Cleveland Browns Film Room: Week 8 Pass Protection or Have a Little Help From My Friends?

Each week Almost nearly each week this season, we’ll take a seat in our very own WFNY Browns film room and break down a little tape from the previous week.  Do enjoy.

Whole lotta people questioning the pass protection this week. From our own Scott to LeCharles Bentley, to Daniel Wolf from National Football Authority, questions are being asked. And with good reason. Colt McCoy has been beaten to a pulp the last few weeks. It really is surprising that he hasn’t gotten hurt.

Sacked 4 times, and hit countless others against the Texans, it made me wonder what was going on. Then I hear Pat Shurmur say in Monday’s press conference that the Texans only brought more rushers than the Browns had blockers once. Is that possible?, I thought out loud. It seemed the Texans were bringing 15 people on every snap. Well, the tape doesn’t lie. And Shurmur was most certainly correct, the Texans didn’t bring more rushers than the Browns had blockers on every pass. It just seemed that way.

The Texans play a base 3-4 defense. Browns fans should be fairly familiar with the concept. Unlike the Browns of the past few years, the Texans choose to rush more than 1 linebacker quite frequently, or at least they did on Sunday.

Houston rushed just their down 3 linemen twice on Sunday. Once was a prevent type defense on a third and 15 towards the end of the first half, and the second on a rare first down pass by the Browns. (Ironically, the second 3 person rush resulted in a forced McCoy scramble.) The Texans brought 4 rushers on 6 of the Browns’ pass plays, 5 rushers on 8 pass plays, and 6 rushers on 13 (!) designed pass plays. That’s a lot of blitzing Batman. But given the Browns’ difficulty in picking up these blitzes, wouldn’t you?

Here are some interesting numbers for you. On plays in which there was no significant pressure (I watched each play and analyzed, you’ll either have to take my word or not) Colt McCoy completed 13 of 19 passes for 122 yards, with a touchdown and an interception. (The pick was the Greg Little miscommunication at the end of the first half.)

That means that on 10 of the Browns’ 29 designed pass plays, or roughly one third, Colt McCoy had what I would call significant pressure. (For those interested, I did not count screen plays as significant pressure, since those are plays designed to have some pressure.)

Let’s go to the tape.

Here we have the Browns double tight end formation, with McCoy under center and a back behind him. (Sidenote, is that the best we can do on third and 11?) The Texans will bring 6 on this play. Notice the safety sprinting towards the line of scrimmage? Ogbonnaya sure doesn’t. In fact, I have no idea what he’s thinking on this play. Given the inside linebacker’s position on the left side of the offense, you would think he might look to that side first to help with protection.

Instead, he gets the best view in the house of a collision. Could McCoy have seen the safety coming and delivered the ball to a ‘hot’ receiver? Sure, take your pick of a Tight End at the top of the screen (at the line of scrimmage) or the bottom (also at the line of scrimmage) for a 1 or 2 yard gain on 3rd and 11. Not a well designed or executed play. Let’s try another one.

Third and 2, shotgun formation with 1 TE , 3 WR and a RB. Presnap you have to assume that all 5 men at the line of scrimmage are rushing the passer, and they do. Additionally, the safety in the middle of the hashmarks is going to come as well.

McCoy knows Watson is not going to block the LB lined up outside of him, as he is in the pattern. Pashos, can’t get to that LB either, because the DE is lined up on his outside shoulder and rushing inside. The nosetackle goes straight for Lauvao at RG. So here is what should have happened. The back (Ogbonnaya) should have moved to the opposite side to pick up the outside linebacker. Between Mack, Lauvao and Pinkston, the nose tackle and inside LB on the O-Line’s left side should have been picked up, leaving one to deal with the remaining blitzer. Instead, the back locks on the safety and waits for him to arrive, while McCoy is left to deal with an untouched LB.

