Cleveland Browns Progress Report: Week 17

Jared Wickerham, AP

We can close the book on the 2016 Cleveland Browns. Thank God.

The Browns lost an overtime “thriller” to a Pittsburgh Steeler team that was resting its star players, which makes this game incredibly tough to evaluate. Did the Browns play a close game against the Steelers because they are improving or because the Steelers were fielding a less-talented squad? The answer is almost certainly the latter, but I do feel like there have been some areas of improvement.

The Browns have locked up the top overall selection in the 2017 NFL Draft and will be able to add an ultra-talented rookie to a team already infused with young talent. However, before we get ourselves ready for the Browns’ version of the Super Bowl, let’s dive into Week 17.

Previous Progress Reports: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, Week 5, Week 6, Week 7, Week 8, Week 9, Week 10, Week 11, Week 12, Week 14, Week 16


Hue Jackson will be absolutely be beaming after seeing the grade in this category. Maurkice Pouncey was the only offensive lineman who was sitting out for the Steelers on Sunday, and his backup, Chris Wallace, is a decent player. Some of these sacks were likely due to quarterback Landry Jones holding the ball too long, but the front seven and blitzing defensive backs were able to get through to pressure Jones regularly.

Christian Kirksey had a huge day with 12 tackles, three tackles for loss, two quarterback hits, and a sack. Kirksey has shown he is more than capable of big efforts like this, but he needs to be able to impose his will on a regular basis. It does seem as though he plays very well next to Jamie Collins.

Expecting a run-heavy game plan, Ray Horton deployed Demario Davis quite a bit on Sunday and Davis responded well with a sack and two tackles for loss. He did have some trouble defending the pass in the second half, which led to some first downs for the Steelers.

Carl Nassib got a free sack when Landry Jones tripped over an offensive lineman’s foot, and Ed Reynolds blitzed to tally another sack for the Browns. The two of them added to an overall quality effort for the team.

Sacks: 4

QB Hits: 7

Tackles for loss: 9

Passes Defensed: 5

Week 17 PRESSURE Grade: 5 (out of 5)



The Browns’ defense had some reasonable success in forcing Landry Jones and the Steelers’ offense off of the field. The Browns were able to win the time of possession battle and only allowed the Steelers to pick up a third down three times in 14 chances. They did, however, allow the Steelers to pick up a first down on both fourth downs they faced.

Third and Fourth Down Conversion Percentage: 31.3 percent

Potential Takeaways: 1

Opponent Time of Possession: 33:09 (out of 72:03)




Robert Griffin III was very successful on his short throws, completing 25-of-28 passes under 10 yards in the air, but he failed to produce the big plays needed to put up big points. Griffin only had one pass play go for 20 or more yards on a fourth quarter completion to Terrelle Pryor, and he threw an interception to Ryan Shazier in the red zone. It was as good of an effort as we have seen from RG3 for the Browns, but it wasn’t quite good enough.

Isaiah Crowell was already having a decent game before breaking off a late 67 yard run. Crowell has looked good this season when he has been given enough carries to prove effective. An early injury to Duke Johnson forced George Atkinson III into action, and he responded well. Atkinson had the Browns’ only rushing touchdown of the day and averaged 4.9 yards per carry.

Overall, the Browns did their damage with the run and basically just got by with the pass.

Plays of 20-plus Yards: 2

Red Zone Conversion Percentage: 50

Yards/Run Play: 7.0

Yards/Pass Plays: 4.7

Week 17 PLAYMAKERS Grade: 3



The offensive line went from astronomically terrible last week to just meagerly terrible this week. Once again, RG3 didn’t put them in the best position either as he was slow to diagnose the defense on a handful of occasions, but the Steelers did seem to get around our offensive linemen pretty easily.

Cam Erving got the start at right tackle, but didn’t fair much better in that position. He split reps with Shon Coleman, who fared well for his first action of the season, particularly in the run game.

Joe Thomas was his usual stellar self and Spencer Drango performed well beside him, but rookie center Anthony Fabiano had himself a rough day. Fabiano was responsible for a snap the blew over the head of Griffin for a turnover, and he allowed at least one of the sacks.

This group is in dire need of an upgrade next season.

Opponent Sacks: 4

Opponent QB Hits: 7

Opponent Tackles for Loss: 8

Week 17 PROTECTION Grade: 1


At times, the last game of the season for the Browns felt like a lesson in futility. Every big play seemed to lead to an immediate penalty or turnover, and you felt like the Browns were exercising futility just by allowing the Steelers to keep the game close in spite of resting their star players. However, the Steelers were still playing some very good players and the Browns had some effective plays against them, so I guess we can give ourselves a high five?

Give your Browns fandom a break for a while. Allow yourself to watch some Cavaliers games and prepare for another great season from the Indians. You deserve to watch some truly great teams. Before you know it, you’ll be plopping down in front of the TV for the 2017 NFL draft, and you’ll be completely refreshed and ready to watch the Browns attempt to build around their young core. I’ll be there too with a craft beer in hand and hope in my soul.

