Reliving the past week would seem pointless in many regards, but there are a couple positive points coming from the Browns loss to the Steelers almost a week ago. Gone is the quarterback issue with Charlie Frye, gone is the notion the Browns would be the next undefeated team in the NFL, and gone is the notion the Browns were as good as a 3-1 preseason record they claimed.
What I would like to do is hit on some topics regarding the 2007 team, some of which point to issues within this organization and its players. As a saying I have heard on numerous times notes: "talent breeds possibilities, coaching breeds winning".
When looking at the 2007 Cleveland Browns, the talent level has improved to this eye, but I am as unsure as ever in regards to the coaching/personnel aspect of the organization.
Simply, the Browns offense was not mentally prepared for the Steelers in the regular season opener. What amazed me was how simple the Steelers made things look. The Pittsburgh defense in the opener was basically no different in scheme and wrinkles than anything the Browns hadn't seen when playing them, or on film. This is what makes the lack of intensity and preparation puzzling.
The offensive line was under assault for the most part the entire afternoon. While the line did perform well on occasion, the breakdowns were evident and costly. The Browns suffered six sacks on the game, and the line could be directly attributed to two or three of the sacks. Frye held onto the ball too long, and the offense did not capitalize on the openings in the Pittsburgh defense.
With the Steelers defensive backs sitting on routes and leaving the seam of the field open, the Browns offense and namely the starting quarterback did not attack the weakness. Later in the game, Derek Anderson, who stepped in to replace the terribly inefficient Frye, made numerous attempts with limited success.
As much as the lack of continuity in the passing game is troubling, it may have been the lack of push in the running game which was a real cause for conern for the Cleveland offense. Committed to stopping the run, the Pittsburgh defense loaded the box wanting the Browns to try and beat them through the air. When rushing into the teeth of the aggressive Pittsburgh blitz was deemed unlikely to succeed, the inefficiency at the quarterback position was magnified.
When a team is unable to gain any push when a team is blitzing off the corners, exposing the middle of the defense, trouble looms, as the Browns found out last Sunday.
End of story, Browns lose, controversy and disappointment reign supreme. They trade the quarterback, bring back a quarterback (Ken Dorsey) which some within the rank and file did not want to see released in the first place, and suddenly realize that a mistake was made by the organization with the handling of the quarterbacks throughout the process.
As much as the issues on the offensive side of the ball are alarming, the defensive side of the ball has a few points of interest as well. During the first half of the game, the Browns defense kept the team in the game. Safety Brodney Pool did not play well replacing the departed Brian Russell and his running mate Sean Jones was relatively quiet.
Pool and Jones share the responsibility of communication duties in the defensive backfield this season. On numerous occasions, the defensive backs, namely the safeties, were late in coverage or did not react to the offensive scheme. The communication and instincts coming from these two safeties must improve, or a legitimate passing offense such as the Cincinnati Bengals (the Browns next opponent) will systematically break down the pass coverage.
One regard is the safeties were too preoccupied to stop/support the run and were caught often peeking into the offensive backfield. This did appear to be the case on several occasions, but when a safety does not recognize or react in a cover-two situation, something went terribly amiss.
The Browns defensive line did not play poorly for the first 30-minutes of the game, though they appeared disinterested and tired entering the second half of play. Limited depth and age is going to be a factor for this defensive line. The coaching staff and personnel department need to get capable bodies on this roster.
Throughout training camp, the linebackers and defensive backs appeared to be the strength of the team. Nothing which occurred in the first week of the regular season changes this impression. Though, the inconsistency at safety could become a significant issue for this team, which is geared to depend on the physical play and reliability in the middle of the Cleveland defensive backfield.
Just to Note:
- This columnist maintains the stance despite rumors and notes stating otherwise. If this Browns team comes out of the gate 0-3, and blown out in each contest, the gig is up for Crennel.
- If the organization is not able to right the ship, show progress, and change the perception of the team from a PR standpoint, Savage is in hot water.
- Talking with a former Browns quarterback this past week, we come away with the following impression. The Browns brain-trust blew it with their quarterback methodology during training camp, as neither quarterback appeared prepared to face the Steelers. Offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski had the team in position to make plays, but the lack of efficiency and consistency proved too severe to overcome.
- Many wondered about the play of rookie left tackle Joe Thomas against the Steelers. While Thomas did not have a game to remember, he held up reasonably well against a Pittsburgh defense that challenged him throughout the lopsided contest.