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Browns vs. Cowboys: Final Report Card, Player Grades for Cleveland

Mike HoagCorrespondent IIOctober 19, 2016

Browns vs. Cowboys: Final Report Card, Player Grades for Cleveland

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    The Cleveland Browns (2-8) dropped a disappointing overtime game to the Dallas Cowboys (5-5) by a final score of 23-20 at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

    Dan Bailey kicked a winning field goal with a little over 6 minutes left to play in OT after a 20-yard punt return by Dwayne Harris put the Cowboys on the Browns side of the field.

    A pass interference call on Sheldon Brown gave the Cowboys the football inside the Browns' 15-yard line but they were unable to punch it in for a score. They settled for a field goal to send the game to overtime.

    Cleveland failed to convert on a fourth-and-one play from the Cowboys one-yard line. They followed that by stopping the Cowboys on three-consecutive plays to force a punt. Brandon Weeden then hit Benjamin Watson on a 19-yard touchdown throw on the team's first play following the punt.

    Tony Romo gave the Cowboys a four-point lead on a 28-yard touchdown pass to Dez Bryant.

    The Cowboys capped off their third-quarter drive at the beginning of the fourth quarter on a two-yard Felix Jones touchdown run.

    Dallas drove down the field easily with their first possession of the second half. That was until a Cleveland sack and holding penalty on subsequent plays pushed the team back and forced them to settle for a 44-yard Dan Bailey field goal.

    Phil Dawson hit a 51-yard field goal, his 24th straight made attempt, after Brandon Weeden sailed a pass over the head of a wide open Josh Cooper deep in Cowboys territory.

    Dawson's second field goal, his 25th straight, was a 47-yarder that came after a Browns' drive stalled.

    Cleveland's first score came when Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden found Benjamin Watson in a soft spot of the coverage for a 10-yard touchdown pass on 3rd and Goal play. There were three defenders but the rookie QB put it right on the money to give Cleveland an early lead.

Brandon Weeden

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    Brandon Weeden: C+

    Overall, Brandon Weeden had a pretty up-and-down game. He was inconsistent to start the game, and throughout most of it. However, his receivers bailed him out by making some pretty spectacular catches.

    He had all day to throw and did deliver some solid strikes downfield when given the opportunity. However, the game plan dictated that the Browns worked the game over the middle of the field and with an intermediate attack due to the solid Cowboys’ pass defense.

    His touchdown toss to Benjamin Watson with about one minute left to play was a clutch as it gets for a QB who has performed poorly down the stretch with games on the line this season.

Running Backs

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    Trent Richardson: B-

    Richardson, yardage wise, had a pretty good game on the stat sheet. Still, he averaged just 3.4 yards per carry and was unable to punch it in from one yard out. He was also stuffed in the open field by a Dallas defender to fall one-yard short of the first-down marker on a third down pass play.

    He led the team in receptions (6) and was third in receiving yardage (49) as an outlet for Brandon Weeden.

    Chris Ogbonnaya: C

    Ogbonnaya didn’t see much of the field due to the good play of Richardson. His lone carry was a first down on a key third-and-one play in Dallas territory. Cleveland scored the first points of the game just a few plays later.

Wide Receivers

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    Josh Gordon: A-

    Gordo was targeted seven times and hauled in five of those for 53 yards. He wasn’t able to get behind the coverage of the Cowboys but it didn’t look like the Browns took many shots or tried to even set very much up in that regard.

    He also made a circus catch on a pass that was thrown behind him and deflected in the air. Maintaining concentration, Gordon somehow hauled it in.

    Greg Little: A-

    Little made a couple of very nice grabs that were poorly thrown from Brandon Weeden. He seems to have a knack for going up and making athletic plays but then failing to haul in the easy throws that sent his way.

    Overall, a good game for Little, who finished with three catches for 53 yards on four targets.

    Josh Cooper: C-

    Cooper had just one short catch that he failed to move ahead of the sticks for a first down. It was an out route that Cooper snagged and then continued out of bounds with due to his momentum, just one-yard shy of the first-down marker.

