Browns vs. Ravens: Takeaways from Cleveland's 14-6 Loss to Baltimore
Even when a team isn’t expected to win, losing a close game is still disappointing. The Browns hung tough for three quarters, but the defending Super Bowl champions were just too much in the end.
The Browns’ offensive struggles continued, and despite trading for wide receiver Davone Bess and hiring Norv Turner as offensive coordinator, they have been able to muster just 16 total points.
The defense logged another solid effort, and that seems to be the strength of this football team.
Here are some takeaways from the Browns loss which drops them to 0-2 on the young season.
Brandon Weeden Is Not the Only Problem
There is a common thought in the NFL that you are only as good as your quarterback. Well, Brandon Weeden improved his play from Week 1 to Week 2, but the rest of the offense did not.
While there were certainly some throws Weeden could have executed better, the receivers and offensive line, once again, were not good enough to grab the victory. Sixteen points through two games is inexcusable.
Weeden finished his day 21-of-33 for 239 yards and outplayed Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco for the entire first half. Greg Little had three dropped passes, the offensive line could not pass block at all in the first half and there was never a rhythm established in the run game.
He was also hurt in the fourth quarter, injuring the thumb on his throwing hand. While x-rays were negative, he still may miss next week against the Minnesota Vikings.
The Wide Receivers Have to Be Better
It seems like every week we have to talk about dropped passes when referring to the Browns’ wide receivers. Through two games, they have accounted for just 243 yards and have struggled to create any separation between them and defenders.
Maybe it is because of Josh Gordon’s absence, but it’s not looking good. The combination of receivers who can’t separate and a line that can’t block is deadly for a second-year quarterback.
Weeden is feeling the pressure on just about every play, but his receivers never give him space to deliver the football.
While Weeden could do a much better job looking off defenders, it is ultimately receivers’ jobs to get open, and they just aren’t.
Greg Little Will Always Have Drop Issues
Even though he was very efficient and only dropped one pass in the final 10 games of last season, it is safe to say Greg Little will always have problems hanging on to the football. After a slew of drops in Week 1 and three more against Baltimore, the problem that plagued Little through his entire rookie season and the beginning of last year has returned.
Despite spending extra time before and after practice on the Jugs machine and despite working with Weeden on extra routes every day, Little has regressed.
The only constant throughout his career, thus far, has been drops. With Josh Gordon returning next week and demanding attention from defensive coordinators, the Browns have to hope Little can regain some of the positive momentum he built up late last season.
The Browns Defense Is Good Enough to Win
While the offense continues to struggle, the defense showed it is legit. The defending Super Bowl champions muddled their way through most of the game until the defense, once again, got tired.
The Browns defense has allowed just 20 points in the first three quarters of games thus far. In the fourth quarter, they have allowed 17.
If the offense could keep them off the field in the second half, the result of these games would probably be different.
Sunday, the linebackers and cornerbacks did a much better job in coverage. The effort and production was there defensively to win on the road; now, the other side of the ball needs to help pick up the slack.
Barkevious Mingo’s Speed Translates to the NFL
It is tough to imagine a better way to start you NFL career. On Mingo’s very first regular-season snap as a professional, he used his speed rush to beat left tackle Bryant McKinnie and to sack Joe Flacco.
The reason the Browns used the sixth overall pick in the 2013 draft on Mingo was because of his speed and freakish athletic ability. He showed flashes of those qualities in his first game, finishing with two tackles, a sack, a tackle for loss and a QB hit.
While he did not play an abundance of snaps, he will see plenty of time if Quentin Groves misses any games. Groves left the game against Baltimore with a sprained ankle.
For one week, the team was cautious with Mingo, making sure he was fully recovered from his bruised lung which forced him to miss the season opener. Next week, I expect to see a much larger sample size of the rookie’s abilities.
Jordan Cameron Is a Playmaker
I was as tough on Jordan Cameron coming into 2013 as anyone. He had never shown big playmaking ability and seemed to lack the toughness to fight for the football.
I was wrong.
Cameron finished the day with 95 more receiving yards, giving him 203 yards and a touchdown on the year. More importantly, he has developed into Brandon Weeden’s go-to guy in this offense.
Whenever Weeden escapes pressure and needs to make a pass, it seems like Cameron is always available. Even after a big game in Week 1 that had the Ravens keying on him, he still nearly caught 100 yards worth of passes.
Leon McFadden Just Isn’t Ready
The only explanation for not seeing McFadden on defense has to be him not being ready. It’s not like Chris Owens is doing such a stellar job that McFadden can’t crack the lineup.
Through two games, McFadden has just two tackles and both of those are on special teams. Even with Buster Skrine injured and Owens struggling, he still cannot get defensive snaps.
The Browns had hoped he could compete for the starting corner back position out of training camp and now, he isn’t even getting reps.
At some point, defensive coordinator Ray Horton will need to find out what McFadden can do. For now, however, he will remain a special teams player and emergency backup it seems.
Chris Ogbonnaya Is Not a Good Third-Down Blocker
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Chris Ogbonnaya seems to have fooled the Browns coaches into thinking he is a good blocker on third downs, so shame on them.
Both games, Ogbonnaya has struggled to pick up blitzers on third down, and it has cost the Browns a weapon. Since they see Ogbonnaya as the superior blocker, Trent Richardson is forced to stand on the sideline on third down.
This is puzzling for many reasons. First of all, Richardson is their best weapon, and he is not on the field for the most important down. Second, Ogbonnaya hasn’t been good. In fact, he has missed more key blocks than he has actually picked up through two weeks.
At some point, the coaching staff needs to realize that Richardson cannot be any worse at blocking, and the upside of having him as a threat on third down is much greater than the risk.
It Is Going to Be a Long Year
History says that an 0-2 start means a long season for the Browns. Since '99, the Browns have started the season 0-2 seven times.
Four times, they finished the year 5-11, twice they finished 4-12 and, once, they finished 2-14.
Statistically, the Browns now only have about a 10 percent chance of making the playoffs, while reality says it’s not even that high. The lone bright spot is the return of wide receiver Josh Gordon and possibly right guard Shawn Lauvao.
Those two additions could change the dynamic of the offense. If the offense improves and the defense maintains its current level, then the Browns shouldn’t be that bad of a team for their final 14 games.