Had that happened, McCoy is able to hit Josh Cribbs on the slant for a first down. You have to figure McCoy wasn’t sure what that safety was going to do, and so he wasn’t looking for Cribbs as his primary because that safety was right where Cribbs was running to. However, if he moves the back over to his right presnap, he gets more time to see what was happening on his left. Again, he knew Watson wasn’t going to block and there was going to be a problem on that side. Bad read.

Here we go again. Third down and 5, double tight end, 2 WR set with a back. The Texans are going to bring 6, including the LB leaning towards the line of scrimmage right behind the d-line. And just so you don’t think I’m picking on Ogbonnaya, this time it’s Clayton in the backfield. In your presnap read, you have to assume all 5 on the line of scrimmage are coming (safe assumption in this game by the way, only twice did the Texans run a zone blitz pulling someone from that line) and look for signs that anyone else might be blitzing. The closest other player to the line of scrimmage is on the offense’s left side.

Naturally, Clayton goes right. Amazingly, McCoy gets this pass off and it is complete to Greg Little for 24 yards. It really wasn’t a good pass. McCoy really just threw it up for grabs where he thought Little might be. Good play by Little to go up and get it. When the defense is bringing 6 rushers, there can’t be a player not blocking anyone. Can’t happen.

One more. This time the Browns have a Tight End on the right, with a WR split out wide both right and left. Then they stack 2 receivers on the right behind the TE. Do your presnap read. See that LB leaning forward at the line of scrimmage outside of the TE on the right? Who exactly do you think is going to block him? All three of those receivers are going out. Do you think Pashos is going to get to him? With a player lined up on his nose, you really can’t even ask him to block anyone else, unless that down lineman stunts inside, which he doesn’t. Do you see the confusion between the offensive linemen here? You also have to be concerned about the LB stacked behind the DE blitzing. That’s what Alex Mack seems to be pointing at, telling Lauvao to watch for him. If I’m McCoy here, I consider using a timeout or audibling or something.

The Texans only bring 5 on this play, as the stacked LB covers the TE. See that rusher coming free at the top of the screen? He is going to miss McCoy on this play, and McCoy will scramble for a couple yards. One of those three receivers on the right side of the formation should have been a hot route to the flats.

Now, these are just examples of mental breakdowns or poor design. You will always have physical break downs, when a guy just gets beat. The Browns had a few of those Sunday as well. By my calculations, the most pressure came against the right tackle. Both Lauvao and Pinkston allowed a couple of defenders by as well. Joe Thomas was victimized once. With the amount of times the Texans brought blitzes equal to the number of blockers, I am actually surprised the unit didn’t give up more pressure. The Browns have to do better at dialing up plays to beat the blitz. The few screen passes they ran worked very well. Whatever the solution is, they better find it quickly.

  • Eric G

    I love these. Keep up the good work

  • ben

    This was a good read; unlike the reads Colt made in some of your examples.

  • LB was spot on about the two-TE formations. The extra blockers are only good if they’re blocking.

    What the heck is Thomas Clayton doing on that play? Helping Pashos double? Good lord.

  • Harv 21

    These I can devour daily. Thanks, Rick.

    So, what were did make the RBs look exactly the opposite direction of where the defense was stacked? They didn’t appear to be starting to circle as a safety valve.

  • Harv I think that’s what Thomas had in his mind. I think he planned on helping Pashos with a chip and then slipping out into the flats.

    That certainly wasn’t the right read, but it sure sounds better than him doing absolutely nothing.

    It also is worth mentioning that these two running backs were not with the team during camp.

  • RyInCBus

    Yeah, this is pretty much what you get with a young QB, a rookie HC, a patchwork O-line and two guys that have no business being starting running backs in the NFL. Like Rick said, its amazing the Texans didn’t tear Colt into thirty pieces.

  • ben

    oh and…FIRE PAT SHUMUR derp

  • you forgot that “he’s a clown.”

  • Derek

    I may be nitpicking but is it too much to ask for Alex Smith to get off the ball with the rest of the offense in the first shot.

