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.
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.
QB Hits: 7
Tackles for loss: 9
Passes Defensed: 5
Week 17 PRESSURE Grade: 5 (out of 5)
GETTING OFF THE FIELD
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)
Week 17 GETTING OFF THE FIELD Grade: 3
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.