    It’s hard to blame the youngster because of where the pass was thrown, but he needs to run his route a step or two deeper or make sure he advances the ball further to ensure he gets the first down.

    His second target sailed well over his head and behind him. He tried to make a play on it but was unable to bring it in. It forced a Phil Dawson field goal.

    Mohamed Massaquoi: C-

    Massaquoi has been less and less of a factor as the weeks wear on. He was slowed by injury for much of the year, so he may be being brought back slowly. The emergence of Josh Gordon has severely limited his value to the team at this point.

    Travis Benjamin: Incomplete

    Benjamin saw no passes thrown his way and wasn’t a part of the game plan in today’s game, for whatever reason.

Tight Ends

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    Benjamin Watson: A

    Watson was a big part of the team’s game plan against the aggressive Cowboys’ pass defense. He was tied for a team-high in targets with eight (Richardson had eight as well). He hauled in four of those targets for 47 yards, including both of the team’s touchdowns from Brandon Weeden.

    The tight end also had a drop on a later drive that would have given the team a first down in the red zone but they instead settled for a punt a few plays later.

    Jordan Cameron: C

    Cameron needs to be a bigger part of the team’s plans. He’s simply too athletic and gifted to not be targeted more than the two looks Brandon Weeden game him this week.

    He hauled in neither f he passes, although one was the fourth-down throw from Weeden that was well out of bounds and not really catchable.

Offensive Line

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    Offensive Line: A-

    DeMarcus Ware got a great jump on the snap and blew past Joe Thomas to sack Weeden and force a punt. That’s just the third time Thomas has been beat on the season. Other than that, Weeden was sacked just one more time. However, it was a big play that resulted in a strip-sack and a turnover in Browns territory.

    On the positive side, the Browns offensive line gave Weeden ample time to look downfield and get comfortable in the pocket for much of the game. They also paved the way for another near-100-yard performance by Trent Richardson out of the backfield.

    The line continues to gel as a unit and is developing nicely as one of the better groups in the league as the year presses on.

Defensive Line

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    Jabaal Sheard: A-

    Sheard got in on the action, blowing past tackle Doug Free and sacking Romo near midfield to kill their two-minute drive and give the Browns another shot before halftime.

    He wasn’t very active on the stat sheet other than that but did provide a consistent pass rush that kept Tony Romo off balance for much of the game, especially in the first half.

    Ahtyba Rubin: A-

    Rubin had a good day clogging up the middle to help the Browns limit the Cowboys to just 63 yards rushing for the game. He also picked up a sack on a nice bull rush late in the game.

    Phil Taylor: B

    Taylor also got in on the action, pressuring Romo a couple of times and laying a nice hit on him once. He finished with just two tackles but was effective, as Rubin was, at clogging up the front of the line-of-scrimmage to slow the Cowboys’ running game.

    Frostee Rucker: A-

    Rucker had perhaps the biggest play of the game for the defense while having an otherwise quiet afternoon. Just plays after the Cowboys stripped Brandon Weeden in Browns territory, Rucker got after Tony Romo and stripped him to give the Browns the ball back.

    Juqua Parker:  A+

    Parker was explosive off the edges as he has been all season. He accounted for a big second down stuff of Dallas’s running back Lance Dunbar to force a third-and-long. Parker also absolutely blew past the Cowboys’ O-line to drop Tony Romo for a sack that resulted in a Cowboys’ punt.

    John Hughes: B+

    The lone significant play for Hughes was a remarkable one. He shed two blockers and was held as he pushed his way through the Cowboys’ offensive line and then took down Tony Romo for a sack.


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    Craig Robertson: A+

    Craig Robertson had one of his best games a pro and that’s saying something for the team’s biggest surprise this season. He racked up a handful of tackles and also sacked Tony Romo on a nice stunt to force a second-and-long play.

    He was swarming and always near the play throughout the game. That benefit him when Rucker stripped Romo and he fell on it to recover the turnover for the Browns.

    James-Michael Johnson, Kaluka Maiava and D’Qwell Jackson: B-

    Neither Jackson, Maiava or Johnson played very sensational games, although they were consistent in helping contain the run and lock down the middle of the field.