  • Firstly: LOVE these.

    OK – so what do we as fans take from this?

    Correct me if I’m wrong on these (mildly opinionated) guesses:

    * That the playcalling really isn’t as bad as it seems

    * That said, it makes little to no sense to have both TEs run 1-yard outs on 3rd-and-long instead of helping to block – either send them out for real or keep them to block

    * That McCoy would be substantially better (as many think already) if they could only block for him

    * That Owen Marecic should be considered over RBs who’ve just joined the team when it comes to blocking on obvious passing downs, since he’s a “pass-catching” FB who also played LB and may make much better reads

    * That Colt cannot rely on his line and RBs to make the right reads on their own, and needs to either confirm they see what he does (assuming he does) or, in the goal line example, audible out

    * That we will be eternally teased, knowing that what the Browns need to fix is correctable and they’re just an “if they can do this…” away from competing

    What am I missing?

    On the flip side of that last one, can anyone figure out how they will fix the rush D, when overall everyone in that front 7 is reasonably well regarded, particularly on passing downs, but yet they can’t seem to stop a runner from going at least 6 yards on a carry? I’m sure Sheard and Taylor will improve, but how much of an impact will that really have?

  • mgbode

    I would love to know how much of this was on Alex Mack not calling out the proper OL assignments, how much was on the OL not executing their assignments, and how much was just design breakdowns.

    it sure looks bad above for the RBs, but I am pretty sure that is expected for 2 guys who have been on the team less than 3 weeks (combined tenure)

    where is Marecic? he’s a fullback who can catch right? he should know our protection schemes by now, he should be a better blocker, and we drafted him for his receiving skills as well. so, where is he on these plays?

  • mgbode

    @Ezzie – you beat me to it on marecic among other things in your post. good one.

  • mgbode

    also, on the run defense point, I think we have 2 glaring weaknesses

    1. backside DEs (non Sheard) have been getting blown off the LOS creating lanes.

    2. DQ is our only starting caliber LB. Gocong had a nice couple weeks early, but he’s not good enough. And Fujita apparently retired after last season (I hate typing that but he’s been bad). Even if we just replace Fujita with a top-tier LB, and find a stop-gap weakside DE, it would have a huge affect on our run defense (IMO)

  • Ezzie, some pretty solid conclusions in there imo.

    Marecic would be better at picking up blitzes I would have to imagine, however you are completely telegraphing your intent to throw by bringing him in there I would assume.

    I believe McCoy, when given adequate protection can make the throws he has to to be successful.

    I also believe that some of these protection break downs could be relieved by McCoy himself. If I wasn’t certain my back knew exactly where to look for a blitz I’d make sure to tell him or point or shove him to the right side if I was playing QB. And these are the areas we kind of expected McCoy to be ahead of the game in.

  • mgbode- couldn’t agree with you more on Fujita. Not sure what is going on with him this year.

  • Lyon

    i love the shot of both TEs going out for 1 yd routes on 3rd & 11. Also love that Colt’s under center on 3rd & long but Shotgun on 3rd & 2. Makes sense

  • Lyon

    good point on Colt moving the back Rick. I’ve seen QBs do this countless times, especially when it is a back that is new to the system. Nothing wrong with Colt physically moving Obi to the correct side to prevent him from getting knocked on his arse.

  • BrownsFanSF

    I completely agree with you guys about Colt not making pre-snap reads and shifting protections to give himself more time. Especially with the backs clearly not knowing the protection scheme.

    However, we also need to remember that not only is Colt a second year player, but also learning his second offense in as many years (without an off season). Colt is a sharp guy with leadership out the wazoo… but the kid is still trying to figure out the Quarterback stuff he needs to read at the line of scrimmage. It is pretty harsh to expect a second year player to be able to make all the reads a QB should be making at the line of scrimmage and also deal with all the mis-reads from sub-par WRs, RBs, TEs and 3/5ths of your o-line.

