Saturday, August 23, 2014

Browns Get Beat Up by St Louis, 33-14

      The Browns disappointed the home crowd, losing to the Rams 33 to 14.  They were totally outclassed by the up-and-coming Rams on both sides of the ball. The Rams defense pushed the Browns around on the line of scrimmage and did whatever they pleased on offense.  

     Brian Hoyer had a touchdown, an interception and a fumble.   He was not very good, but significantly improved over his antichrist-like performances of the first two exhibition games.  Johnny Manziel likewise was much better in this game than the previous two,  rushing for another score.
Brian Hoyer was much better than in the first two games, but still underachieved.  

     The running game was pathetically weak, gaining a grand total of 32 yards for the game. That is awful.   Nobody looked good, and the offensive line forgot how to block.  In particular I was disappointed  by hotshot rookie Terrance West.  Instead of the one-cut style that the Shanahan offense is famous for, West likes to tiptoe up to the line, and then start shifting left and right, almost like he is waiting for someone to tackle him. That style doesn't seem to work.  Can Shanahan get him fixed in time for the September 7 opener?    Likewise Tate was terrible, as the entire team averaged 2.1 yards per carry.  Can we have Willis McGahee back?  He at least rushed for 2.7 yards per carry last year.   The presence of a fullback plus blocking tight end Jim Dray was supposed to help the running game, but it was not evidenced today.   If there is a positive note, it would be the play of rookie Joel Bitonio, who continues to be rock solid at left guard.  Hint:  let's run left this year.  

    The Browns defense was equally terrible, being unable to stop the Rams on third down, and giving up nearly 500 yards of total offense, even though star QB Sam Bradford had to leave with a knee injury early on.  

   Although the Browns were terrible on both sides of the ball, the Rams are one of the top teams in the league, and they may make a lot of teams look terrible.  The Rams did not draft Robert Griffin III in 2012, and instead traded for several draft picks, who are now on the team (hello lineman Greg Robinson, 2nd overall pick this year).  Also, a partial explanation for the Browns' miserable performance was a rash of injuries in the secondary.  The Browns were without cornerbacks Joe Haden, Buster Skrine, Marcus Trufant and Pierre Desir. That's four of their five top cornerbacks.  Leon McFadden, probably the sixth best qb on the team, was torched pretty well by St Louis. I'm not sure if he will make the final team.  If the Browns have fewer than four guys out of the lineup, the secondary may be a LOT better.

   Christian Kirksey had a good game at inside linebacker, and made a fantastic pick.  He does not look like a rookie.  Pass coverage was a problem area for the Browns linebacker corps last year, and Kirksey goes a long way to fixing that problem.  I think he will start and be an impact player.  

    I noted that Ray Agnew started at fullback. The running game did not exactly hum when he was in, but on the other hand MarQueis Gray contributed a costly and unnecessary holding penalty.  Gray has made some big plays so far, but also some bad plays.  But what the Browns really need is a guy who can block for the halfback.  

    In short, this was a terrible game, and the Browns looked uninspired on both sides of the ball.  They still have time to turn it around, but they need to get it together soon.  

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