2011 Cleveland Browns: 8 Things the Browns Need to Work on During the Bye Week
But in the week ahead, the Browns need to focus on themselves and what they need to do to get better in order to make a run at the playoffs this season.
There are a lot of areas that need addressing, but these are the eight problems the Browns need to address in order to move forward and make progress.
As we saw in today's game against the Titans, the Browns have major issues with tackling. Especially, tackling after the catch.
The Titans had two huge plays today, one by Jared Cook Jr. and one by Nate Washington, that lead to touchdowns, that were caused due to the Browns inability to tackle the receiver.
The Browns defense has been good this season. Joe Haden has become a legitimately elite cornerback in the NFL, and the Browns, before today, had yet to let a team dominate them offensively.
Today, however, the Browns were dominated because of the lack of tackling.
Be it Usama Young, or Scott Fujita, or any number of players not he Browns defense, they couldn't tackle anyone. The arm tackles were easily broken, and often broken for what were much much bigger plays than they should've been.
The Browns do not have a bad defense, but when you are positioned where you're supposed to be and you miss the tackle, you might as well not be there at all.
Montario Hardesty had four drops today.
Four drops, by himself.
The Browns as a team had seven drops. And they don't even have Braylon Edwards!
The Browns really need to improve on catching the ball. Colt McCoy, for the most part, is an accurate quarterback and puts the ball where it needs to be. It's up to the receivers, tight ends and running backs to come down with the ball.
If the Browns can't catch the ball, much like they couldn't today, they are going to have an awfully hard time moving the ball anywhere. Colt can only do so much. He can't put the ball in their hands and make the receivers catch the ball. He has to throw it and hope that the receiver comes down with it.
Stick-um, Jugs machine or just more time playing catch, the Browns need to improve upon their ability to catch the ball.
Especially you Montario.
Getting Hillis Back in the Swing of Things
Peyton Hillis surely did not have a bad game today.
Averaging 4.6 yards a carry, Hillis was more than efficient on the ground for the Browns. But it was his lack of touches that concerned me, and showed that he is still getting back into it.
Due to strep throat, he lost 10 to 12 pounds, and didn't seem 100 percent physically.
The bye week will be a great opportunity for Hillis to get back into it, mentally and physically. He should get enough rest so that he can be back at 100 percent in time for Oakland, and get enough practice so that he can be ready for the physical and mental challenges that playing the game of football brings.
Hillis is the type of guy that can rebound from this quickly, and with a bye week, I expect to see the normal Peyton Hillis against the Raiders.
Pat Shurmur has had some speed bumps in his first few games with the Browns.
It's obvious he's never done this before, and the mistakes he has made have proved that over and over again.
Pat Shurmur, in his first bye week as a NFL head coach, needs to take this week and look at himself as not only a head coach, but also an offensive coordinator. His play-calling has been atrocious at times.
As a play-caller, Shurmur needs to look at a lot of film, and understand what plays he called and what plays he should have called. He needs to take a look at the playbook and tear out the pages that don't need to be in there, and take the dust off of some of the pages he needs to bring back again. Doing all of this, he should be able to improve his play-calling and come up with a good game plan for the Oakland defense.
In no way am I saying Pat Shurmur is a bad head coach or offensive coordinator, I'm just saying that he can improve with an extra week of preparation.
The Browns used to be the best in the business when it came to special teams.
Joshua Cribbs was electrifying each and every time he touched the ball, and could change games for the Browns. The kickoff return and coverage teams were some of the hardest working guys on the team and made huge impacts. Philly Dawson and Reggie Hodges were the cream of the crop as the kicker and punter, maybe neither with the biggest leg, but both with great accuracy.
Well, this season, the kickoff rule has eliminated Cribbs from the equation, Reggie Hodges has gone down with injury and Phil Dawson's lack of a strong leg has allowed other teams to return kicks against the Browns.
The Browns need to work on their punt and punt return teams as well as their kickoff coverage team.
The Browns don't have enough playmakers on offense to be a big-play threat against defenses, so the special teams is going to have to be just that, "special."
If the special teams can make big plays for the Browns, they'll have a lot more chances to win games as the season progresses.
Montario, Montario, Montario.
Montario Hardesty has shown signs of brilliance.
Against the Dolphins he looked like a legitimate starting running back in this league. He was able to run the ball well against a good Dolphins rush defense, and was able to fill in for an aching Peyton Hillis.
This week, Montario Hardesty looked like an absolute dud at times.
Montario did make one very nice catch on what looked like a wheel route for a first down, but other than that, his impact was minimal.
I understand that this is Hardesty's first year. I understand that he's still learning. That's not what I'm concerned with. I'm concerned with the fact that the Browns need to know how to use him.
This week, the Browns need to take a good long look at what Hardesty has done, and evaluate his progress. They then need to see what packages they should use Hardesty in. (I'm not a coach, I'm just saying I probably would not throw the ball to him anytime soon.)
They can't feature him one week, keep him bottled up the next week, use him minimally the week after and expect him to be consistent.
The Browns need to figure out how and when to use Hardesty during this bye week.
The Offensive Line
I'm not going to lie, even with all of the hits on Colt McCoy today, I thought the Browns offensive line improved with the addition of Tony Pashos.
I think Pashos really helped what was a flailing right side of the line, and played very nicely for his first game back.
The fact of the matter is, the Browns offensive line still needs help.
Whether it's Pinkston, Lauvao or even Joe Thomas or Alex Mack, something is not clicking with the line. The loss of Eric Steinbach was a big one, and sadly that can't be taken back, but the Browns need to do something or find someone that can help this offensive line.
Colt McCoy was blasted today. Tennessee does have one of, if not the best defense in the NFL, but there is no reason why Colt McCoy needed to take the beating that he did today.
During the bye week, the Browns should take a look at a few different options on the line. Maybe implement Greco, who they traded for, or even Cousins into the line and see if it makes any difference.
Something has to start clicking for this offensive line, and when it does, the Browns offense will become infinitely better.
Colt's Trust in the Receivers
It's obvious Colt McCoy doesn't trust his receivers.
Every time McCoy drops back to pass, he takes the quickest of glances to the outside and immediately comes to the middle to find an open running back or tight end. He doesn't let the receivers routes develop before the ball is out of his hands and into a shorter gain. McCoy;s footwork also shows that he doesn't have any trust in them.
To be honest, he probably shouldn't.
But that's for a different time and place.
McCoy and his receivers need to begin to gel.
You can see it with McCoy and Little. McCoy has a bit more trust in Little for some reason. He can trust that even without the perfect throw, Little can make a play and catch the football.
As for the other receivers, it just isn't there.
Maybe in their time off they need to go to a steak dinner, have a little team bonding. Maybe they need to throw the ball around for a half an hour after practice. Maybe Colt just needs to experiment in practice and see what happens.
Whatever the solution may be, Colt needs to have some trust that his receivers can make plays.
When that happens, it won't take him 40 completions to reach 350 yards through the air.
The bye week needs to be a productive one for the Browns. They need to continue to progress. It's clear that they have made strides, that things are looking in the right direction. Without a single touchdown that caught the Browns off guard, they could very well be a 3-1 football team right now. But that's not the case.
With a good bye week, and some extra time to get ready for Oakland, the Browns could finish over .500 come the postseason.