Browns, Cleveland Browns Film Room

Browns Film Room: What are they doing?

The Cleveland Browns are 0-6 and looking worse than last season—which is saying something. The Browns were boat raced out of Texas on Sunday, falling to the Houston Texans, 33-17. The game was not even that close as Cleveland trailed 24-3 at the half. Not much went well for the struggling Browns. The film was not pretty with so many mistakes and just bad overall play by the entire team, players and coaches.

In this week’s Browns film room, we will focus on the plays where I and probably many others were left thinking, “What are they doing.” I narrowed down that long list to six plays from the Browns defense that left me shaking my head.

So with that, pull up a chair, grab your favorite comfort food and let’s take a look at the ugly Browns performance versus the Houston Texans.

Roll the tape.

Q1 13:26- TE Ryan Griffin 18-yard reception

This was another example of the Browns inability to cover a tight end. For this play, the Texans line up in a shotgun formation with an empty backfield after the Texan player motioned out of the backfield. The Browns are trying (and failing) to hide their coverage. The unit decides to blitz both outside linebackers. On the line, the Browns rush three with defensive tackle Danny Shelton, yes Danny Shelton, going back into “coverage”. Behind Shelton, linebacker Joe Schobert is in zone covering the middle of the field. The Browns have two deep safeties, who are pretty much out of the play because of the incredible depth they are lined up at.

The play call by defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is a disaster. This play pretty much leaves three Houston receivers wide open. Shelton dropping back is a waste of a man because he is just standing in the middle of field looking completely lost. Schobert is covering no one, too. He is in zone coverage in the middle of the field, but he is shaded to the side of the field without a pass catcher on the end of the line. The only thing quarterback Deshaun Watson has to do on the play is to quickly make up his mind and complete the wide open pass to any of three open targets. Watson chooses tight end Ryan Griffin, who lined up in the left slot back position. All he does is run a five-yard stick route in the open zone and runs up field for a big 18-yard gain. Schobert is too far to get to Griffin and the safety is too deep to come up in time. This defensive play call was horrible.

Q1 2:07- TE Ryan Griffin 21-yard reception

Hey, look—it’s another play where the Browns are beat by a tight end.

In this play, the Texans line up in a shotgun with a back to his left, three receivers wide and tight end Ryan Griffin on the left end of the line. The Browns defense has one major flaw on this play. It forgets to cover the tight end. Cleveland rushes four on the line, along with both outside linebackers blitzing on both sides of the line. This leaves five defenders to cover five potential pass catchers. But, the Browns back end looked like they were running something completely different from what the front part of the defense was running.

The Browns looked to call for cornerback Jamar Taylor to blitz from the left side of the field, but he was too far away and just decided to stop and cover the running back coming out of the backfield. Safety Jabrill Peppers came up and covered the receiver on the far left. The real mess was with linebacker Joe Schobert and defensive back Briean Boddy-Calhoun. Those two were in position to have to handle tight end Griffin on the left end of the line and the receiver in the right slot. But, neither really did anything to cover either player. Boddy-Calhoun, rather than come up and cover the slot receiver, went back to cover center field. Schobert, rather than shift to the right to cover the tight end, decided to just cover the intermediate middle of the field. Both the slot receiver and Griffin were left wide open and Watson took advantage. Griffin once again ran a five-yard stick route in the open zone and ran down field for a big 21-yard reception. It was another head scratching play call.

Q1 :41- WR Will Fuller 39-yard TD reception

This is yet another play where the defense looked like and were running two different play calls. The Texans are in a shotgun formation with two players to the right of Watson in the backfield and three receivers out wide. The Browns rush four on the play. Houston runs a play action with the main focus on the play being receiver Will Fuller, who is running a corner route to the end zone. The Browns have miscommunication in the secondary, in particular between safety Jabrill Peppers and cornerback Jamar Taylor. Peppers goes immediately back and toward the middle of the field, playing like he was tasked to cover center field. But, that would make Taylor have to cover the deep right side of the field and that does not happen. Taylor stays in the right intermediate zone, leaving Fuller to run right into the gapping hole in the deep right corner.

Following the game, Peppers took blame for this play, saying he and Taylor were in two different coverages.

