Handing out roster grades for the Cleveland Browns' 31-13 loss to the Green Bay Packers Sunday is not going to be fun. The team was flat-out bad, and there is very little to praise.
When you see each position’s grade, notice the previous position grades at the bottom of the slide. These show just how much of a roller-coaster season it has been so far for the Browns.
Grades are handed out based on how much a player impacted the game, if they won their individual battle, whether they were a positive contributor and if they could have performed better.
That criterion is going to make it very hard for anyone on the Browns to get a decent grade this week. So as much as this hurts, it is time to hand out full roster grades for the beatdown the Browns received in Green Bay.
Brandon Weeden had a 1.7 quarterback rating in the first quarter. That is almost impossible to do without trying. He didn’t look any better the rest of the game either.
While he did not receive much help from his receivers or defense, he was certainly one of the weakest links on the team.
He was 17-of-42 for 149 yards. He threw one touchdown and one interception. His offense was 7-of-18 on third downs. These are terrible stats.
Weeden continued his frustrating streak of holding onto the ball too long and was the main culprit in all three of the sacks he took Sunday. It is time for the Browns to make a change at quarterback unless they are just playing to improve their draft position next year.
Previous position grades: D+, C+, C+, A, B, D+
Willis McGahee, Fozzy Whittaker and Chris Ogbonnaya: D
Willis McGahee was mildly effective on his 11 carries. He gained just 39 yards and looked at times like he was running through quicksand. He was able to establish somewhat of a run game so he does get a little credit for that.
Both he and Chris Ogbonnaya dropped passes out of the backfield, though, and that is a huge problem. Weeden has enough trouble completing passes on his own without the pass-catchers committing drops.
Fozzy Whittaker, who the Browns claimed just a few short weeks ago off waivers from San Diego, had a little bit of a spark when he touched the football. While the numbers were not impressive, just five rushes for 11 yards, he had speed that the Browns have lacked since Dion Lewis was placed in season ending injured reserve.
The most alarming part of the running game, however, was that Weeden had 25 percent of Cleveland's rushing yards. That isn’t good.
Previous position grades: C-, C-, D+, B-, B+, B+
Josh Gordon, Davone Bess and Greg Little: D
The storyline of this unit was drops, drops and more drops. Greg Little dropped a touchdown late in the game, Josh Gordon dropped a huge 4th-and-15 in the fourth quarter and Davone Bess seems to drop passes every week.
To help compound the issue, Gordon was held to just two catches for 21 yards. He had zero receptions until the fourth quarter.
Not only was the defense able to take him away, but he seemed to mope and pout about his lack of production. It’s obvious he has superstar potential, but the great receivers are never completely shut down. They find a way to make a play when the team needs it most.
In the fourth quarter, training by just 11 points with more than 11 minutes to go, Gordon had his chance on that 4th-and-15 play.
He couldn’t come through for his team.
Previous position grades: D, D, A-, B+, A-, C+
Jordan Cameron: B+
According to the Browns postgame notes*, Jordan Cameron’s sixth touchdown catch of the season puts him in elite company. The only other Browns tight end to have six touchdowns in a season was Hall of Famer Ozzie Newsome.
The kid is special.
After being held somewhat quiet for two weeks Cameron broke out again, catching seven passes for 55 yards and a touchdown. He is currently 16th in the NFL with 515 receiving yards, tied for third in the NFL with six receiving touchdowns and is tied for 13th in the league with 26 first-down receptions.
He forces defenses to choose between him and Josh Gordon. When they choose to guard Gordon, Cameron will make them pay.
*Browns email me postgame notes after the completion of every contest.
Previous position grades: A-, A-, A, A, C+, B
Joe Thomas, John Greco, Alex Mack, Shawn Lauvao and Mitchell Schwartz: B
This was the one unit on the team which played very well. It allowed three sacks and Weeden to get hit eight times, but that was mostly on Weeden. He continues to hold the ball too long and make the offensive line’s job impossible.
There were even times during the game which there was slight pressure on the outside, but instead of stepping up into the pocket the line had created, he panicked.
The line blocked fairly well in the run game and should be commended for its efforts against one of the best run defenses in the league. The Packers were the third-best team in the NFL against the run heading into their contest with the Browns.
Right tackle Mitchell Schwartz is playing much better as well. He is still overmatched at times, but it’s nowhere near as frequent as it was early in the season.
Previous position grades: F, D+, D+, C+, C-, A-
Phil Taylor, Ahtyba Rubin, John Hughes, Desmond Bryant, Ishmaa’ily Kitchen and Armonty Bryant: C+
The defensive line played pretty well, but because Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers delivers the ball so quickly, most of its efforts were negated. Teams have switched their philosophy on how they attack the Browns.