    Also on the third and 11 play with the 2 yard outs: What’s not to say those are mis-reads by the tight ends. Remember in the NFL wideouts and TEs have to read coverages too. Just take a look at that Colt pick, Little blew that one not Colt

  • christopher

    many of you know from the live game feeds that i go nuts on the 3rd and long with McCoy under center and I’m going to do it again…..WHY IS MCCOY UNDER CENTER WITH TE’s RUNNING 1 YARD CURLS ON 3RD AND LONG?!?!?!?!

    as a sidenote: WHY IS MCCOY IN SHOTGUN FORMATION ON 3RD AND @?!?!?!?

    i feel like i am taking crazy pills!

    on a side-sidenote: once again Rick wonderful breakdown and i agree with Harv that i could see one of these posts a day.

  • Dave K

    With a line and backs this bad, I don’t know as there’s much McCoy can do. Heck, I don’t know as there’s much an in-his-prime Bernie Kosar could do. He can bark out more orders from the line of scrimmage, I guess, but Peyton Hillis or Joe Thomas or Alex Mack know what they need to do and do it, whereas our 4th and 5th backs obviously don’t.

  • Vengeful Pat

    Good stuff Rick. Looks like Shurmur is just trying to be too tricky. It’s okay to telegraph a pass on 3rd and 11 by lining up in the shotgun and bringing in Marecic to protect. Only a moron would think our running backs could run 11 yards for a first down. Likewise, Shurmur’s not tricking anyone by curling the tight ends for 1 yard passes. Have them chip and then run to the first down line if you want to space out arrival times, but you have to run patterns to the first down line on 3rd down, or at least ensure your back/receiver will get the ball in space on a screen to make a play. But I mean it’s obviously not just Shurmur. The backs missed reads. McCoy missed reads. There don’t seem to be any hot routes. Lots of negatives from that game.

  • gren

    This was fantastic Rick. I liked all the other film breakdowns but, this one I just loved. The pre-snap reads that should be made are astounding.

  • Make no mistake, there are way more pre-snap reads for McCoy on every play. He has to try and figure out what kind of coverage the secondary is playing as well. I get your point BrownsfanSF about being young, but these are the kinds of reads that I would expect McCoy to be ready for. Perhaps I am expecting too much.

  • And thanks again for your encouragement on these. There is no way I could do these daily though. Unless of course you wanted to start paying me to stay home and devour tape all day!

  • David

    I think Hicks is the right tackle on the last frame, not Pashos — but great work. Enjoyed it to the fullest.

  • Matt

    Rick, like everyone else here I really appreciate these breakdowns. Just a great job.

    Even better than posting them here, though, would be on the sidelines going through these on Sundays.

  • Foghorn Leghorn

    Well done Rick. I found this one to be the most informative. It seems like Colt, the RBs, and Shurmur should share the blame on almost all of these. It is at least inspiring to know that Colt is decent with time in the backfield. Get him a stud RT, get the RBs in the film room, and get a little more creative with the TEs and use more shotgun and we MIGHT have a chance to score more than 10 points!

  • -bobby-

    Why do we have Alex Smith playing more snaps then Evan Moore? Dont tell me its bc hes a better blocker- this breakdown just showed you we dont keep TEs in to block. If we are truly trying to give McCoy the best opportunity to succeed, leave a TE outside of Pashos, or put Moore in the game. How many 3rd down plays that moore was in did he get the pass?

  • Thank you, Rick … it’s so nice to read some good sports journalism about the Browns. It’d be fantastic if the Plain Dealer (etc.) took notice … their endless TMZ-style drivel is inane, destructive, and ultimate dumbs down our fans. Your writing, Rick, is insightful, constructive, and helps all of us understand what we’re watching so much more. Thanks!

  • Thanks again Matt, Foghorn and Lance. It makes it worth it to hear that you enjoy these.