Redskins vs. Browns: Final Report Card, Player Grades for Cleveland
On a 3rd-and-10 in the first quarter, rookie QB Kirk Cousins' pass was deflected by Sheldon Brown and intercepted by safety T.J. Ward. Ward returned it to the Redskins' 6-yard line and then Trent Richardson did the rest, scoring on a hand-off on the ensuing play.
Richardson's touchdown was his tenth of the season, setting a Cleveland Browns rookie rushing record for touchdowns.
Washington took over on its own 46-yard line after a poor Cleveland punt and needed just one play to even the score. QB Kirk Cousins booted right on a play-action and found Leonard Hankerson down the field for a 54-yard TD reception.
Usama Young, T.J. Ward and Sheldon Brown were all close-by but were unable to make a play on the ball.
Kai Forbath hit a 44-yard field goal to give the Skins their first lead of the game after the team's next drive stalled in Browns territory.
Cleveland drove down the field in the waning moments of the second quarter to set up a 1-yard Trent Richardson TD run. The scoring play marks his second-straight multiple rushing TD game.
The second half is when it all came undone for the Browns.
Brandon Weeden stared down his receiver on the team’s opening-half drive and was picked off in Cleveland territory. Washington capitalized and punched it in from three yards out on a run by Alfred Morris.
Washington took over at its own 40-yard line after an awful 32-yard punt by the Browns. It marched easily down the field and added another touchdown to its lead to go up by two scores.
Evan Royster walked easily into the end zone on a 4-yard TD run following a 10-play, 67-yard drive that ate 4:42 off of the clock.
Trailing 31-14, Cleveland struck back with a little over 10 minutes to play in the game. Brandon Weeden connected with rookie wide receiver Travis Benjamin on a 69-yard TD play to bring the Browns within 10 points.
Despite the late glimmer of hope, Washington drove down the field again and sealed the win with a clock-killing touchdown drive to put the team back up by 17 points.
Brandon Weeden: F
Brandon Weeden was indecisive, hesitant and slow to get rid of the ball. His staring down of his receivers allowed Washington’s man coverage to eat up routes down the field and it forced him to check down repeatedly throughout the game.
An awful early second-half interception gave the Redskins excellent field position and pretty much handed them their first score of the half. Weeden completely ignored the presence of a linebacker sitting in the middle of the field because he stared his intended receiver down from the snap to the throw.
He also struggled to complete screen passes, having a few of them deflected at the line of scrimmage. Batted down passes are beginning to become problematic for the struggling rookie signal caller.
His saving grace, a late 69-yard touchdown connection with Travis Benjamin, wasn’t enough to erase the poor play throughout the rest of the game.
Trent Richardson: B-
Half of Richardson’s 28 yards came on one nice run in the first quarter. The rest came on two touchdown runs inside the Washington Redskins’ 10-yard line. Other than that, the rookie back was shut down in limited opportunities he was afforded.
Montario Hardesty: C
Hardesty didn’t fare much better than Richardson in his own limited chances. He recorded just five yards on two carries for the game.
Josh Gordon: D
Gordon and Brandon Weeden didn’t seem to be in sync. He beat his coverage in the first quarter and could have had a big play but Weeden overshot him and the team was forced to punt as a result.
Greg Little: B-
Greg Little made some things happen after the catch and reeled in a 30-yard strike from Weeden to put the Browns in striking distance in the waning moments of the first half. The play set up a 1-yard Trent Richardson TD run three plays later.
Mohamed Massaquoi: C-
Massaquoi was the intended target of a Weeden interception. It was hardly his fault, though, as Weeden undershot him by a mile. He caught both of his other targets for an underwhelming 16 yards.
Travis Benjamin: B
The explosive rookie didn’t see more than one target come his way, but that’s all it took for him to get into the end zone. He blew past an unsuspecting DB and hauled in a lob from Brandon Weeden and then took it to the house for a 69-yard TD.
Benjamin Watson: C-
Watson had been coming on as of late as a key target for Brandon Weeden. He was little help in this one, though, catching just two of the four passes thrown his way for 12 total yards.
Jordan Cameron: C+
Cameron benefitted from a play-action fake and reeled in a 28-yard strike from Weeden. It was the team’s longest pass-completion of the game at the time.
Alex Smith: C-
Smith caught both passes thrown in his direction, including a 7-yard gain and a 1-yarder.
Joe Thomas: C+
Thomas was flagged for a false start penalty but had a pretty solid game otherwise. It’s hard to say solid when Brandon Weeden was under fire and the team struggled to run the ball, but Thomas wasn’t solely to blame for those struggles.
John Greco: C-
Grading the offensive line with a passing grade is difficult to do, but Greco made some nice blocks in the red zone to ensure Trent Richardson could get into the end zone. It wasn’t a pretty game for the backup left guard, but he did play decent for most of the game.
Alex Mack: C-
Mack was flagged for a false start early in the game. He was a key component of the Browns’ red-zone success at running the ball.
Shawn Lauvao: C-
Lauvao had no penalties called against him but wasn’t able to create much push on the right side of the offensive line.
Mitchell Schwartz: C-
Schwartz was beat a couple of times, allowing his man to get vertical and deflect Brandon Weeden’s pass attempts. Other than that, the rookie continued his consistent play at right tackle.
