After an 0-2 start, the Cleveland Browns climbed right back into the AFC North race with a win over the Cincinnati Bengals, who fell to the same 2-2 record. Both teams feature strong defenses and good offensive lines, but have a serious lack of productivity at the QB position. That proved to be the case in the game between them, as they combined for just 23 points. Brian Hoyer was solid in his first start in place of an injured Brandon Weeden last week, and that continued against Cincinnati. Andy Dalton, meanwhile, continues to struggle. He constantly throws into coverage and has only average accuracy on deeper passes — and Dalton’s pocket presence needs work.
Aside from the quarterbacks, the most interesting thing to take away from this game was the way the offensive tackles handled the defensive ends. Michael Johnson, Carlos Dunlap, Paul Kruger and Barkevious Mingo all had grades in the red as pass rushers, as the offensive lines got the better of them throughout. The Bengals’ duo of Andrew Whitworth and Andre Smith were on fine form, as they completed perfect games on a combined 100 drop-backs. The Browns’ pair of Joe Thomas and Mitchell Schwartz weren’t too shabby either, allowing a solitary sack and a hit in 86 pass blocks. Let’s take a look at some individual performances.
Cincinnati – Three Performances of Note
As previously mentioned, this was another tough game for the young signal caller. Dalton (-3.0) finished with a QB rating of just 58.2 and, honestly, it could have been worse. He completed just 4 of 17 passes longer than 10 yards, and just one further than 20. It’s not a matter of arm strength, but more location. On three occasions Dalton forced the ball into coverage with passes that could have easily been picked off. There was one play (Q2, 14.39) where it seemed certain safety Tashaun Gipson would make the play, only for the ball to fall incomplete as he hit the turf. The go route was never on and, to make matters worse, Dalton stared down his receiver allowing Gipson to get across from his middle of the field position to make a play. Another aforementioned issue is Dalton’s lack of pocket awareness. He tends to leave the pocket when his quality offensive line has given him ample time and there is no need to scramble out. An example of such a play came at 8.50 in the third quarter when he scrambled to his right resulting in easy pressure for Ahtyba Rubin. There is some good news, in that when Dalton takes off, he tends to prove elusive. He put a wicked move on inside linebacker Craig Robertson in the second quarter (13.33) resulting in a first down. However, Dalton’s passing has to improve in order for the Bengals to go anywhere this season.
Last week I mentioned how quiet Geno Atkins (+5.5) was in the win over the Packers — well, he was anything but quiet against the Browns. Oniel Cousins and John Greco were simply no match for the power of one of the league’s best interior defensive lineman. It was his work as a pass rusher (+5.7) that earned him such a high grade, as he amassed two sacks, a hit and five hurries in 37 rushes. Atkins got his pressure in a variety of ways, registering at least a pressure on both inside and outside moves, as well as with his bull rush. He was much quieter in the run game, registering a -0.4 grade. It seemed like Atkins took his foot off the gas somewhat toward the end, as he graded negatively on three occasions late in the fourth quarter. His missed tackle came mid-way through the second in the middle of a trio of plays that really sum up Atkins. At 9.11 he made a great move on Cousins to the outside registering a hit. Then he comes back the next play and drives Greco a good few yards into the backfield to totally disrupt an outside run. Although he couldn’t complete the play, he held Bobby Rainey up for enough time to allow pursuit to arrive. Then, with the Browns facing 3rd-and-14, he blew past Greco to the inside for a pressure.
Tough Day for Jones
Adam Jones (-3.3) failed to step up with Leon Hall sidelined by injury. Jones was generally just very sloppy and allowed a significant amount of separation. Overall, he allowed six completions on nine targets for 107 yards. He struggled with Josh Gordon in particular. He allowed the supplemental draft pick deep at 10.01 in the second quarter and, while he was in good position, he failed to make a play on the ball. Another issue that stood out was his failure to bring down Rainey on a couple of occasions on short routes out of the backfield, allowing the Browns to pick up extra yardage. Although he didn’t actually miss a tackle on him, Jones made a glaring mistake by taking a terrible angle to Jordan Cameron after he caught the ball on a crossing route, allowing him to pick up yards after the catch down the sideline. The Bengals will hope Hall returns soon.
Cleveland – Three Performances of Note
Schwartz Bounces Back
After a couple of bad performances in the first two weeks, Mitchell Schwartz (+3.6) is starting to look like the player who finished just outside our Top 20 offensive tackles as a rookie. In pass protection he allowed just the solitary sack on 43 drop-backs, and even that wasn’t a terrible play. The sack came on an outside move but took more than three seconds to occur. It was only Hoyer holding onto the ball that resulted in the loss of yardage. Schwartz was also called for holding on a pass play, but you have to consider him a little unfortunate as Hoyer scrambled out of the pocket costing him leverage. In the run game, it was predominantly his work on double teams that resulted in his grade in the green. He was able to generate some significant movement on rookie Devon Still on one play with 8.35 left to play in the third as he drove him inside, widening the hole.
The Browns went to a known AFC North face in the form of Willis McGahee to pick up some slack after they traded Trent Richardson for a first-round pick. They also used Chris Ogbonnaya and Bobby Rainey at running back against the Bengals. While neither of the three could find much room on the ground, they did have success in the passing game. As runners they combined for just a pair of forced missed tackles on 26 rushes. Also, just 32 of 82 yards came after contact. However, Ogbonnaya (+0.6) and Rainey (+1.3) proved especially elusive as receivers. The former caught all five targets for 21 yards and a touchdown, selling play action beautifully before escaping into the flat to register a 1-yard score. Rainey meanwhile, was only targeted twice but caught both balls for 20 yards and forced the aforementioned pair of missed tackles by Jones.
Barkevious Mingo (-2.8) struggled in his first start as a pro. He generated a single sack as a pass rusher on 47 attempts, and he failed to beat a block on that play as he simply noticed Dalton beginning to scramble out of the pocket and tackled him a yard behind the line of scrimmage. Mingo did show the capacity to get his hands up and deflect passes (Q2, 5.26 and Q3, 4.35), but even that seemed not always to work out, as the first batted pass still found its way into the hands of the receiver. His run defense was also poor (-1.7), as he made just the solitary defensive stop and missed a tackle. Just as with his sack, Mingo’s tackle for a loss came as he cleaned up an already destroyed run early in the fourth quarter (13.08). One of the biggest issues was his failure to remain disciplined and keep outside contain on runs going away from him. Mingo often went flying down the line of scrimmage only to find the runner cutting back to where he should have been. Although he had a tough matchup against Andrew Whitworth, Browns fans will surely expect more from their first-round pick.
– The Bengals’ offensive line combined to give up just three hurries.
– Jermaine Gresham (-2.4) is now our worst graded tight end in terms of run blocking.
– The Browns’ defense missed 6 of 48 attempted tackles.
– Joe Haden shut down AJ Green, allowing just five of nine targets to be complete, for 41 yards, with a pair of pass deflections.
PFF Game Ball
Tough one this, with Whitworth and Schwartz both worthy, but in the end Atkins was simply too disruptive for me to look past him.
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