Monday, September 12, 2016

Monday leftovers (Eagles edition)

Well, now we know why the Browns hung on to Josh McCown as the backup quarterback to Robert Griffin III.

If you had one game in the pool to guess how long The Third would last this season, congratulations, you are the winner.

So it’s understandable why the Browns resisted any and all efforts to pry McCown loose this offseason. Maybe they had the same feeling about The Third’s durability and saw this coming. Just not so soon.

The Browns’ starting quarterback collided with – actually more like plowed into – Philadelphia cornerback Jalen Mills along the sideline after scrambling for 11 yards with about 3½ minutes left in Sunday’s 29-10 season-opening loss and broke his left shoulder.

Mills was being blocked by tight end Gary Barnidge along the sideline when The Third, declining to at least duck to absorb some of the contact, came roaring through at full steam. Mills took the major brunt of the collision.

Thinking it was merely a sprain, The Third reentered the game on the Browns’ final possession and handed off to running back Isaiah Crowell on three straight plays. An MRI Monday delivered the grim news.

The seemingly fragile quarterback was placed on injured reserve with a designation to return. McCown moves up as the starter and rookie Cody Kessler is the backup. If McCown goes down next Sunday against Baltimore in the home opener, Kessler is your quarterback.

It thus behooves McCown, who also was injured in last season’s opening game and sat out one game before returning, to remain healthy and do nothing foolish for at least the next eight weeks, or however long The Third remains on IR.

With McCown taking over, look for coach Hue Jackson to alter the offense to suit his talents, which are quite different than The Third’s. There will be fewer rollouts for the less mobile veteran.

He is also a much better pocket passer and it wouldn’t surprise to see Jackson change his offense at least against the Ravens Sunday and incorporate the running game more than he did against the Eagles.

McCown had success against the Ravens last season, splitting the two games. He was 36-of-51 for a club-record 457 yards and two touchdowns in a 33-30 overtime victory in Baltimore. In so doing, he became the only quarterback in Browns history to record three straight 300-yard games.

In the second Ravens game, he was 20-of-34 for 232 yards and two more touchdowns before leaving with a shoulder injury late in the 34-27 loss.

The only constant now that he is in charge of the huddle is that McCown will throw to the same corps of receivers, most of whom had trouble getting open against the Eagles.

It wasn’t until midway through the second quarter that The Third invited a wide receiver into the game plan, throwing exclusively to running backs and Barnidge. Andrew Hawkins and Barnidge are the only receivers who have caught passes from him.

We also might see a change in the blocking scheme up front with the less mobile McCown either under center or in shotgun formation. That could involve two tight end sets or making fullback Malcolm Johnson a full-time partner with Crowell in the backfield to afford maximum pass protection.

At this point, there is far less margin for error with Kessler as the only backup.
*       *       *
While he’s at it, Jackson might as well shelve those gimmick plays. What in the world was that ridiculous maneuver on fourth down in Cleveland territory early in the second quarter Sunday against the Eagles?

Not sure exactly what that was. It looked like a fake punt with punter Britton Colquitt and long snapper Charley Hughlett on the line of scrimmage. Duke Johnson Jr. was alone in the backfield about seven yards behind center Cameron Erving. It fooled no one and gave the Eagles a gift field goal.

Gimmicky moves are made by desperate coaches looking for anything to shake things up. What the Browns need to do is concentrate on playing fundamentally solid football first before trying to get cute. There is not enough talent on this team to get exotic. Rip those plays out of the playbook and incinerate them.

That includes the equally ridiculous play where Erving lines up over the ball flanked by guards Joel Bitonio and John Greco and everyone else splits about 12-15 yards wide on either side of the trio. Looked extremely unorthodox and equally stupid. I expected them to shift back into a more conventional set. But no. That play didn’t work, either.

Rip and incinerate.
*       *       *
One of the topics I scheduled Sunday right after the game to be discussed here was how long The Third would last this season. Since that has been answered, time to move on to another area of great concern.

That being why was Eagles rookie quarterback Carson Wentz so easily able to torch the Browns’ secondary? And why were Philadelphia receivers able to get so wide open with apparent ease?

With veterans like Joe Haden, Tramon Williams and Jamar Taylor back there, that shouldn’t be happening. And when Wentz beats Haden and Williams with his first two touchdown throws as a professional, it kind of makes one wonder just what is going on.

If as snot-nosed kid from a small college team can come in and do that, what in the world will the likes of Joe Flacco, Ben Roethlisberger and Andy Dalton going to do in the Browns’ six AFC North games this season? The mind boggles.
*       *       *
Another exhibition trend raise its ugly head in the Eagles loss. It’s the first down-number of plays-time of possession trifecta.

In the first two exhibitions, the Browns averaged 11½ first downs, 42 plays and 20:07 in time of possession. That improved somewhat in games three and four to 14 first downs, 60 plays and 28:30 time of possession.

Against the Eagles, it was 14 first downs, 50 plays and 20:40 in TOP. Those are the kinds of figures a team puts up when the offense does not – cannot? – generate anything resembling an attack and the defense can’t get off the field. Put those together and you’re asking for trouble.

Bears watching in the next 15 games.
*       *       *
Time for the good, the bad, the ugly and this week the really, really ugly from the shellacking in Philadelphia:

The good – The play of rookies Carl Nassib and Emmanuel Ogbah, new inside linebacker Demario Davis and the punting of Colquitt. Nassib, the big defensive end, seemed to be near the ball fairly often and contributed a sack. Ogbah, who should be a down lineman, was very aggressive and made a few nice plays. Davis, due mainly to the failure of the defensive line to hold the line of scrimmage, did a good job of cleaning up the mistakes in front of him. Colquitt averaged 50.2 yards on five punts.

The bad – Barnidge and nose tackle Danny Shelton get the honors here. Barnidge was targeted just twice by the Third and dropped both passes that were extremely catchable. As they say, they hit him in a bad place . . . the hands. Shelton was supposed to be a force in the middle. The only thing he’s good at is getting stood up at the line of scrimmage.

The ugly – Eagles defensive Connor Barwin embarrassed Browns offensive tackle Joe Thomas on a sack of The Third midway through the fourth quarter. It was a sack the Cleveland All-Pro would not have allowed in previous seasons.

And the really, really ugly award goes to – Erving for his shotgun snap that sailed so far over The Third’s futile leap in the third quarter and sailed into the end zone, Yao Ming could not have snagged it. It gave the Eagles a 15-10 lead at the time and, some believe, was the turning point of the game. Erving was credited with a fumble.
*       *       *
And finally: One more “good” from the game. The Browns committed only four penalties for 15 yards. There is something to be said for that. I’m not sure what, though. . . . Jackson has to figure out a way to involve Duke Johnson Jr. more into the offense. The playmaker touched the ball only six times against Philadelphia and gained 50 yards. That number needs to be much closer to 15-20 touches. . . . Statistical oddity: safeties Jordan Poyer, Ibraheim Campbell and Derrick Kindred each had six solo tackles in the game. . . . Cleveland wide receivers made only five catches on 15 targets.


  1. Okay, now that they have a real QB playing again in McCown - not a quality one, but at least a legit one, unlike Griffin - I will concede that they could actually win a game. Still not fully convinced, but at least it's a possibility now, which it wasn't with Hue's unfathomable pet project getting the reps,


  2. "That being why was Eagles rookie quarterback Carson Wentz was so easily able to torch the Browns’ secondary?" Because they always do! Its as sure as the sun coming up and I didn't have to be a genius to predict it.

    1. Well, that makes you a genius, anyway. Deal with it.