league, but the weaknesses in the secondary will make this a long season for the Browns’ defense.
Which team is more talented, the Browns or the Dolphins? Either way, the two teams that faced off on Sunday were relatively equal talent-wise. The biggest difference in the game was the unforced errors. Between dropped passes, blown coverages, missed blocks, and an assortment of penalties, the Browns were unable to get out of their own way. Every time they did something positive, they followed it up with a boneheaded mistake. This team simply isn’t good enough to turn the ball over three times, allow six sacks, take nine penalties, go 1-14 on third down, and still find a way to win.
The showing against Miami is especially disheartening because that was very much a winnable game. If the Browns can’t manage to keep Ryan Tannehill from carving them up late in games, one can only imagine what will happen when the team goes against the elite quarterbacks. The Dolphins defense may have a good front seven, but so do the Bengals, Ravens, and Steelers. If the Browns play Sunday is indicative of what the season holds, it may be time to start thinking about how Teddy Bridgewater might look in brown and orange.