Q2 4:00 RB D’Onta Foreman 39-yard run

This play was just a recipe for disaster. For this 3rd-and-1 play, the Texans come out in a shotgun formation with running back D’Onta Foreman to the right of Watson, three receivers out wide and a tight end on the left end of the line. The Browns line up with seven in the box, including six defenders along the line of scrimmage. In the secondary, the Browns are in man coverage against the three players out wide and a deep safety playing the “angel” position. The Texans motion the receiver on the left across the formation at the snap, showing some misdirection before Watson hands the ball off to Foreman. With the receiver vacating the left side of the field, the Browns have no one behind the defensive line. This puts pressure on the Browns defenders on the line of scrimmage to win their one-on-one battle.

Without anyone filling in the A or B gap on the left, Foreman is untouched until he is tackled 39 yards down field. The play call set up the Browns defense to fail because it put all the pressure on the line of scrimmage defenders to win immediately. Defensive lineman Larry Ogunjobi beat the left guard, but he did not get there quick enough to make the stop and that is not on him, but the play call.

Q2 3:04- WR Braxton Miller 1-yard TD reception

In this 2nd-and-goal play from the one-yard line, the Texans line up in a shotgun with a running back to the left of Watson, two receivers out wide to the right and two tight ends on the left end of the line. The Browns come out with eight in the box. The culprit on the play here is cornerback Briean Boddy-Calhoun, who is in charge of keeping contain. Houston motions receiver Braxton Miller across the formation to the left. Watson receives the snap and tosses the ball to Miller, while faking the handoff to the running back. Boddy-Calhoun fails at keeping contain on this play. Rather than stay to the outside of his block to force Miller inside, the cornerback tries to slip under his block to get to Miller. He is too late to get to Miller and so he allows the receiver an easy touchdown to his outside.

However, Boddy-Calhoun’s poor decision covered up other mistakes. Had Boddy-Calhoun kept contain and forced Miller inside, it still would have been a touchdown. Prior to the play, there was confusion between linebacker Joe Schobert and defensive lineman Emmanuel Ogbah. Ogbah did not know where to line up and Schobert pushed him to go line up on the other side of the line, but he was late to do it and was pretty much inconsequential during the play because of the confusion. That confusion left one less defender on the left side of the line to defend against the play to the left. Also, linebacker Christian Kirksey was fooled by the fake handoff to the running back, which caused Kirksey to be too late to react to the toss to Miller. His slow reaction left the inside of Boddy-Calhoun wide open for a cut back had Miller needed to.

Q3 6:48- WR Will Fuller 23-yard reception

This final play was another one where the Browns defense was unable to recognize a numbers advantage for Houston. The Texans come out in a shotgun formation with a running back to the right of Watson and four pass catchers out wide. The Texans motion the tight end to the left to have three pass catchers on the left side of the field. The Browns rush five defenders on the play. But, the Browns seem just unfazed by what the Texans are lined up in, especially after the motion. The Texans have three pass catchers on the left side of the field, while the Browns have just one defender over there. It was a simple numbers game that Watson had to read. The young quarterback saw the advantage and threw a quick screen to the left to receiver Will Fuller.

The Browns were not able to touch Fuller until he was tackled 23 yards down field. The Browns lack of awareness was jaw dropping in that they did not see a problem on the left. The cornerback on the right side covering nobody was an example of this lack of awareness.

Highlight of the Game

The highlight of the game versus the Houston Texans is defensive lineman Myles Garrett. Against the Texans, he posted five tackles, two and half tackles for loss, four quarterback hits and a sack. The number one overall pick is among the few bright spots over the past couple weeks. He is already the best defender on the Browns and has drawn the attention of the opposing offense. He will be one of the few players to look forward to for the rest of the season.

Lowlight of the Game

The lowlight of the game versus the Houston Texans was quarterback Kevin Hogan. Against the Texans, he completed 20 of 37 passes for 140 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions. He was just horrible. His accuracy was off all day with many of his passes soaring high above his target. He did not provide any sort improvement from DeShone Kizer and was actually worse than the rookie had been. It was not pretty.

Joe Gilbert’s 2017 Season Film Rooms

Week 1 (Run Game), Week 2 (Ben Watson’s Big Day), Week 3 (Q2 Big Plays vs Colts), Week 4 (Game changing plays vs Bengals), Week 5 (Myles Garrett’s debut)

  • tigersbrowns2

    i have watched every play of every game … one thing i notice is Joe Schobert … he is making a lot of tackles & flying all over the field , but he is really getting abused in the pass game.