    Maiava had a joint sack on an overload blitz with Usama Young that surprised Romo.

Defensive Backs

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    Sheldon Brown : C-

    Brown had an up-and-down game with mostly downs towards the end of the action. He pass interfered with Dwayne Harris to give the Cowboys the ball in the red zone in the waning moments of regulation. That set up a Dan Bailey field goal to tie the game and send it to overtime.

    The veteran cornerback was active in tackling but that’s mostly because of his soft coverage and Romo’s ability to hit receivers on short routes underneath him.

    Buster Skrine: D+

    Skrine either doesn’t have the physical ability to play with starting receivers or isn’t being taught proper technique. He was flagged for so many penalties it got comical at one point. Once he left with a head injury things didn’t get much better, though.

    Johnson Bademosi: B-

    Bademosi, an undrafted free agent, stepped in for Skrine after his injury and was immediately thrown to the wolves by having the responsibility of checking Dez Bryant. He did have a nice pass breakup on a slant play to Bryant to force a punt in overtime.

    His missed special teams tackle led to a big return by Dwayne Harris. That helped the Cowboys easily move into field goal position to get the win.

    T.J. Ward: C

    Ward had a pretty quiet game, recording just two tackles. The biggest play involving him was an alleged unnecessary roughness call that helped the Cowboys move down field and get in position to tie the game before the end of regulation.

    The hit looked legitimate, as Ward laid a big hit on the receiver in order to jar the first-down pass loose. Well, he got the intended effects but was flagged, questionably, in the process.

    Eric Hagg: C+

    Due to injuries, Hagg saw his first playing time since he was benched early in the season. He made a few tackles and didn’t do very much else either positively or negatively during his return to the field against the Cowboys.

    Usama Young: B-

    Young was another rotational defensive back for the Browns’ secondary in this one. He made a couple tackles and also recorded a joint sack with Kaluka Maiava on an overload edge blitz.

    Tashuan Gipson: C+

    Gipson got some early playing time at free safety but was rotated frequently with the others.

Special Teams

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    Phil Dawson: A+

    Dawson sent every kickoff to the back of the end zone and allowed none of them to be returned by the Cowboys. He also connected on his 24th and 25th consecutive field goals dating back to last season.

    Reggie Hodges: B+

    Hodges did a good job getting lift under his punts and averaged 44.6 yards on his five kicks for the day. His overtime punt was a good one, backed up against the team’s end zone, before it was returned 20 yards by Dwayne Harris.

    Josh Cribbs: B+

    Cribbs had another good effort in the return game. He fumbled a kickoff but the call was overturned and he also had another good return called back due to a penalty.


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    Pat Shurmur: D+

    Well, you’ve finally made it here. To the evaluation of the guy you’ve already written off thanks to another disappointing season for the Cleveland Browns. Barring a six-game winning streak, it will be the fifth-consecutive losing season for the Browns.

    There isn’t very much one can do to defend him, either. Despite not doing very much to mess this game up, Shurmur did everything possible to ensure the team didn’t put the Cowboys away. He’s not done a good job making adjustments at halftime, rather sticking to a game plan that was working. The problem is, is that opposing coaches are making adjustments and its hurting the team’s chances.

    Conservatism continues to be a common theme for Shurmur, who took what the Cowboys’ defense was giving his team rather than dialing up some deep throws to try to open things up. Trent Richardson got 28 carries and didn’t break 100 yards. Some of that is due to the confusing looks the Browns offense was lining up.

    It appears to be that Shurmur is trying too hard and is coaching scared. With Jimmy Haslam and Joe Banner looking over his shoulder, he should be.

    Dick Jauron: A-

    It’s hard to blame Jauron for his soft late-fourth-quarter and overtime coverage. Tony Romo and the Cowboys were starting to get in a rhythm downfield and his depleted secondary was starting undrafted rookie Johnson Bademosi in relief for Buster Skrine.

    His aggressiveness and game plan was effective and resulted in seven sacks of Tony Romo. That pressure was also key in keeping the Browns in the game and limited the Cowboys to under 70 yards of total offense in the first half.

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