Editor’s Note: Apologies for the delay in getting this week’s Winners and Losers out. My Monday was definitely a Monday.
If you’re Myles Garrett, what is going through your head? Not that Texas A&M is exactly immune from losing football games, and that being the potential No. 1 overall pick has some added cachet to it, but say you use this (absurd) four-week break in the college football schedule to start scouting your potential employer… What do you think when you see them getting embarrassed in front of a home crowd that is actually pretty split between home and road fans?
If you scour the other high-drafting teams, there’s something positive you can glean from any of them. The New York Jets are a mess, but their issues are largely on the offensive end, and in addition to—you know—being in New York, you’d get to join a solid front seven. The Los Angeles Rams are a disaster, firing a head coach one week after signing him to a contract extension, but in addition to—you know—being in L.A., the defensive front seven is among the best in the league.1 There are some things you can take away from San Francisco and think it may not be that bad. Jacksonville provides great cornerbacks and a stadium where folks with three percent body fat hang out in an end zone pool. The Panthers, who could pick as high as seventh at this point, are a year removed from the Super Bowl, Chicago is in Chicago, and the Saints are some defensive prowess away from contending. The Browns? Yeah, I got nothing.
The hardest of hardcore believers will tell you cap space and the like should allow for the young players to grow while the team can supplement the rest, when the time comes, with veterans to plug the holes. They’ll bring up Corey Coleman’s numbers and how they could be so much better if his reception rate increased modestly. They’ll mention Terrelle Pyror and/or Jamie Collins and how productive they’ve been (while ignoring their impending free agency). They may even mention how previously unknown guys like Briean Boddy-Calhoun have stepped up in the wake of a horrible, rotten, no-good season. If you’re Myles Garrett2 is any of this enough to make you excited? In other cities, you can slide in as a well-compensated edge rusher whose job is almost exclusively to rush the passer. In Cleveland, you become the face of a defense that, outside of Danny Shelton’s hair, is largely faceless. The spotlight shines bright and the criticism is loud and frequent. Every highly-drafted player has come into Cleveland talking a good game about turning a franchise around and casually dropping in mentions of a Super Bowl, but few truly understand what sort of undertaking that is it and none have actually succeeded.
If you’re Myles Garrett you were a five-star recruit who also happened to be a state qualifier in track and field, the No. 2 recruit in the entire country. It took you all of nine games to break Jadeveon Clowney’s freshman sack record. You were a All-American as a sophomore, and a consensus All-American as a junior. Do you want the odds to be stacked against you right out of the gate? If so, I got just the team for you.
LOSER: Robert Griffin III
When you’re a five-year veteran who earns the top spot in Pro Football Focus’ weekly column surrounding the worst performances on a Sunday, you know you had one hell of a day. In the loss against the Bengals, Griffin completed just 42.9 percent of his passes, managed only 104 yards through the air, and had a passer rating of 38.4. Worse, of those 43 percent that were completed (we’ll round up here), there were just a handful that felt designed in the way of a three- or five-step drop with an immediate release of the ball.
We bagged on Cody Kessler for much of the season due to his desire to hold on to the football for way too long, eventually leading to multiple injuries. Griffin, on Sunday, looked even worse, scrambling around in the backfield and only hitting receivers after they had broken off of their initial route. That’s no way to compete in an NFL game, let alone win one.
LOSER: Hue Jackson
When you have two weeks to prepare for an injury-riddled divisional opponent and you go into halftime down 20-0, your winners/losers categorization writes itself.
As he has for the last three months, Jackson shouldered much of the blame for what took place on Sunday. While it’s tough to fault a guy who’s relying on Robert Griffin III to complete touchdown passes to guys Danny Vitale, we certainly can fault a guy who decides to call a desperation-laced flea-flicker from his own end zone, knowing full well what could go wrong.
A fumbled snap, a botched handoff, a botched flip back to Griffin, or a holding penalty would have all resulted in points for the Cincinnati Bengals. In the grand scheme of things, a punt-like interception was the least impactful of the super bad things that could have actually occurred.
LOSER: Ray Horton
The tight end is a position in the game of football that is oftentimes played by an individual with a larger physical stature than a wide receiver, but somewhat less so when compared to an offensive lineman—Wikipedia categorizes them as a “hybrid.” These tight ends traverse between lining up on the line and off of it. They can be used as additional blockers, or can motion into places like the slot or, when on the line, somewhat closer to the sideline from which they can run various types of routes and become pass-catching options. Some tight ends specialize in one versus the other while others can be used as a running back when a head coach is in a pinch.
Can someone let Ray Horton know this position is also one that also requires defensive attention?
WINNER: J.R. Smith
Cincinnati running back Jeremy Hill has a knack for celebrating touchdowns in ways that get under the skin of opposing fans. As if the standard array of LeBron-based celebrations—The Silencer, a powder toss—weren’t enough, Hill was the one who attempted to jump into the Dawg Pound a few years back, only to be rejected like half-assed lay-up.
Cavs fans should be well-versed in J.R. Smith’s three-point celebrations as they come in all shapes and sizes, but this one from his days with the Knicks is undoubtedly the most popular.
Well, leave it to Hill to pay homage to the Cleveland hero, giving the air guitar threes after his first quarter touchdown.
Congrats to J.R. who has now been elevated into rare air.
WINNER: Isaiah Crowell
Despite being down, the Browns were willing to put the ball in Crow’s hands and he rewarded them handsomely with 115 yards. In a game where the quarterback play was dreadful, and the weather was playing a factor in some of the passing game, having Crowell produce against a team that typically controls the line was very good to see. The trick, of course, will be whether or not Hue Jackson puts the ball in his hands again as he did only have 10 carries.
WINNERS: Emmanuel Ogbah and Cam Johnson
Had it not been for the early 20-point deficit, the pressure applied by the Browns’ edge rushers would have been a substantial, game-long highlight. Emmanuel Ogbah produced two sacks and a QB hit to go along with two hurries while Cam Johnson had a sack and hurry to go along with a tackle and two assists in run defense. While many rookies could be hitting the proverbial wall, it was great to see Ogbah making waves while Johnson’s production was a nice, added bonus.
LOSER: Danny Vitale
I mean, come on.
WINNERS: Joe Thomas, Jonathan Cooper
Thomas yielded nothing in the way of sacks, hits or hurries while Cooper was awesome in run-blocking, being a big reason why Crowell was able to bust a few of those bigger runs.
WINNER: Jamie Collins
Thirteen tackles and a sack is exactly what this team signed up for when they acquired the linebacker from New England. While I wish he would be in coverage more often—you know, maybe on the tight ends?—we could be looking at the anchor of this defense for years to come. This, of course, assumes the Browns don’t botch his impending free agency…
LOSER: Terrelle Pryor
Speaking of… Pryor could be botching his own. One reception for three yards and a whole lot of barking is not a way to win over a front office. There is still no doubt in my mind that this team needs to keep his play-making ability on their roster, but I have a feeling these next few months will be very, very interesting.