When it comes to Jake Delhomme, you have to take the good with the bad. You have to accept that once in a while, you're going to get games from the veteran signal-caller that comprise true greatness, and others that are the kinds of four-pick head-scratchers he put up against the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Jets in the 2009 season with his old team, the Carolina Panthers. In the Browns' 17-14 opening loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, we saw both Jakes on the field.
With 2:57 left in the first quarter and the Browns on the Tampa Bay 41-yard-line, the Browns lined up in I-formation against Tampa Bay's five-man front and "high/low" safety concept (Fig. 1). This was the Bucs' way of operating out of a revolving deep zone concept, using motion to address their playside reads.
The Browns exploited this by having Mohammed Massaquoi run a post that slanted just where strong safety Sean Jones would have been had he not cheated up. While cornerback E.J. Biggers and free safety Tanard Jackson closed to cover, Massaquoi split the middle on the post and ran for the touchdown. That was a perfect example of how Delhomme can blow up coverage concepts when he's on his game. The play fake baited the intermediate defense, which took away any further coverage against the inside route. It took great timing from Delhomme to make that play work, as well – and the combination put the Browns up, 7-0.
On the other hand, the pick Delhomme threw near the end of the first half put things back in Tampa Bay's hands when Cleveland should have had the advantage. Mike Adams picked off a Josh Freeman throw on the Bucs' previous drive, and Delhomme had completed two passes to get into enemy territory. The pick was a common theme among Delhomme's giveaways – he has a tendency to think he can get a ball away under pressure that would have a more judicious quarterback either bailing out or taking a sack.
So it was with 38 seconds left in the first half, and the Browns on the Tampa Bay 39. Cleveland went shotgun, three-wide, and the Bucs countered with a four-man nickel front. As the game progressed, Tampa Bay would blitz two-linebacker groups through the A-gaps, and they did so on this play. At the same time, pressure from Delhomme's blind side forced him out of the pocket, and he made a very ill-advised throw from a sidearm position that was easily picked by veteran cornerback Ronde Barber, who probably saw that entire play unfold in slo-mo. Barber returned the ball 64 yards to the Cleveland 3-yard line, ad Freeman threw a touchdown pass on the next play. That made it a 14-10 game in favor of Cleveland, but the Browns would score no more points on this day.
There are times when it's very easy to see the advantages of having a veteran quarterback like Jake Delhomme on the roster. He still has enough gas in the tank to make most of the throws one expects on the NFL, but the main thing you'll see more consistently than you may have with the youth movement at the position over the last few seasons is the ability a longtime NFL quarterback has to read defenses and call out of formations to gain pre-snap advantages. At the same time, Delhomme's always been one of those gunslingers, and he shares the feast-or-famine results you get from those types of quarterbacks. With Delhomme, it's best to keep the Advil right next to the champagne.