Jabaal Sheard: B+
Sheard blew past his blocker and dropped Kirk Cousins to force a punt in the first half. It is hard to say whether he jumped the snap or just exploded on the play, but the second-year defensive end got it done on that play. He finished the game with several pressures and three total tackles.
Several times his aggressiveness got the better of him, though. The play-action bootleg came to his side often and Kirk Cousins scooted past him after he collapsed in to make the play rather than contain the edge.
Ahtyba Rubin: C+
Rubin recorded just one tackle but did his job, for the most part, of shutting down the running lanes up the middle.
Phil Taylor: B
Taylor was a beast for much of this game, running down plays relentlessly. He made a play with excellent backside pursuit on a zone-right run by Morris to drop him for no-gain.
Frostee Rucker: C
Rucker has been very up and down this season and this was one of the games that he disappeared for the most part. He held down the edges and helped contain the stretch and zone rushing attempts of the Redskins but wasn’t much of a factor otherwise.
Juqua Parker: B-
The trusty pass-rushing veteran continued to be disruptive in the backfield, recording a sack and several pressures on the rookie QB.
Billy Winn: B-
Billy Winn played a tough game and got decent penetration up the middle of the Redskins offensive line. He blew up a play and allowed T.J. Ward to come to make a tackle behind the line of scrimmage.
The rookie finished with six total tackles for the game.
John Hughes: B-
Hughes played well in shutting down the zone-rushing game of the Redskins. He filled and slid nicely with blocks and helped keep Alfred Morris from breaking through. The third-round pick finished the game with four total tackles.
D’Qwell Jackson: B-
Jackson was beat by running back Evan Royster for a 22-yard gain on 3rd-and-9 that put Washington into field-goal range. It wasn’t a crucial moment in the game and it didn’t come back to hurt the Browns, who were blown out.
He finished the game with a game-high nine tackles and was a big part of the Browns shutting down Alfred Morris for much of the game.
Craig Robertson: C+
Robertson is tough as nails and it showed on the field in Week 15. He laid several big hits on Washington including one on QB Kirk Cousins.
Kaluka Maiava: C-
Maiava has been criticized a lot for being out of position and that happened a lot against Washington. He was solid, but like his teammates, he failed to read and react to the play-action passing game of the Redskins.
James-Michael Johnson: C
The rookie linebacker was relatively quiet, but ended the game with four total tackles.
Joe Haden: B+
Haden played solid coverage, breaking up two passes and shutting down most of the throws that came in his direction.
Sheldon Brown: B-
Brown continued to make plays on defense by forcing another interception this week. He tipped a pass from Cousins that popped up into the air and was picked by T.J. Ward who took it to the Washington 6-yard line.
He had a couple of plays he’d like back, too. He saved a touchdown by holding Pierre Garcon on third down, but it gave them an automatic first down. Then, he was beat over the top by Leonard Hankerson on the 54-yard play-action touchdown completion from Cousins.
Dimitri Patterson: C
Patterson was out of position in man coverage gave up one first down as a result.
T.J. Ward: B
Ward left the game with a knee injury but was all over the field prior that. As mentioned, he scooped up Brown’s pass deflection and nearly took it to the end zone. He was also active in stepping up in run defense and was a big part of the team’s early success in that department.
Usama Young: D+
Young’s job as a safety is to give over-the-top support for other DB’s. Young, along with Ward, were both burned on a play-action bomb to Leonard Hankerson. He’s effective coming up to blitz and stop the run but Young’s talents stopped there in Week 15.
Tashaun Gipson: C
The undrafted rookie had an average game, recording three tackles. The effective play-action of Kirk Cousins was definitely a learning experience for the youngster who found himself out of position several times as a result of the play fakes.
Phil Dawson: C
Dawson didn't register a field-goal attempt in this one.
Reggie Hodges: C+
Hodges booted a career-long 58-yard punt but also left one short for just 32 yards. It was an up-and-down performance for a guy who has been everything but consistent this season.
Josh Cribbs: B-
Cribbs didn't make anything happen in the return game thanks to some good coverage from Washington. He took some big hits and held onto the football.
Pat Shurmur: D+
Shurmur continued to call a confusing game plan, running the ball consistently on 2nd-and-long and passing on first down. His handling of the game as it slipped away proves his inability to adjust and make changes during the game.
Only after the game was nearly out of reach did he dial up a deep shot for Travis Benjamin. It worked, kudos to him for that.
Dick Jauron: F
Defensively, Jauron had no answer for the quick-passing game of the Washington Redskins. The play-action was even worse. Jauron kept the focus on stopping Alfred Morris and the Redskins made the Browns pay throughout the second half.
It's puzzling as to why the seasoned coach couldn't come up with a counter or an adjustment that would have helped stop the bleeding. Instead, he kept sending pressure and focused on containing Morris.
Chris Tabor: C
Special teams did its job, with exception to some shanks by punter Reggie Hodges. Washington has broke a couple of big returns this season so it was definitely a victory to keep them off the scoreboard.
Brad Childress: D+
Ultimately, Pat Shurmur calls the plays. But Childress's input should guide the young head coach. Shurmur's pass-first philosophy isn't working. Also, getting Trent Richardson just 11 carries in a game is not going to cut it if the Browns want to be competitive.