  • JM85

    Happy Hue is back!

  • jpftribe

    Show of hands here, and be honest…..

    After Crow’s fumble how many of you thought there was a legit chance Tomlin would order Landry to kneel in the end zone? I would have taken Vegas odds on it.

  • Sam Gold
  • RGB
  • tigersbrowns2
  • tigersbrowns2

    honestly , i did not think that.

  • tigersbrowns2

    hopefully , we will all look back at this season & laugh as we’re getting ready for a home playoff game in 2019.

  • mgbode

    as a Browns fan, you should know better

  • tigersbrowns2

    good job , PAT … i’m wondering why they waited so long to get Shon Coleman in there … now i’m still wondering if he can do the job at RT or not.

    unless they address C & RT in free-agency , they should draft a C & a RT somewhere in this draft … do you take Cam Robinson at #12 overall if he is still there , or will there still be some starting RT material in the 2nd round ?

  • Sam Gold

    So true.

  • mgbode

    one of weakest OL drafts in recent memory alongside one of strongest FA OL groups

    I vote we spend $$$

  • RGB
  • nj0

    Sorry, Sashi said no. 🙁

  • nj0
  • nj0

    Seriously. It’s called “tempting fate” and if I’ve learned anything during my tenure on this rock hurdling through the void it’s that fate utterly despises the Browns.

  • mgbode

    we’ll see

    Year 1: tear everything apart
    Year 2: start rebuilding

    Not sure why they couldn’t do both, but hey…

  • RGB
  • Garry_Owen

    I bet it has everything to do with timing. If you sign major FAs in the same year that you tear everything apart, then you run the risk of having those contracts (and rookie contracts) expire around the same time, and before your rebuilding plan matures.

  • Jeremy Humbert

    Sooooo Gary… You are saying that they have a vision and a plan? And for it to truly break the cycle of 4 and 5 win seasons that we need to start from scratch, ride the storm, and then invest in long term talent to build a consistent winner? That is a terrible idea, I mean, we only have so much cap space this year because of it (108m est.), there is literally no way we spend any of that money to win games… We should gamble on unproven college talent (Wentz, Trubisky) and hope for the best! AMIRIGHT?
    (btw I believe in the vision and plan and that it is going to work faster than anyone expects)

  • Jeremy Humbert

    Because Harvard… we don’t need any SMART people telling us how to run a FOOTBALL team.. Used to be that we would say things in awe like, “Wow, he is really smart. He went to Harvard.” Now it’s 🙁 “They think they are smarter than us, because they went to Harvard! What egg heads!”

  • Sam Gold

    Just laughed my coffee right out of my nose.

  • Garry_Owen

    You forgot the need to fill Berea with FOOTBALL PEOPLE, because football is the most complicated thing in the universe, which even highly educated people (who coincidentally played football) cannot grasp or understand!

    (In all seriousness, I do think that the FO must be disappointed in this first year, particularly with the performance of their drafted players and their big FA signing (Griffin). But that doesn’t mean that the plan can’t still work. It just took a couple of hits (the biggest related to injuries, unfortunately).)

  • Garry_Owen

    Oh. There it is! You nailed it.

  • Hopwin

    Uh… who is coming together? I thought we were on step -1: tear everything apart followed by step 0: – get everyone. THEN you can move on to everyone coming together.

  • tigersbrowns2

    hi HOP … “coming together” as in i think everyone is on the same page (about the plan) & working together.

    we already did the “tear everything apart” thing … didn’t we ?

  • Pat Leonard

    Exactly. The fact that Andrew Berry and Paul DePodesta played college football doesn’t matter because they did it at Harvard, where college football is played much differently. They wouldn’t be able to grasp football unless confined to that tiny realm.

  • RGB

    Ray Farmer played football.
    Just sayin.

  • Pat Leonard

    It’s a good question. He played pretty well and he’s strong as an ox, so I think he could really help with the running game, but maybe he just can’t be trusted in pass protection? I think that’s the big question is whether he can hold his own in that area. TBD.

  • Garry_Owen

    Thus proving that being a “football guy” is, itself, overrated.

  • RGB

    Football player =/= Football guy 😉

  • jpftribe

    Torn MCL surgery in January, didn’t even practice until August. They were pretty smart not to rush him in, imho.

  • jpftribe

    Hey Pat- Really enjoyed these posts all year. Great stuff. I applaud you and the rest of the crew for watching, re-watching, and re-watching every game this year.

    I was thinking this format should stay fresh throughout the offseason. Maybe a monthly Browns Offseason progress report? I’ve taken the liberty of suggesting some replacement grading scale pics:

    2 Thumbs Up Dee:
    Smile for the cameras and hope Dee:
    “Well this is your job, right?” Dee:
    “Don’t make me clean up this mess again” Dee:
    And finally, “Wait ’til your ass is home.” Dee:

    Again, thanks for the efforts this season.

  • Jeremy Humbert

    Ha! Also, didn’t go to Harvard… should have worked out better. (Though he did have a better first season than the Hawverd guys)