The Cleveland Browns reached the first quarter of the season with an 0-4 record, which gets them an overall F grade. The bagel in the win column weighs heavily on the overall grade, but the individual units are not as bad as you think.
If the Browns can finish some of these close games, the overall grade will get closer to some of the positional unit grades. The stats are based on information on www.nfl.com.
Through four games Brandon Weeden is on pace to throw for 3,984 yards, which would be the second most in franchise history.
The problem for Weeden is those four interceptions he threw in the first game will haunt him all season. The bad news is he is on pace to tie Peyton Manning for the most interceptions thrown by a rookie quarterback with 28.
The news doesn’t get better from there, as the pace is extremely slow on touchdowns for the season with a projection of 12. His yards and touchdown numbers would be better if his receivers would catch the ball. Weeden shows promise, but he needs to get the ball in the end zone more and hit on those 20-plus-yard throws.
Running Backs/Fullbacks: B-
Trent Richardson didn’t start out well in his first game after missing the preseason. He has been making up for missed time since then. He broke out in Week 2, setting a Browns rookie record by running for 100 yards and scoring a rushing and passing touchdown.
Richardson didn’t have great stats in Weeks 3 and 4 but found the end zone in both games. The rookie running back finished the first quarter leading the team in rushing and receiving.
The Browns collectively are ranked 29th in the NFL in rushing, but the group still gets a high grade because of Richardson.
Offensive Line: B
While the Browns are ranked 20th in passing and 29th in rushing, I am still giving the offensive line a high grade. They have given up nine sacks, but when you factor in the attempts, the sacks come every 19 pass attempts.
The biggest problem for this unit is the lack of production in the running game with a low total yards number. The performance of the run-blocking looks better when you look at the 4.1-yard average, which ranks 13th in the league.
Wide Receivers: D+
The Cleveland Browns wide receivers have to be the most maligned group in the NFL, because of their lack of talent and production. The reason they don’t get a failing grade is they have to get some of the credit for the 20th-ranked passing offense. Mohamed Massaquoi has been a bright spot with nine catches for 145 yards.
Tight Ends: C+
The tight end grade would be higher if they got more targets in the passing game. As a group they have done well with their limited opportunities. I expect this group to keep improving as the season goes on and Jordan Cameron gets more playing time.
One thing to remember: Brandon Weeden didn’t use a tight end in college, but he is quickly finding out that they are the best pass-catchers on the team.
Defensive Line: B-
The group has been generating a lot of pressure on the quarterback but is still having a problem stopping the run. The Browns have the seventh-most rushing attempts against them and are giving up 117 yards per game on the ground.
While the linebackers also share some of the blame, the defensive line gets the first crack at stopping the run. The good news is the defense has 13 sacks, which has them tied for fourth in the league with the undefeated Houston Texans.
The linebackers are doing well at taking the ball away from the other team with five interceptions. The upgrade in speed at the linebacker position has caused problems with overpursuing plays in the running game, leading to big gains.
The youth has also led to being out of position in pass coverage, leaving receivers open in the middle of the field. D’Qwell Jackson is once again showing why he is one of the best linebackers in the league with eye-popping stats like three sacks and an interception return for a touchdown. The youth hurts the grade with this group.
Some will say I am being kind, giving the corners of the Browns a C because they have given up the second-most passing touchdowns in the NFL with nine. I am holding the grade at C based on the performance with and without Joe Haden.
The reality is that Joe Haden can only cover up so much, and the opposing team will find the other receiver that Haden is not covering. The opponent finding the other receiver could have easily netted the same results of nine touchdowns given up. The corners, even with Joe Haden, are average.
The Browns do miss Haden because he is one of their best tacklers and he can make plays outside of the scheme.
The safeties are in the same situation, but their best player, T.J. Ward, is on the field. If they don’t have T.J., this group is below average.
I wrote that Eric Hagg was underrated and a potential breakout player for the Browns, and so far I have been wrong. The second-year safety has been benched for Usama Young, who hasn’t played much better.
Special Teams: B
The only downgrades for the special teams through the first four games are giving up a punt return for a touchdown and some shanked punts.
If Josh Cribbs can recover from his vicious hit he received in Baltimore, he needs to get the ball in the end zone on a punt or kickoff return. Phil Dawson continues to defy Father Time with his ability to hit field goals over 50 yards, with four made this season.