Teams are now using the pressure that the defensive line creates against them. They are throwing more screens and quick passes to running backs and tight ends. This is making the line a virtual non-factor.
The line did not play well against the run. In fact, they have not played well against the run in the past three weeks. Some of it has to do with fatigue and being on the field the entire second half of games.
That doesn’t explain the entire issue, however, as teams have been just as effective in the first half on the ground.
Previous position grades: A+, B-, B-, A-, C+, C+
Paul Kruger, Quentin Groves, Jabaal Sheard and Barkevious Mingo: C+
This unit was healthy for the first time in over a month, and you could see improvement. The pressure that the Browns were able to get in the first few weeks was back. This unit just couldn’t finish the plays, though.
Paul Kruger had a very good game against the run and logged half of a sack as well. Jabaal Sheard split time in his first game back but was still able to be disruptive.
Barkevious Mingo hasn’t been making as much noise the past few weeks, and I think he is hitting the proverbial “rookie wall” sooner than expected. The Browns have now played seven games and would be heading down the home stretch of a collegiate season. Mingo had to play a full complement of snaps for two weeks with all their injuries at outside linebacker.
The extra beating from each play in the NFL can wear you down. It seems like Mingo is feeling it. Mingo has now gone three straight weeks without a sack, and his tackle numbers have decreased each week.
The upcoming bye week should do him quite a bit of good.
Previous position grades: A-, A-, B, B-, C, C+
Craig Robertson and D’Qwell Jackson: D-
This unit continues to be exposed. While the production from opposing running backs and tight ends is not exclusively their fault, they’re certainly a big part of the problem.
D’Qwell Jackson and Craig Robertson are now being run so ragged that their tackle totals are decreasing. This week they combined for just nine total tackles and had zero QB hits or tackles for loss.
Defensive coordinator Ray Horton has to find a way to help schematically, because these guys aren’t going to get any better in coverage.
It won’t get any easier for them either as they will face arguably the best pass-catching running back in the NFL next week. Jamaal Charles of the Chiefs is on a tear and racking up all-purpose yardage at an alarming rate.
He is third in the NFL with 561 rushing yards, has 337 receiving yards and eight total touchdowns.
Previous position grades: B, A-, B-, C+, C-, D-
Buster Skrine, Chris Owens and Joe Haden: D+
Every unit is due for a clunker game, and the secondary definitely had its Sunday. It turned in its worst performance of the season, allowing Aaron Rodgers to throw for 260 yards and three touchdowns.
Buster Skrine and Joe Haden were both beaten on touchdown passes, and neither had a pass defended during the game.
The Packers didn’t just attack the middle of the field with running backs and tight ends; they also did it with receivers. Haden and Skrine struggled to stay in coverage through that traffic. This allowed for Rodgers to keep them on their heels all game long.
As I said before, everyone has a clunker game. Let’s hope this was just a bad game against a great quarterback and not the beginning of a pattern
Previous position grades: C-, C, A, A, A, B-
Tashaun Gipson and T.J. Ward: B
It’s tough to give the safeties too much love, because they are partially responsible for all yardage given up by a defense. So even though the Browns allowed 357 yards of offense Sunday, T.J. Ward and Tashaun Gipson didn’t play terrible.
Ward had a tackle for loss, and Gipson defended a pass while they combined for 20 tackles.
Gipson was flagged for his hit on Packers tight end Jermichael Finley, but it should have not been a penalty. Finley was carted off the field and remained in intensive care overnight but tweeted Monday afternoon that he was walking again and had feeling in his extremities.
As scary as that hit was, Gipson made a good play and jarred the ball loose. He can’t let up on the intensity, no matter what the result is.
Previous position grades: C+, B, B-, C+, A, B+
Billy Cundiff, Spencer Lanning, Travis Benjamin, Fozzy Whittaker and Coverage Units: B
The Browns may have finally found their kick return combination. After shuffling players in and out of that spot, Fozzy Whittaker had three returns for 103 yards and Travis Benjamin returned one 86 yards.
They each have explosive first steps and good field vision. That should be a decent combination moving forward.
Kicker Billy Cundiff was 2-of-2 on the day, hitting field goals from 46 and 44 yards. He did talk Chudzinksi out trying a 49-yard field-goal attempt, which made the Browns have to go for it on fourth down, though.
Spencer Lanning continued his surprisingly solid season. According to the Browns postgame notes*, Lanning’s touchback ended a streak of 23 straight punts that he kept out of the end zone. During that span, he had six downed inside the 20-yard line.
*Browns email me postgame notes after the completion of every contest.
Previous position grades: C+, C+, A+, D+, A+, B-