  • Chris

    There were immediately three open receivers on that first highlight and two on the second.

  • mgbode

    Sounds like progress.

  • Sam Gold

    “Schobert is covering no one, too. He is in zone coverage in the middle of the field, but he is shaded to the side of the field without a pass catcher on the end of the line.”

    I saw this at least 5 times on Sunday. How can this many experienced coaches be putting such a terrible product on the field 6 weeks in a row? I feel like I’m being punked (age specific reference for all you whippersnappers) . What the hell is going on?

  • Chris
  • Pat Leonard

    Watching that first highlight, it is a complete mess. Schobert is covering #12 in the slot on one side of the line AND Peppers is back deep in coverage over the top on that side of the field . It looks like whoever dropped deep (is that Jamar Taylor?), was faking his deep position and is starting to run forward into coverage even before the snap, but he’s covering two players. He has both the tight end and the RB who has motioned into the slot. Play is doomed from the get-go. He’s so far back, there’s no way he’s getting to the tight end on a stick route, but it’s even worse because he chooses to run at the RB in the slot. If I’m looking for a scapegoat, it might be Joe Schobert. He needs to recognize that they have two defenders for three guys.

  • JM85

    They don’t even know what they’re doing.

  • Chris

    Are these types of pre-snap adjustments that need to be made by a designated player on the field, or is this just an atrociously designed play from the beginning?

  • Pat Leonard

    This is what I’m not sure about… my guess is the defense was designed to have help over the top on one side, so I think it was just a scheme that was destined to fail, if I had to guess.

  • Skulb

    Easy to see what the problem is with the Browns defense I think. They have talent, speed and a potential rush, but they are not communicating. You need a loudmouth at ILB or safety who can get people lined up and in the right call. It may surprise people to learn this, but it is not possible for the defensive coordinator to do this presnap. The players have to do it. Besides, the coordinator isn’t a psychic and has to guess with the coverages. If something changes as the teams line up there has to be someone on the defense that notices and yells it out to the others.

    As for the offense I am almost at the point of recommending hand grenades, if it wasn’t for the fact that I’m pretty sure it would violate NFL rules. But the defense should be fixable with relative ease. I would suggest not shipping out to New England the next verbal leader you luck into in the draft who can play ILB. You never know when you might need him because half the defense is in the wrong coverage.

  • Skulb

    The first line of this statement should qualify as a cry for help. If I could play pan flute music to soothe your nerves right now I would. I’ll have to think of something else.

  • Skulb

    Yes. But covering tight ends is next level stuff. If you avert your eyes momentarily from the annual car crash that is the Cleveland Browns, you’ll find that this is something almost every NFL fan base is whining about. Redskins fans are hysterical because they can never stop Ertz and Eagles fans are hysterical because they can never stop Reed etc. There are about three to four defenses in the NFL that routinely do well against tight ends. Seattle, Denver, Carolina and Buffalo. Even Houston is usually absolutely terrible against tight ends.

    To be realistic I think it would be wise for now to set our sights slightly lower than the elusive unicorn of tight end defending.

  • tigersbrowns2
  • Pat Leonard

    The thing is, when you put your safety back 25-30 yards and blitz linebackers on almost every play, you aren’t going to defend anyone over the middle. Tight ends, running backs, slot receivers, you name it. It’s a feast and just about everyone is invited.

  • tigersbrowns2

    Cody Kessler has climbed from 4th string to 2nd string & is only 1 or 2 bad performances from Kizer from being the starter again … myself , i think the week on the sideline benefits Kizer.

    hmmm … maybe I shouldn’t have said that.

  • Pat Leonard

    I think most of us just needed reassurance that we weren’t missing anything by starting Kizer over Hogan. Turns out we definitely weren’t. Back to Kizer for the rest of the season and just ride the suck until that one glorious game where it subsides.

  • Skulb

    True. But even you had a stamp on the tight end you might lose the matchup there. It’s really difficult to cover these guys. Linebackers are too slow and safeties are too small. Looking around the league, what seems to work best is playing off and then jumping the inevitable pass for a breakup or an interception. But even this is tough because the distance the pass has to travel is typically so short. If the QB and TE are good enough the ball can be rifled in so any DB or LB will be too slow to jump it, leaving the field open for an even bigger gash. Or you could double team him and hope the QB can’t find his deep targets. Another recipe for disaster right there, and almost certainly would have been against Watson.

