Just when they get your hopes up the Cleveland Browns go out and lay an egg. Coming off of one of the best performances they have had since returning to the NFL in 1999 on Monday night against the Giants the Brownies came out flat in another must win against the Washington Redskins.
I cannot understand how a team comes out with two completely different attitudes and intensities in less than a week. After looking dynamite against the defending champs they looked mediocre against the Skins.
The offense was stagnant until the last five minutes of the game which begs the question where was that play calling all game? Maybe it was not the play calling, but rather the focus. I cannot say for sure but what I can say is that Browns team we all saw Sunday evening mirrors the 4-12 team from two years ago not the 10-6 team from last year.
While watching the game three key points stuck in my mind.
1) The defense for this 2008 Cleveland Browns team is dare I say "good." They are not quite there yet when it comes to "smash-mouth" stop the run defense, but they are a lot better than we have seen in the past. The middle of the line is much improved and if the secondary stays together and molds it could become one of the best young secondaries in the NFL.
To gauge how well this defense is playing lets look deeper into the stats. In the last three games the defense is giving up just over 13 points per game. But, look even closer, in weeks one and three respectively the Browns gave up 28 points. The Cowboys put up 28 in Week One and it looked like it was going to be a long season on defense for the Browns. But Week Three against the Ravens the defense gave up 14 second half points coming off of turnovers while in our own red zone, seven of which were scored by Baltimore's defense.
Take that away and the only game the defense struggled was week one against one of the most potent offenses in the NFL. If you take those two scores away from Baltimore the Browns defense is giving up 12.8 points per game since Week Two. As it stands right now the defense is giving up just over 17.5 points per game on the year and that's with the second toughest schedule in the AFC. Right now I give the defense a B+ but improving vastly over last years squad.
2) Derek Anderson is not the answer at quarterback. Through six games this season Anderson is averaging only 165 yards per game. And his completion percentage of 49.2 puts him ahead of only Tyler Thigpen of Kansas City and he hasn't even started every game this year for the Chiefs.
Derek Anderson is the only starting QB to have started all of his teams' games in AFC and not have over 1000 yards passing. Even Jamarcus Russell and Joe Flacco have achieved that.
Sunday he went 14 of 37 passing, and I know there were drops but let's give him the four dropped passes by Braylon Edwards (which is a whole different story in itself) and Anderson is still under 50 percent completion for the day. And, his 136 yards give him a 3.7 yards per attempt average which at the NFL level qualifies as inept.
What I could not get over on Sunday was the amount of balls that were batted down at the line of scrimmage. Its no secret that Anderson is a pocket passer but the fact is he is one of the least sacked quarterbacks in the NFL which says he has ample amount of time to throw. I could not believe my eyes as I watched a fourth-and-goal attempt get knocked down at the line that's on the quarterback.
My grade for Anderson so far in 2008 is obviously an F. He showed a glimpse Monday night against the Giants but then proved it a fluke Sunday at Washington. I have said since last season that he was not the answer at QB and I am not saying that Brady Quinn is for sure the answer, but I am saying DA is not warranting his three-year multi-million dollar contract the Browns gave him after last seasons performance.
3) Romeo Crennel is slowly losing his team. I don't know if there is dissension in the locker room but it just looks like we have no clue what is going on out on the field. At 14-3 in the fourth quarter and a first-and-goal inside the two yard line I watched as the Browns managed to run off a good 3:30 minutes off the game clock.
Great strategy if you have the lead, but not when you are down by two scores. There is no sense of urgency amongst the players and at times it looks more like confusion. And then there is the accountability issue. I don't know why Braylon Edwards is allowed to drop three passes per game, but he is. And when he comes over to the side line its a "you're fine go get em next time" attitude.
I want someone who holds players accountable gets in their face when they screw up. It's called tough love, I guess, but what it does is brings out the best in your players. When you expect them to do things at the highest level it gives them confidence to do it.
But, when you baby them and make it okay when they drop passes, run bad routes, or takes silly penalties you just encourage them to perform at a lower level. And Crennel does just that. Considering the season they had last year, and the expectations coming into 2008 I give Crennel an F for managing the team the way he has so far. There is time for them to turn it around but it has to start in week eight.
I honestly thought the Browns would come out and win on Sunday only because of the way they played on Monday night and the sense of urgency and "backs against the wall" mentality they showed that night. But they came out totally flat and uninspired. Which leads me to believe this team is headed to another sub .500 year and another top 10 draft pick.