Cleveland Browns Film Room: Week 1

One of the best investments I’ve ever made was to purchase the Game Rewind package on NFL.com. It allows me to go back and watch condensed versions of all the games as well as the special treat that is the “Coach’s Film” which comes available on Wednesdays.

Being able to see the whole field and pause and rewind allows you to see how things were open that we didn’t hit or how a player stepped up and made a play out of nothing. Every Thursday we will take a look at a couple plays from the Browns game that I found interesting or worthy of note and do a little break-down in the film lab.

Today we’re going to start with a first quarter run by Trent Richardson that only goes for two yards. I’ve been critical of Richardson in the past because I’ve found that he tends to dance in the backfield instead of hitting the hole. This is an example of that frustration I have.

Here we’ll see that the play was a little misdirection and is meant to go off-tackle…

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Richardson tries to bounce the play back inside instead of trusting the hole to open up…

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The hole was there to be had if Richardson wouldn’t have tried to cut back.

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By the time Richardson realizes this, it’s too late and play is stuffed for minimal gain…

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Richardson is a very talented runner but I found a lot last year that he doesn’t always hit his holes hard and tries to dance and pick a hole. This tends to lead to a lot of empty runs which is a large part why he isn’t even averaging four yards a carry in his young career. I wonder if Richardson’s running style wouldn’t be better suited for more stretch-type runs with zone blocking where the idea would be for Richardson to pick his own hole. But that’s a conversation for another day.

Now, about that QB that everyone wants to bench after one bad game. Brandon Weeden certainly didn’t have a good game. But he also didn’t have a lot to work with in the way of open receivers and good protection. He threw three picks but they weren’t all on him. The first (on the long pass to Travis Benjamin) was largely due to an unblocked blitzing linebacker that didn’t allow Weeden to step into his throw and caused the ball to float rather than drive. A mistake for sure, but if the blitz is picked up the throw might go for a TD.

On this next play, we’re going to look at the second INT, the one off of Greg Little’s hands. Now I’ll say right off the bat, Little needs to catch this ball. I said this on Monday but it bears repeating: he almost looks surprised sometimes that the ball is being thrown to him and he isn’t prepared to catch the ball which leads to tipped balls like this one.

However, Little’s bad hands aside, he shouldn’t have even gotten the ball on this one. Check it out…

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Both Little and Davone Bess are running shallow crossing routes with Jordan Cameron running a seam, Benjamin running a deep hitch and Chris Ogbonnaya running a flare. Miami is in man-to-man coverage which has gotten Bess matched up on a linebacker.

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As you see the play develop you’ll notice that Cameron’s seam route has worked as almost a pick for the LB on Bess who is a good five yards off and behind at this point.

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Little is open and should make this catch but if the throw goes to Bess you can see how much room he would have had to run with it…

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This next shot–from the same play only behind the LOS–gives you an even better idea of what Weeden was looking at (and missed) as he didn’t see Bess’ defender woefully trailing on the play.

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It appears that Weeden’s first read on the play was Cameron and that the second was Little. At least that’s how it appeared to me while watching on tape. Again, this pass should have been caught by Little…

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But it doesn’t change the fact that Weeden missed what could have been a pretty big play.

How about some positives?

Let’s look at Weeden’s TD throw to Cameron which was actually quite beautiful to watch on film.

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This was one of the few times that Weeden actually had a nice clean pocket and some time. You’ll recognize right away that Cameron has his defender beat off the line and Little is being double-covered in the flat. Weeden feels the pressure coming from the outsides…

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Steps up in the pocket to throw…

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And delivers a perfectly thrown ball over top of the helping corner where only Cameron can get…

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When Weeden had time to throw against the Dolphins he actually made some nice throws like this one. But unfortunately the line seldom did its job and Weeden had guys in his face and collapsing the pocket all game.

Here’s a look from the fourth quarter on a 2nd and 20…

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You can’t see it from this view but Gary Barnidge was coming open deep to the right on this play. However, as you can see, there’s no pocket for Weeden to step up into. He ends up shoveling this ball to Richardson who goes for about ten yards. It’s only a four-man rush and if the line had given the QB a little more space to operate then this play could have gone for a bigger gain. These were the kinds of pockets Weeden was dealing with all game.

Here’s another play that could have been huge if not for terrible line play…

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The play is already developing and Weeden is in the process of pump-faking the out-route to Benjamin who is right on the 40 at the top of the shot. You’ll also notice that Mitchell Schwartz has already whiffed on his block at this point.

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Benjamin’s defender has fallen for the fake and the Browns wide receiver is coming open without safety help over top. But Weeden is already out of time and never had a chance to get the throw off…

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Weeden is sacked and fumbles and Benjamin is wide open deep with no one to get him the ball.

Watching the game the first time it was evident to everyone that the line played poorly. But watching it again with the coach’s film really underscored how many missed opportunities there were because of the line’s poor play. It’s tough enough to get receivers open in the NFL and get them the ball when you do have time. It’s basically impossible when you don’t.

Before we finish I want to give Richardson one good play here…

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This is another off-tackle run, this time to the offense’s left (our right). Cameron and Barnidge are sealing the edge with Joe Thomas and Oniel Cousins is pulling around to lead block (in theory)…

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The edge is sealed great and 59 for Miami is going to come free on the outside. This is who Cousins should be blocking. However, Cousins never gets there but instead gets held up in the mess of blockers leaving Richardson one-on-one with the linebacker…

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Richardson makes a nice cut-back…

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And with a great block from Cameron on the other LB he’s able to pick up eight yards on a carry that could/should have been stopped for no gain…

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There were a hand-full of plays where Richardson made some nice runs and broke some tackles to pick up yards that weren’t there. However, much like Weeden, he didn’t always have a chance.

On the very next play, needing two yards for a first down, this is what met Richardson in the backfield…

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A free blitz from the outside and an unblocked defensive tackle stuff Richardson in the backfield for a loss and the Browns running back never had a chance to even get going.

And that’s the biggest take-away from what I learned watching the film. You can criticize Weeden or Richardson all you want because they have a stat sheet that doesn’t look good. But if the line continues to play as poorly as they did in the opener then the Browns might not win a game. They were THAT bad. You can have the best QB and RB in the NFL and they can’t make plays if the line doesn’t block.

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