It is never fun handing out grades when a team is thoroughly outplayed like the Cleveland Browns were by the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday. The only phase of the team that was competitive at all was the defense.
Each week, whether a team wins or loses, the coaches go over game film to see what went right and what went wrong. This week, the Browns will be watching film of things that went horribly wrong on offense and special teams.
It was a disappointing effort, but the Browns can’t lick their wounds for long. The Pittsburgh Steelers are coming to town next week, and the Browns are still in the playoff race.
If they want to stay in that race, they are going to need to improve on the grades from this week.
As always, weekly grades are handed out based on how much a player impacted the game, if he won his individual battle, whether he was a positive contributor, and if he could have performed better.
Let’s see how they did.
He finished the game 27-of-56 for 248 yards, a touchdown and three costly interceptions.
The worst part about his game, however, was that he could not find a way to get the ball downfield. He settled for checkdowns and outlet passes the entire game.
Campbell had thrown three interceptions in a game just one other time in his career. That was all the way back in October of 2009 when he was with the Redskins.
Previous position grades: D+, C+, C+, A, B, D+, F, A, A
Chris Ogbonnaya, Willis McGahee and Fozzy Whittaker: C-
The running backs will get credit for rushing for over 100 yards against Cincinnati. They finished with 19 rushes for 102 yards.
However, if you look deeper, the stats show that it was really all done in one good quarter.
After the first quarter, the Browns managed just 40 rushing yards on 13 attempts. Chris Ogbonnaya fumbled deep in Browns territory, and Willis McGahee looked like he was ready to retire.
The Browns tried to get creative with Armanti Edwards at Wildcat, but that play went for no gain. Hopefully, MarQueis Gray comes back soon so they at least have one more weapon to run the ball.
Previous position grades: C-, C-, D+, B-, B+, B+, D, C-, D
Josh Gordon, Davone Bess and Greg Little: C-
The lone positive of the day for this group was Josh Gordon’s 74-yard touchdown reception. Other than that play, the receivers accounted for six catches and 58 yards.
To put that in perspective, running back Fozzy Whittaker nearly matched that production by himself on Sunday.
Jason Campbell spent the entire day checking down and throwing to the running backs and tight ends. While some of that was issues with protection, it also falls on the receivers who failed to get open.
It’s looking more and more like the Browns will need a few upgrades at this position this offseason.
Previous position grades: D, D, A-, B+, A-, C+, D, C, B+
Jordan Cameron and Gary Barnidge: C-
Jordan Cameron has 629 receiving yards and six touchdowns on the year. Over his past six games, however, he is averaging just 45 yards per game and has caught just one touchdown.
On Sunday, Cameron and Barnidge combined for seven catches and 41 yards.
Defenses are now scheming to take Cameron away as an option. They are rolling safeties over to him, jamming him at the line of scrimmage and overloading his side of the line to force him into blocking.
At some point, he will need to learn to beat the double-teams and special coverages if he wants to be an elite tight end.
Previous position grades: A-, A-, A, A, C+, B, B+, B+, B
Joe Thomas, John Greco, Alex Mack, Shawn Lauvao and Mitchell Schwartz: D
After four straight good performances, the offensive line took a huge step back Sunday.
The Bengals brought pressure, and the line was on roller skates all game long. The Browns allowed Jason Campbell to get hit nine times and gave up four sacks.
John Greco was abused on inside blitzes and picked up the wrong defender multiple times during the game.
Because the line did not allow Campbell to get comfortable in the pocket, he was forced to settle for short throws all afternoon.
Previous position grades: F, D+, D+, C+, C-, A-, B, A+, A
Phil Taylor, Ahtyba Rubin, John Hughes, Desmond Bryant, Billy Winn and Armonty Bryant: C+
This is a tough unit to grade because they did a good job of limiting the run but got no pressure on Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton.
They held BenJarvus Green-Ellis to 62 yards and Giovani Bernard to 45 yards. They dominated the point of attack against the run. They played a big part in holding the Bengals to 1-of-14 on third-down attempts a well.
Against the pass, however, they seemed to be a step too slow all game long. The Browns were held without a sack and only hit Dalton one time.
He was able to get comfortable in the pocket and make plays when the Bengals needed him to.
Previous position grades: A+, B-, B-, A-, C+, C+, C+, B+, A
Paul Kruger, Jabaal Sheard and Barkevious Mingo: C-
This was the worst performance of the year for this group. Jabaal Sheard was literally the only player to even touch Andy Dalton Sunday.
They combined for just eight tackles and none of them were behind the line of scrimmage.
When the outside linebackers have zero sacks and zero tackles for loss in a 3-4 defense, that means you created zero pressure.
Losing Quentin Groves for the year hurts their depth, but it shouldn’t cause them to fall off the map, especially against a Bengals line which had been allowing tons of pressure the last two weeks.
Previous position grades: A-, A-, B, B-, C, C+, C+, B+, B
Craig Robertson, Tank Carder and D’Qwell Jackson: B+
This unit played pretty well overall. Even when Craig Robertson left the game with an injury, Tank Carder filled in nicely as his replacement.
They combined for 19 tackles and did not let Giovani Bernard or the tight ends have much production in the passing game.
Carder is a guy the coaching staff loves. If Robertson were lost for an expended amount of time, it doesn’t seem like it would be a huge drop-off in talent.
D’Qwell Jackson was his usual solid self on Sunday and led the team in tackles. He came into this week 11th in the league in tackles with 79.
Previous position grades: B, A-, B-, C+, C-, D-, D-, D, A+
Buster Skrine, Chris Owens and Joe Haden: A+
It does not get much better than the day that Joe Haden and the boys had Sunday.
As a unit, they held the Bengals receivers to six catches for 33 yards. That is pure dominance.
Dalton had plenty of time to throw the football, but he could not find anyone downfield.
Previous position grades: C-, C, A, A, A, B-, D+, B, C+
Tashaun Gipson and T.J. Ward: C
This wasn’t the safeties' most dominating performance, but they were still solid.
The biggest blunder of the game for them was T.J. Ward not bringing down tight end Jermaine Gresham on his 25-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter.
Ward had a clear shot at Gresham inside the 5-yard line and failed to tackle him or push him out of bounds.
Ward has had a very solid year and could make a Pro Bowl push if he continues to play well, but missed tackles that allow touchdowns are not going to help his cause.
Previous position grades: C+, B, B-, C+, A, B+, B, B-, B
Billy Cundiff, Spencer Lanning, Fozzy Whittaker, Armanti Edwards and coverage units: D+
It was not a good week for the special teams units. They allowed a punt to get blocked and returned for a touchdown, they allowed a second punt to get deflected, and they allowed a 27-yard punt return by Adam Jones.
Lanning, who has been very solid all season long, only averaged 38 yards per punt.
This unit was one of the main reasons the Bengals scored 31 unanswered points in the second quarter.
Kicker Billy Cundiff was perfect on the day, knocking through two chip-shot field goals.
Previous position grades: C+, C+, A+, D+, A+, B-, B, C, B