Monday, November 5, 2018

Monday leftovers

 John Dorsey must have had mixed, maybe even conflicted, feelings as he watched his current team play his former team Sunday afternoon in downtown Cleveland.

On the one hand, the Browns’ general manager had to feel awfully proud privately as the Kansas City Chiefs took apart the Cleveland defense in the 37-21 loss. And on the other, he no doubt was upset his current team stretched its current losing streak to four games.

It took Dorsey several years as general manager in Kansas City to put together what arguably is currently one of the best teams in the National Football League. The Chiefs' roster is heavily populated with many of his college draft selections.

It didn’t happen overnight as he constructed piece by piece the parts that have emerged as one of the most dangerous offensive teams the NFL has seen in a long time.

The legacy he left behind should last for a long time since most of his choices are still young enough to cause damage for many seasons and give fans of the club more than just hope that a future Super Bowl appearance is not that far away.

That’s the hope Browns fans cling to with Dorsey in charge, His reputation as a solid talent evaluator preceded him to Cleveland. He has been with the organization for less than a year and his presence has already impacted the quality of the roster.

He inherited a mess, a franchise that was headed nowhere in a hurry without a compass. He almost immediately stabilized it, giving it credibility, silencing the guffaws that usually accompanied mention of the Cleveland Browns.

That’s why it would be unfair to expect positive results from Dorsey right away. It takes time to build a team, especially one that was gutted a couple of years ago by those who never should have been in charge in the first place.

With only one draft class on his watch in Cleveland, it’s unfair to Dorsey for long-suffering Browns fans to expect immediate results. The relatively strong and unexpected start to this season buoyed the hopes of some fans.

As it has turned out, it was only a small glimpse into the future and at the same time an aberration. Standing at 2-2-1 after five games and the insertion of Baker Mayfield as the starting quarterback was merely a tease.

The fans and, as it turned out the Browns’ front office, were jolted back to reality in the four games since that giddy feeling. It, among other internal annoyances, cost Hue Jackson and Todd Haley their jobs.

No one expected the Browns to all of a sudden become a factor in the AFC North, although observers of the NFL began to wonder if that was going to be the case after the first five games.

Situations like the one last season in Los Angeles with the Rams, where a team almost instantly goes from worst to first, rarely occur. The big difference there was all the right pieces and parts were in place. They just needed the right head coach.

That is a situation that could happen some day in Cleveland with Dorsey in charge. Patience is what is required for at least one more year. And when the next steps are taken, he will probably have much better feelings about his team while watching a game than he did Sunday against the Chiefs.
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How lethal is the Kansas City offense? A closer look at what went down Sunday in Cleveland reveals the answer.

The Chiefs needed only 47 plays to score their 37 points. Their final snap total actually reached 58 after the Browns’ defense finally showed some life and shut down the Chiefs in their final two possessions, well after they had locked up the victory.

Of those 58 plays, 20 gained at least 10 yards. That's 34.5%, a rather astounding success rate of plays that theoretically gain a first down with just one snap. Of those 20, seven produced gains of at least 20 yards.

Conversely, the Browns ran 70 plays, only 15 of which were at least 10 yards. Of those 15, just two were longer than 20 yards, a 23-yard pass from Baker Mayfield to Duke Johnson Jr. and a 38-yard connection with Antonio Callaway.

Other than that, the Browns marched down then field almost deliberately in an effort to keep the ball out of the hands of Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Only problem was Mahomes, when he owned the football, ate up sizable chunks of yardage with relative ease.

The big difference is the Browns’ offense with Mayfield in charge is in its infant stages. The Chiefs, meanwhile, hum like a well-tuned engine under the direction of Mahomes, who shows maturity and poise well beyond his years,
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The screen pass is a staple in the playbooks of most football teams. It was created many years ago as an antidote to a strong pass rush and teams that love to blitz. It is a play that relies heavily on acting and exquisite timing. One little glitch in its execution usually winds up in a negative play.

The Chiefs ran numerous screens against the Browns and every one was successful, in a few cases for huge gains. Their initial touchdown was scored on a screen when Kareem Hunt romped 50 yards after making a reception in the left flat.

The key to the success of a screen rests with the offensive linemen, who pretend to block for a normal pass. After holding their blocks for a predetermined period of time, they abandon those blocks and drift to the flat, forming a cordon for the running back who slides out in the flat behind them awaiting the pass from the quarterback.

The Browns’ version of the screen usually winds up with minimal yardage and often times negative yardage. That’s because they do not possess the athleticism to make it work. Might not be a bad idea to study the way the Chiefs run it and try to replicate it.
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When it was announced shortly before the game Sunday that Desmond Harrison would not suit up due to an undisclosed illness and that Greg Robinson would fill in at offensive left tackle, I worried for Mayfield’s health.

Robinson, the second overall selection in the 2014 college draft out of Auburn, has been a spectacular bust in his previous four NFL seasons, flaming out with the St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams for three seasons and last season with Detroit.

At 6-5 and 335 pounds, he was a plodder. All he did was take up space, a lot of space, which was thought to be good enough. Maybe it was in college, but Robinson was exposed in the NFL, where pass rushers were quick and fast, abilities he wished he had.

Playing the second-most important position on the offense, chief blind side protector for the quarterback, had not been a problem with the Browns since Joe Thomas was drafted in 2007. His retirement changed all that and paved the way for Harrison, whose athleticism wowed the coaches to the point where the rookie won the starting job.

But he played like a rookie and was clearly overmatched by stronger and quicker defensive ends. He had all kinds of problems holding the edge in the ground game and became a turnstile in the passing game.

Robinson’s starting debut Sunday wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. He held his own for the most part with regard to protecting his quarterback. Chris Hubbard had a much more difficult time on the opposite side.

Right now, the 26-year-old Robinson is an upgrade at the position. It will be interesting to see what the Browns do when Harrison recovers from that undisclosed illness. Guess here is Robinson stays put for the time being and Harrison learns from the sideline, which is where he should have been all along.
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Finally . . . The offenses for both teams played well enough Sunday to keep the punting Colquitt brothers relatively silent. Dustin of the Chiefs punted just twice; so did Britton of the Browns,  but one was blocked due to, surprise!, another special teams breakdown. . . . Wonder how long it will take Gregg Williams to realize his special teams guy is not special at all. . . . It looks as though newcomer Breshad Perriman is becoming a favorite of Mayfield and new offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens. He was targeted six times as a receiver and ran a sweep twice for nine yards. . . . The Chiefs needed only 11½ minutes to score their 21 first-half points and just 5:32 to score their next 13 in the second half. . . . Kind of ironic that Greg Joseph was deprived of attempting extra points on three occasions after making a 51-yard field goal. . . .  The Browns’ red zone blues were absent against the Chiefs as they converted all three opportunities into touchdowns. . . . A here-here to Kitchens for finally taking advantage of Johnson's talents as we dive once again into the Duke Johnson Jr. touch watch: One carry (that’s got to improve) for eight yards; nine receptions on nine targets (that’s more like it) for 78 yards and two touchdowns. Ten touches for 86 yards, an 8.6-yard average per touch, For the season, 52 touches for 396 yards. That’s 7.6 yards per touch.


  1. Both ST and OL coaches should be gone, but with the already serious coaching turnover, it would be almost impossible do do any more this season.