    If I had a say I’d just tell one player to stick with the TE to at least limit the damage across the middle. It’ll cause disasters elsewhere I suppose, but at least it might not come from the TE. Hooray!

  • Pat Leonard

    If only we had a big, athletic, recently-drafted safety to put down in the box to deal with tight ends.

  • Skulb

    I thought Peppers was playing right guard now…

  • Skulb

    Oh, and I do agree. I just feel that the true problem here isn’t not covering this or that specifically, but the obvious lack of communication. That’s why half of them don’t seem aware of what they are supposed to do. Or indeed whether it’s a run or pass play, which is sort of important to know as early as possible.

    To quote Greg Manusky: “They ended up running something completely different from what I called because DJ Swearinger told them to. But at least they were all running the same call.”

  • tigersbrowns2

    hi PAT … i’m not going to get too excited , especially with the current WR corps … but , let see what Kizer does this week.

  • mddawg

    So the only defender familiar with Williams’ defense is McCourtney? Why didn’t the FO acquire a LB or safety familiar with his scheme who could lead the defense?

  • Skulb

    It’s not Williams’ defense as far as coverage goes. They are playing standard run/pass call sets that they have all been doing since pop warner. Williams picks the players and can tell them to blitz and cook up various ways to hide it, or he can tell them to play off to protect the deep or tight and not give up stuff underneath. That’s it. But DC is the most overrated position in all of sports in my opinion. More often than not the job of defensive coordinator seems to be to confuse the defenders as much as possible with Xes and Os so he can justify making millions pr year being a fat, middle aged cheerleader on an NFL sideline. Good DCs are honest about the superfluous nature of themselves, and are therefore able to explain simple things to players in simple ways. Pretentious DCs feel forced to befuddle people to hide the truth of their existence, and they are therefore never good DCs.

    The real challenge when it comes to coverage is to get 11 people to act in unison, which is typically achieved with on-field leadership. And it’s easier said than done to find someone. Loud is easy and good football IQ is also relatively easy in the NFL. But both at the same time is rare. And when you have one of these players you can even start taking him for granted, or blame him for things when he gets old and slow. But these people should be identified, cherished and preferably stuffed for posterity. They are much more important than the DC, who is basically an ugly round babe.

    Greg Williams.

  • mgbode

    I think you need me to be HC. I would be hilarious in pressers when asked such questions.

    Pool Q: “Should we think about starting Kevin Hogan?”
    Me: “Hogan? Really? The guy didn’t even make it out of Training Camp with the team who drafted him. He is a nice third string backup and we can play some games to get him involved in the run game, but you want me to start him? How about we continue to start the rookie QB who we drafted early and are attempting to see if he can learn to process at the NFL game speed? Will that work for you?”

  • paulbip

    Hogan was playing injured. Our worthless coach should have sit him down.

  • mgbode

    Hogan’s ribs were said to be injured playing for the scout team on Wednesday doing his best Marcus Mariota impression. Try again.

  • jpftribe

    I particularly enjoy the innovative “let’s drop Shelton into coverage”. What could possibly go wrong?

  • jpftribe

    He was so hobbled he was the only player listed on the injury report as a full practice participant.

  • Matt Kav

    Maybe Brown’s should draft a freakishly athletic TE who is also bigger than the LBs who are covering him, and then exploit this automatic mismatch?

  • Sam Gold

    Seriously, what possible rationale could GW defend to explain that “scheme?”

  • Skulb

    They certainly should. It would if nothing else help whoever the Browns are throwing to the wolves at QB any given week. Without Jordan Reed there is no Kirk Cousins in the NFL right now. Without Ertz, Wentz’ life would at the very least be much harder than it is. Or Smith and Kelce in KC. A good pass catching, route running TE can a reliable security blanket for an inexperienced QB.
    If you can find one who can also block well, that would be best though. Reed stinks at blocking and Ertz is average at it. But Kelce and Gronkowski are awesome in the run game as well. But they are really the only two who are great in both aspects of the game. At least that I’m aware of. You want one of those ideally.

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  • Matt Kav

    actually, I think they have one in Njoku. They don’t know how to optimize him yet. Njoku needs to improve his blocking but has the athleticism and size to be dominant.

  • Skulb

    You might be right. Still gotta use him more though.