Browns-Broncos: Report Card

It seems like I have to post report cards like this every year. (Sigh...) seems somewhat unimpressed by the team's play last Sunday.


The Cleveland Browns are looking at a very long season -- one that could qualify them for the first pick in the 2010 NFL Draft.

The Browns have looked that bad in losing to Minnesota and Denver.

The opening-game loss was tempered by a lot of "but it was the Vikings" comments. Those who said it believed that the Vikings were a Super Bowl caliber team, so losing to them brought no shame.

The way the Browns played and lost in Denver, though, brought a lot of shame -- and exposed a lot of problems.

The Browns were woeful on third down (3-of-14) and had second-half drives of three, four, five, three and three plays before holding the ball for eight plays when the game essentially was over.

The Browns have gone eight games without a touchdown that mattered. The only one they've scored came in the waning seconds of a blowout loss to Minnesota.

The first two games of the 2009 season they've been outscored 24-7 and 17-0 in the second half. In both games, the defense was steamrolled by the opposition's running game.

Minnesota ran for 225 yards, Denver 186. Both teams had long, fourth-quarter touchdown runs.

Coach Eric Mangini talked of fixing the team's problems and executing better. Typical coachspeak, but in this case the words are hollow.

The Browns seem to lack the talent or the approach to turn the season around. Two games into a long season, the questions isn't whether the Browns will be bad, it's how bad they will be.


--Brady Quinn struggled again for the Browns. He's starting to look like a quarterback without a lot of help and with a cluttered mind.

Quinn does not seem to react well on the field. He gets confused, cowers when he doesn't have to and tries to force throws.

In two games, Quinn has one touchdown -- and it came late. Against Denver, he badly missed Mike Furrey at the goal line after the Browns had received a huge break when Denver fumbled the opening kickoff.

He had consecutive sidearm passes knocked down at the line, and he continued to look for the short pass.

Quinn had first-round talent, but he's not showing it. At this point he looks confused, cluttered and very shaky in the pocket.

--John St. Clair had a miserable day at right tackle trying to block Elvis Dumervil. St. Clair lacked the mobility and quickness to counter Dumervil's speed.

End result: Dumervil tied a Denver record with four sacks in a game.

The worst stretch came with the Browns down 14 and 12 minutes left, plenty of time for a comeback. But after a screen pass lost yards, St. Clair was flagged for a false start.

Dumervil got sacks on the next two plays, the second nearly resulting in a safety. End of drive.

If the right side of the line does not play better, the Browns will be woeful all season long.


--QB Brady Quinn's play in the second game brought a question about Derek Anderson. Things have come to the point already that some are wondering if the Browns are starting the wrong quarterback. In his second game, Quinn threw 31 times for 161 yards, could not sustain a drive and was sacked four times. He looks every bit like an inexperienced quarterback with little help around him.

--RB Jamal Lewis found it tough going against Denver. Lewis gained just 38 yards on 14 carries, though the problem was up front and not with Lewis. Lewis is running as hard as ever, though he does seem to lack the burst to make something of a play when little is there. Too, the Browns inability to stretch the field with the passing game results in teams bringing an extra defender into the box on running downs.

--WR Braylon Edwards had a good game, with 92 yards on seven catches. Twice Edwards went high to snag soaring throws from Brady Quinn. But despite the good numbers, Edwards never sniffed the end zone. Without a valid option at the other receiver, Edwards will find it tough to make the big play.

--WR Josh Cribbs had a tough day, fumbling on one third down and failing to hang on to another third down catch after S Brian Dawkins hit him. As a second receiver, Cribbs is an excellent kick returner.

--NT Shaun Rogers is finding that even his return can't help the run defense. Rogers played to a Pro Bowl level last season and the Browns gave up 152 yards rushing per game. After missing all of preseason Rogers returned, and played well. But the Browns are still giving up 205.5 yards per game rushing.


PASSING OFFENSE: F -- Brady Quinn looks lost. Either his mind is cluttered, he's not getting enough help or he's being coached in confusing ways. The end result is the same: Quinn has struggled in two games. His 5.5-yard per-throw average ranks near the bottom of the league, ahead of only Marc Bulger and Matthew Stafford. His ability to make a play on third down when the Browns need it is absent. Against Denver, the Browns could not convert on 11 third downs. Quinn is not helped by poor protection, but he's also not helping the cause a lot himself.

RUSHING OFFENSE: F -- It's hard to know if the running game is poor on its own, or if the inability of the passing game to stretch the field makes it impossible to run because so many defenders are near the line. Jamal Lewis had few holes, and the return of Jerome Harrison made no difference. The Browns ran well against Minnesota but did not gain a lot of yards. Against Denver, they did not gain a lot of yards and ran poorly.

PASS DEFENSE: F -- Denver exposed every hole in the Browns secondary. Cornerback Brandon McDonald was beaten badly on a simple out pattern that Jabar Gaffney turned into a big gain. The other cornerback, Eric Wright, had an interference penalty and looked helpless trying to tackle Correll Buckhalter on a touchdown run. A week after Adrian Peterson threw Wright out of bounds by shoving him by the helmet, Wright ran alongside Buckhalter for nearly 10 yards without even trying to tackle him. The Browns secondary has no impact, big-time player, and it shows.

RUSH DEFENSE: F -- Teams are averaging 205.5 yards per game against the Browns run defense. For the second week in a row, the run defense was stampeded in the fourth quarter. Correll Buckhalter averaged 8.4 yards per carry and scored on a 45-yard run, and rookie Knowshon Moreno -- who said the game was too fast for him after the opener -- averaged 4.4 yards per carry. The two totaled 151 yards, more than the Browns have as a team in two games.

SPECIAL TEAMS: D -- The Browns strength is their kickers. Phil Dawson and Dave Zastudil are as good as they get. Problem is when a team's strength is its kickers it's not a very good team. The Browns proved that early when they failed to score a touchdown after the coverage team forced the Broncos to fumble the opening kickoff. Other than Zastudil's 45.3-yard average with a bad knee, there was nothing to be excited about the rest of the game.

COACHING: F -- Eric Mangini looked lost after the game. He was talking about all sorts of things that did not seem to address the team's major issues. The offensive game plan is conservative to a fault, and may be handcuffing Brady Quinn to the point that he's not able to react or play without thinking. Too, the offense continues to force Josh Cribbs into the second receiver role, a role he's not ready to fill. While he plays, the team's two second-round draft picks languish. Finally, the defense makes no big plays, and folds late against the run when a stop is needed. At this point in the season Mangini and his staff seem overwhelmed and overmatched. They concentrate on nonsense like keeping the identity of the starting quarterback a secret before the opener, but don't have the team ready and prepared to play a complete game.

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