ReFo: DET @ CLE, Preseason Wk 2
It’s not exactly Ohio St vs. Michigan, but the Lions and Browns managed to put their non-rivalry aside for a few hours to battle it out. The Lions came into Cleveland looking to showcase their high-powered offense. However, without Calvin Johnson they found it extremely difficult to stretch the field and sustain drives. The Browns jumped ahead early on the strength of a very efficient passing attack, and managed to keep a comfortable lead the rest of the way. Unfortunately, they were also hit with some injuries to key players in this bittersweet victory.
Detroit – Three Performances of Note
Linebackers Exploited in Coverage
Poor coverage by four different linebackers fueled Cleveland’s smooth passing game in this one. Travis Lewis, Stephen Tulloch, Tahir Whitehead, and Cory Greenwood all graded in the red in this area, and Browns QBs threw a combined 7 of 7 for 68 yards and 2 TDs into their coverage. A prime example of this ineptitude came with 12:40 to go in the second quarter, when the Browns motioned to somewhat of a loose bunch formation to the right, five yards from Detroit’s goal line. In this situation, defenses know that short crossing routes are likely, and that’s exactly what Cleveland came out with. Stephen Tulloch had man coverage against tight end Jordan Cameron, but when a receiver crossed near him, Tulloch completely froze, leaving Cameron alone in the back of the end zone for an uncontested touchdown catch.
Passing Game Sputters Without Megatron
Four different Detroit quarterbacks saw action in this game, but not a single one was able to complete a pass that traveled over ten yards beyond the line of scrimmage. In fact, only 6 of the 38 passes attempted by the quartet went over 10 yards downfield before hitting the ground. Of course, not all the blame lies with the quarterbacks, as the Lions receivers had trouble getting separation downfield the entire game. This led to an overreliance on running backs in the flat, and a very low 4.6 yards per pass attempt. The Lions don’t seem to have anybody who can stretch the field vertically other than Calvin Johnson, which will likely cause problems for them in the regular season.
Dangerous Pass Rush Duo
A couple bright spots stood out for Detroit. Ndamukong Suh turned in a very strong performance, with a pass rush grade of +2.8. The speed and power of Suh were on display, particularly against an overmatched Garrett Gilkey, who replaced right guard Jason Pinkston after a high-ankle sprain ended his night. Suh recorded two hurries and one hit on just 14 pass rushes.
The second encouraging performance came from rookie fourth-rounder Devin Taylor. The young defensive end put together his second impressive outing in a row, beating Browns tackle Rashad Butler off the edge on multiple occasions. Taylor finished with three hurries on his 10 pass rushes, good for a +2.1 pass rush grade. If Taylor can keep this level of play up, Detroit’s defensive line depth will be downright unfair.
Cleveland – Three Performances of Note
The Browns feature two popular breakout candidates for this season. Josh Gordon will miss the first two games of the regular season due to suspension, but he showed up in a big way early in this game. With 4:25 remaining in the first quarter, Gordon got past cornerback Ronald Bartell on a deep fade, and made a spectacular catch on the sideline despite defensive pass interference. Gordon also showed excellent concentration to pull in a pass over the middle that was thrown almost out of reach. He earned a +2.1 overall grade in his 24 snaps.
Jordan Cameron had himself quite a day as well. On his first of two touchdowns, the Browns ran four verticals against man defense with a single high safety. Cameron was able to beat safety Glover Quin one-on-one to the inside, push his route to the back of the end zone, and haul in a strike from Brandon Weeden between two defenders. Cameron also made another leaping catch for the highlight reel, making the most of his three targets.
Setting the Edges
Both of the starting outside linebackers proved strong at the point of attack. Although not providing much in the stat sheet, Paul Kruger was a disruptive force against both the run and pass, grading out at +2.8 overall. Jabaal Sheard continued his trend from last season of excellent run defense and poor pass rushing. Sheard recorded three stops, including a tackle for loss on his way to a +1.4 run defense grade. However, he was handled by left tackle Riley Reiff in pass protection, failing to record any pressure across his 16 pass rushes. Let’s all hope that Barkevious Mingo recovers quickly from his bruised lung, as his explosiveness as a situational pass rusher will be sorely needed.
Command of the Offense
Brandon Weeden’s performance has to be encouraging for Browns fans. He was not afraid to attack deep, and threw with solid (and at times excellent) accuracy en route to a +3.1 grade. A few of his passes were placed perfectly between defenders, and the Browns moved the ball very well during Weeden’s time at the controls.
Similarly, Jason Campbell moved the team down the field with precision and capped off a drive with a touchdown pass to Brandon Jackson. Campbell faced pressure on over half of his dropbacks, but still had the poise to complete 12 of 14 passes for 106 yards.
– Reggie Bush lined up in the slot or out wide on 6 of his 24 snaps.
– After the injury to RG Jason Pinkston, replacements Garrett Gilkey (-3.7) and Caylin Hauptmann (-1.6) had trouble filling in.
– Browns’ undrafted free agent safety Josh Aubrey played 41 snaps, grading +1.9 overall. The only two targets into his coverage were completed, but both on third down, and in both cases Aubrey made the stop behind the first down marker to end the drive.
PFF Game Ball
In a close decision between him and his quarterback, Jordan Cameron (+2.2) gets the nod due to the degree of difficulty on his receptions.
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