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Scouting the Browns, Part 3


It’s time to continue scouting the Cleveland Browns. I’ve already looked at their their roster, and before that I gave you my notes after watching their game against the Raiders last week. This time, I’d like to show you a play that I think will show you part of the reason the Browns have struggled on offense. Normally this would be part of my “anatomy of a play” series, but it’s not the Seahawks that I’m breaking down on the coach’s tape today.

Here is a play in the 4th Quarter. The Browns are down 24-7 and are desperately trying to pass their way back into the game. They’ve managed to move the football a bit on this drive, but the play I’m going to show you is part of why the drive stalled and the Browns had to settle for a FG. Had they been able to score a TD on this drive, the game might have ended in the very different way.

The Browns are lined up in the shotgun, with 3 WRs. Both the TE and RB are on the same side. The Raiders are going to blitz on the play. You can see 10 Raiders in this view. There’s only 1 safety back. Since the Raiders are in their nickel package, this cover-1 look is a strong indication that a blitz is coming.

Before the snap, the Raiders show that their corner back is blitzing. It’s pretty clear that this isn’t a fake-blitz look, since the SS comes down like he’s going to cover the slot receiver. McCoy does the smart thing, and slides his blocking to that side of the line. This allows his LT to pick up the blitzing corner back.

This is the point where things things go wrong for Cleveland. The Raider’s SS doesn’t cover the slot receiver, but instead also comes on the blitz. It’s a well designed and disguised 2 man blitz from the weak side. Cleveland’s offense makes multiple mistakes in recognizing and dealing with the pressure.

The blitz forces pure man to man coverage underneath the one safety that is deep and off the screen. I’ve indicated in the next pic who is covering who. In this configuration, with both a safety and a corner on the blitz, there is an obvious mismatch. The MLB is matched up on the slot receiver, and isn’t particularly close to him at the snap of the ball. This is where the pass should go.

Here’s that same picture, but there’s a couple of other things I want you to see. First, Colt McCoy first read is to the side of the field that the blitz is coming from. The arrow is pointing where he’s looking, which is right at the blitz.  He should see is coming, and recognize that there’s not enough blockers on that side of the field and get rid of the ball. The other thing is that RB Peyton Hillis has jumped up inside to block no one in particular, and then since he’s not needed to block, release out into a pass pattern. Hillis should have slid over and picked up the blitzing SS, but failed to recognize the blitz.

By this point, the slot receiver has already passed the blitzing safety. There is a rather large window in which McCoy can throw the ball and have it be caught, thought the sooner the better. Ideally he’s letting go of the ball right here, and throwing it with as much zip as he can.

Unfortunately for the Browns, McCoy doesn’t throw the ball there. He moves on to another receiver and seems to be waiting for a longer, and more time consuming route to develop. The problem is that because of the blitz, he simply doesn’t have time The outcome of this play is clearly in focus by this point.

It’s important to note that the offensive line did everything right here. They are supposed to block from the side out, meaning that if there are more pass rushers than blockers, the outside most player is the one that is left unblocked. It’s up to the QB in this situation to recognize the situation and get the ball out of his hands before he gets whacked.

He didn’t, and so he got whacked. I’ll include a pic of that just for your amusement. You might also notice Hillis hasn’t even turned around. He doesn’t know the guy he didn’t block is trying to decapitate his QB.

I’m not meaning to really beat up the Browns here. This is just one of many plays in the game, but it represents what we can expect from the Browns offense this weekend. They have good pass blocking from their offensive line, but their young skill position players continue to make costly mental mistakes.

It’s interesting that the Seahawks also have many young players on offense that have been prone to mistakes, but if manifests itself in an entirely different way. The Seahawks problems have almost all some from the members of the offensive line. The skill position players have played relatively well when given a chance.