ReFo: MIA @ CLE, Week 1
The Browns struggled early with three first half interceptions, but somehow went into halftime with a lead. Miami was just too strong in the second half, as one of the NFL’s best pass rushers took full advantage of all the passing and put a stop to any comeback by Brandon Weeden and crew.
Let’s examine some of the game’s standout performances.
Miami – Three Performances of Note
Leaving Destruction in His Wake
For a moment, it looked like our top-rated 4-3 DE a season ago might start the season slowly when he missed a tackle on fifth offensive play of the game. Unfortunately for the Browns, that moment lasted just a single play as Cameron Wake stood up his blocker to force a cut on the very next play. From then on, whoever Cleveland put in front of him didn’t stand a chance. The end tallied four stops in the run along with 10 QB disruptions (three sacks, two hits, and five hurries) in 44 snaps rushing the passer, en route to a monster +8.3 grade on the day. Future opponents may want to consider chipping Wake, whose speed off the edge is nearly impossible for most tackles to deal with, as was certainly the case for the second-year Mitchell Schwartz, who is no slouch himself, having graded at +16.1 in 2012. If not, we’ll surely be seeing more plays like the one Wake made at 12:46 in the fourth quarter, when he exploded around the edge to hurry a throw, reaching the QB in 1.8 seconds, despite having to go around a TE lined up on the right side.
Tannehill to Hartline
An uninspiring debut for the expensive new addition to the Miami receiving corps as Mike Wallace caught just one of the five passes thrown his way. He also dropped another one to match his reception, with his most notable play being a third down false start.
While Wallace failed to make much of an impact, it was Brian Hartline (+2.7) who led the way against the Browns with nine catches for 114 yards, good for 2.71 Yards per Route Run. He even showed off Wallace-esque deep speed to get behind the defense on an out-and-up for a 34-yard touchdown at 6:52 in the third quarter. Not surprisingly, Ryan Tannehill looked Hartline’s direction early and often, targeting the receiver 14 times on his 36 aimed passes.
Wallace wasn’t the only player to underwhelm in his first regular season action in a Dolphin uniform, nor was Schwartz the only tackle to struggle between these two teams. Expected to fortify the right side of the Miami OL as he did the last few years in Atlanta, Tyson Clabo (-3.8) got off to a rough start from his second snap of the game, as he was beaten by Billy Winn to the outside for a tackle on a Lamar Miller run. Winn got the better of Clabo on several other runs, beating him twice to the inside to force cuts, as did fellow Brown John Hughes. Miami’s issues running the ball can’t all be blamed on its RT, as Jonathan Martin and even Mike Pouncey also failed to get much push, but he’ll need to do more in the coming weeks.
On the positive side, Clabo only allowed three hurries on 45 snaps in pass protection, his strong suit during his time as a Falcon.
Cleveland – Three Performances of Note
While Mitchell Schwartz took the brunt of Wake’s performance, allowing three sacks, two hits, and four hurries, Oneil Cousins (-7.0) earned the team’s lowest grade on the day. Cleveland’s RG struggled in all three phases of the game, as he allowed five pressures in pass protection (two sacks, three hurries), was beaten on several plays in the run game, and picked up four penalties. He was also flagged twice for holding, once for a false start, and once for an illegal use of hands. His worst stretch came late in the fourth quarter with the Browns attempting a comeback, when he allowed a sack, and recorded two of his penalties in a four-play span.
On a day in which the Miami defense lived in the backfield, even Joe Thomas got in on the action, allowing five pressures, as Trent Richardson was beaten four times in pass protection himself.
So much for the strong preseason for Brandon Weeden (-0.5), who reverted back to his rookie form completing 26-of-53 passes for 289 yards, one TD, and three interceptions. It wasn’t all bad, as Weeden flashed the type of throws that earned him a +2.9 grade in three preseason games, such as the strike on the run at 8:33 in the second quarter for a first down, and his similar throw for a touchdown with 1:47 remaining in the game, though the latter was negated by a holding call. More often, however, Weeden struggled with poor decision-making and accuracy. Look no further than the stretch of plays from 3:31 to 2:40 in the fourth quarter. He made five poor throws in a span of six plays – an underthrow, two overthrows, followed by two forced throws both of which were nearly picked by Miami defenders.
It’s worth noting that Cleveland didn’t give its quarterback a ton of help – the receivers combined to drop four balls, led by the ever stone-handed Greg Little (-3.0), while the Browns allowed pressure more often than not, on 30 of 59 drop backs. Though the OL didn’t protect well, Weeden deserves much of the blame for the pressure; he completed just 5-of-24 passes, throwing two of his interceptions, taking six sacks, and rating at -3.4 when he was pressured. Whether it’s getting rid of the ball more quickly – he had 2.97 seconds to throw on average, a mark that would have been the fifth-longest in the league last season –or making better decisions, he has to be better going forward for Cleveland to have a chance at making the playoffs.
Strong on the Line
Though the offense struggled, the Cleveland defense put in a strong performance. None were better than Desmond Bryant (+3.3), who proved a force both against the run and rushing the passer. Whether against Jonathan Martin or Richie Incognito, Bryant got the better of his Miami counterparts on all but one play, when he was sealed inside on a run. His five QB disruptions led the team (two sacks, two hits, one hurry), as did his four stops. Lining up at RE on 44 of his 51 snaps, he won with a variety of moves, including picking up one of his sacks with a bull rush to the outside, the other with a spin to the inside (14:17 and 9:52, Q2).
– The two teams combined to average 1.8 YPC on 39 rushes.
– When not pressured, Tannehill completed 72% of his passes and compiled a +2.2 grade.
– Rookie Dion Jordan (-1.7) played just 17 snaps, which included him negating his first career sack with a facemask penalty.
PFF Game Ball
How could it be anyone but Wake, who picked up right where he left off a year ago?
Follow John on Twitter: @John_Maney