The Browns defensive scheme is taking longer for the team to fully grasp than the coaching staff had hoped, but the glimpses of 'getting it' are there.
- The defensive staff spent film time early in the week to work out issues with player responsibilities against the screen pass. The Steelers torched the Browns a week ago with the screen. The additional focus appears to have paid off for the immediate, as the Browns defense did a much better job staying home when they read screen in the New Orleans game.
- An area of concern is the inability of the defense, notably the OLBs and DBs in support to seal the edge. The Steelers and Saints gained success pinning the Browns inside, opening gaping holes for the running game in each game. This aspect can be also attributed to the Browns endless over-pursuit issues and rather average play coming from the DE spots. In the end, the edge defenders must maintain edge stability.
"We have to do a better job executing and recognizing quickly enough what is in front of us. Being aggressive off the edge, we tend to run ourselves past plays which have caught us trapped and the backs are off to the races. We will get it worked out; coach Pettine will be in our ears this week."
Browns staffer on the inability to stop the run, "The Saints did a good job sealing back on us, beating us to the spot and mixing it up well. We also ran with seven DBs throughout the game and New Orleans attacked us with the run. We have to do a better job mixing up our looks, getting off blocks as well as recognizing what is coming. We did more to ourselves than they did to us really, we cannot afford to keep over-running plays, getting out of position and giving up large chunks of yardage, it's unacceptable and we'll be working on this Wednesday morning."
- Many are down on CB Joe Haden following two games which the opposition has seemingly made plays on the Browns Pro-Bowl player. While Haden did have some issue in Pittsburgh, the Browns defensive coordinator as well as Pettine does not agree with the sentiment.
According to a member of the staff, the following are thoughts on Haden's play to date, "Against the Steelers, Joe (Haden) had coverage a couple times which we didn't get pressure on the QB. You cannot cover a receiver in this league for five seconds; players are too good in this game. We looked back on every play and Haden's play was solid."
And against the Saints, "We knew it was going to be a tough assignment for our DBs, dealing with Brees and Jimmy Graham. Graham is a great receiver, a huge body that is extremely athletic. Our plan was to keep him (Graham) in front of us, as he is such a weapon for them (N.O.) in the seam and red-zone. We wanted to give them some different looks and maybe we should or could have gone over/under on them, but they were running the ball effectively and it was a double-edged sword, support or play coverage."
- Rookie CB Justin Gilbert didn't have his names called very much against the Saints. Gilbert was very solid in coverage on Sunday.
Staffer on Gilbert, "Gilbert played very well; he was aggressive and did a good job getting his hands on receivers early. He didn't get caught up trying to do too much and played with confidence. Gilbert will be fine; he is young and getting better as we go along, once his game catches up with his talent and athleticism, he is going to be a very good cover corner."
- Much-maligned CB Buster Skrine continues to play well and has quickly become a solid cover corner.
"Staffer on Skrine, "Buster (Skrine) plays big and he isn't a big guy, but he will run with you, he will fight with you and is so quick he can get back and defend. When we watched tape on him during the off-season, we knew he would be an instrumental part of our defense; he is becoming a very good corner. We are comfortable and confident with he and Haden out there and we also have Gilbert coming."
- The Browns offensive coaching staff loves the attitude and work rookie RBs Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell display. In an age where players can be extremely self-centered, West and Crowell push one another and are the first to congratulate when the other excels.
Prior to the draft, general manager Ray Farmer targeted West and Crowell to reload a Browns running back stable that was poor in the 2013 season. West talent and durability were impressive to Farmer, while Crowell had been on the Browns scouts radar for more than 18 months. Two games in, the Browns couldn't be happier with the duo and the tandem will continue to split the carries, with Crowell gaining reps (West still primary RB) to ease the load on West.
The Browns see West and Crowell as different type backs, which help change the working complexion on the playing field. West is a shiftier type back, while Crowell is a one-cut and run to daylight type which the staff believes is the perfect fit for the offensive scheme.
- While the football world waited the time rookie QB Johnny Manziel hit the playing field, head coach Mike Pettine wasn't too quick to throw the rookie into the scheme.
A week ago in Pittsburgh, Pettine liked the way QB Brian Hoyer took command in the locker room at halftime and on the playing field in the second half of the Browns last play loss to the Steelers.
Pettine debated giving Manziel a look against New Orleans on Sunday, but with the Saints giving some looks which could provide Manziel an opportunity to make a play with his legs, the head coach decided to get him on the field.
Upon his entrance into the game, on the first play, a hand-off, the Saints changed up the look and walked a safety into the box. On the second play, Manziel missed a change read where he could have faked the hand-off, which was designed to draw the weak-side, where Manziel could have scampered around left-end, the play was there, and the rookie missed it.
The Browns will continue to draw a handful of plays into the overall offensive scheme for Manziel for that occasion to utilize his skill-set, while gaining snaps in the professional game.
- QB Brian Hoyer is quickly finding out that the young receivers on the playing field are going to make mistakes, but are hungry and determined to make plays. While Hoyer has had some issue with his accuracy, which has been determined by the coaching staff as the QB getting a little ahead of himself and not settling down on his passes, his young, inexperienced receivers need to go through the growing pains on the field as well.
On two occasions Sunday against the Saints, Hoyer appeared to under-throw receivers, which in essence was the case, but the unknown too many is the receivers did not run the route properly. Each week in practice sessions the QB's and receivers are getting a better feel for each other.
Browns staffer, "We needed to go through the evaluation of the QBs to find out exactly what we had, who could do what and whether Hoyer was healthy enough to play in this offense which requires movement. In hindsight, we may have lost a step in the progression of installing and executing a new offense with young, inexperienced receivers and a QB that hasn't made many starts coming off a serious knee injury."
On the Hoyer floater to WR Andrew Hawkins to set-up the winning FG, "Hoyer saw the 7 coverage as did Hawkins. Hoyer floated one out there for him since he was uncovered and Andrew almost tripped over himself."
The Browns as a team are sold on Hoyer, they love his demeanor, his ability to communicate on the field and how he is an underdog. Hoyer himself is respected by the coaching staff due to his professionalism and has become a teacher on the field, once he learned the offensive scheme.
Browns staffer, "The only people talking Manziel being under center is the media, there is a sensationalism around him (Manziel) that echoes throughout, but as a team and as a staff, Brian Hoyer is the steadying influence that is showing he can lead this offense and help us grow. And, we believe he is only to improve as the season progresses, which excites us."
Despite the love for Hoyer and the Browns losing on the last play in Pittsburgh, the Browns will continue to put plays into the scheme for Manziel.
Browns staffer, "Hoyer doesn't like it, if I were in his position I wouldn't like it, but this is all about opportunities to win football games and that's the business we are in, he understands that point. As he said in the locker room, I have to play better so they'll not have to think about him not being on the field."