With both teams out of playoff contention the focus for the Browns and Jets has turned to next year. By this stage of the season it’s all about how the young players are performing and the prospects for 2014.
While Geno Smith has generally disappointed this season he had his second-highest grade in this one as he made some pinpoint throws and used his legs to move the chains. He got some serious help from his offensive line which gave up only six hurries the entire game. In general the Jets’ offense was very good, predominantly on the back of a strong performance by their running back duo. You can’t help but be impressed by Chris Ivory, when he actually gets on the field, he has a great combination of power and balance. The defense was solid, too — especially in the secondary — doing enough to limit the Browns to just 13 points.
On the other side, a few of the Browns’ best defenders had uncharacteristically poor games. TJ Ward (more on him later) and Paul Kruger in particular were not at their best as Cleveland’s tackling left a lot to be desired (12 misses in 65 attempts). In contrast to the Jets, the Browns’ secondary had a tough game as starters and backups combined for a -8.7 overall grade and the front seven failed to generate enough pressure to help them out. Only Barkevious Mingo graded positively in that regard and he wouldn’t have without his batted pass. While Jason Campbell wasn’t great on the offensive side he didn’t get a lot of help from his receivers and offensive line. Overall he was under pressure on 18 of 44 drop-backs and suffered from three dropped passes.
Cleveland – Three Performances of Note
Lauvao’s Struggles Continue
In his fourth year as a pro you’d expect more from Shawn Lauvao (-3.8). His struggles against the Jets came in pass protection especially where he allowed a sack, hit and three hurries on 46 drop-backs. The sack came mid-way through the third quarter (6.29) as Muhammed Wilkerson was able to get around him to the outside and bring down Campbell. He also gave up another hurry that was negated by penalty. Although he was better as a run blocker (-0.9) he still graded negatively having particular trouble on trap blocks where he was asked to pull from the backside and seal the edge defender. A number of times he allowed his man inside him to either make the tackle themselves or disrupt the play. Overall, he gave up three tackles around the line of scrimmage in just 23 run blocks. There were no terrible efforts but he should have done better at 12:53 in the second quarter where Demario Davis got around him at the second level to make the tackle for short gain. Lauvao also made a poor block in the screen game to cap off a disappointing day.
In contrast, Joe Thomas (+2.8) has re-established himself as our top-graded tackle. He gave up only a hit and a hurry in 46 drop-backs to lead the Browns in terms of pass blocking (+2.2). Those two pressures also came late in their respectively plays. The hit Sheldon Richardson managed against him (Q1, 10:05) came on a stunt he was unable to adjust to. Thomas was even surprisingly inconsistent in the run game, giving up a significant tackle for a loss to Quinton Coples who was able to knife inside him and make the tackle in the backfield (Q1, 11:58) but he responded later in the game with a nice double team on the defensive lineman before getting to the second level and sealing David Harris inside (Q2, 6:51).
What Happened with Ward?
Coming off his best game of the year against the Bears it was really surprising how much TJ Ward struggled in this one. He hadn’t graded worse than –0.3 all year in the run game. Ward left the field with a –3.1 grade on Sunday. To be fair to him he was given a tough task of taking on lineman at the second level as Ray Horton constantly used him as linebacker against three wide receiver sets. On one play, Brian Winters generated significant horizontal movement completely taking him out of the play (Q2, 0:34). Ward also missed a tackle on Ivory allowing significant yards after contact. In coverage he gave up five of six targets for 42 yards of which three were first downs a long with a missed tackle. It could have been worse for Ward if not for an impressive tackle for a loss in the screen game where he was able to beat a block and make the play behind the line of scrimmage.
New York – Three Performances of Note
Richardson’s ROY Credentials Take a Blow
It seems like you could write the script for Sheldon Richardson’s (-1.6) grade before each game; good against the run (+1.5) but lacking as a pass rusher (-1.3). That’s been the case throughout the year but a pair of penalties in this one left him with his first game grading in the red of his young career. Richardson did generate a hit and a hurry but that was in 31 rushes and both pressures came late in the respective plays. He did have another hit negated by penalty but on that play he was flagged for roughing the passer. Richardon’s other penalty was a neutral zone infraction. The first round pick graded negatively just once in the run game and had a number of positive plays. The most impressive came with 2:10 to play in the first quarter where he was able to get outside the left guard, force the running back to cut outside and then made the tackle.
Milliner’s Best Game
As surprisingly good as Richardson has been against the run, Milliner’s been as surprisingly bad in coverage (-10.2). The ninth overall pick has looked completely lost at times and was rightfully benched earlier in the year. He’s played better of late though and his +2.3 grade against the Browns was easily the best he’s recorded all year. There were still some negatives but overall allowing 10 of 18 targets his way to be completed for 113 yards with a pick and two pass deflections is a good day. Milliner made a really nice break on the ball for his interception (Q3, 9:22) and showed nice balls skills on his two pass deflections. All told, he gave up eight first downs but forced incompletions or made the tackle after only a short gain on six occasions. One of the surprising things about Milliner struggling is the missed tackles. He whiffed on another against the Browns allowing a first down after a wide receiver screen to Josh Cooper.
I wondered earlier in the year if Nick Mangold (+3.3) might be done. He’s proved that not to be the case in recent weeks as he’s really rounded into form. In the past four weeks he has a +9.2 grade including a +4.4 against the Raiders. That game was largely built on the back of some good run blocking and that was the case again against the Browns. Mangold showed good ability on double teams and sealed the nose tackle more often than not on inside runs. He did allow a pair of tackles but they came no closer than 3 yards to the line of scrimmage. The All-Pro was again perfect in pass protection — which now makes it three games in a row — and he also made a nice screen block at the second level on D’Qwell Jackson.
– The Jets’ running backs combined for 10 forced missed tackles and 110 yards after contact.
– Josh Gordon caught only six of 15 targets and had a pair of drops.
– Paul Kruger was shut out as a pass rusher on 19 rushes.
PFF Game Ball
A couple of options here, but Nick Mangold’s performance is worthy of the honor.
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