The Cleveland Browns did not lose in their first game of the 2018 season, but they did not win the game either. The Browns tied the Pittsburgh Steelers, 21-21, in the season opener on Sunday. The offseason saw a huge overhaul of the roster that gave the team a huge makeover. With the overhaul of the roster came hope and optimism. On Sunday, the talent upgrade was definitely noticeable, however, one thing has persisted through the big change of the offseason, coaching problems.
These coaching fails are not just on the shoulders of Browns Head Coach Hue Jackson. The fails can also be assigned to the assistant coaches, like offensive coordinator Todd Haley and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. The biggest examples of the coaching mishaps came in three areas, the management of the offensive line, the number of penalties and the play calling on both sides of the ball.
The handling of the offensive line throughout the offseason and preseason has been a complete mess. With the loss of Joe Thomas, Cleveland tried to land Nate Solder in free agency, but the team did not win the bidding war. Following this miss, it seemed like the Browns had no other plan in place for the left tackle spot. The Browns, throughout the offseason, touted Shon Coleman as the man with the first chance to win the left tackle. This after Coleman struggled last season as the right tackle. But, it took a matter of about a week of training camp for Jackson to scrub that plan and to move left guard Joel Bitonio to the left tackle spot. The Browns then went with rookie Austin Corbett at left guard for the rest of training camp.
However, following the final preseason game, Jackson decided to mix it up again and name undrafted free agent Desmond Harrison the left tackle and move Bitonio back inside to left guard. The Browns never played a preseason snap with that lineup. So, Cleveland went into the season opener with a rookie left tackle and a unit that has never played together. The results were not surprising. The offensive line allowed seven sacks and was unable to support a productive run game. Not counting quarterback Tyrod Taylor’s 77 yards rushing1, the Browns posted 30 carries for 100 yards, which is just a 3.33 yards average. Harrison looked overwhelmed at times and the blocking overall was not good. Much of the failures of the offensive line can be blamed on the decision of Jackson to make Harrison the left tackle and to have a constant revolving offensive line throughout the preseason.
The Browns were also once again very undisciplined as a team, which is a representation of the coaching. Cleveland was called for 11 penalties totaling 87 yards. These penalties included numerous false starts, which are simple penalties that disciplined teams can avoid. The lack of discipline can be blamed squarely on the coaches. As a coach, your first job is to get your team to a level where they concentrate on every single detail of the game. Attention to detail will help your team avoid the small mistakes that can lead to big problems. The Browns struggled to do this in their season opener. They suffered numerous penalties that were easily avoidable.
The last sign of the coaching problems came in the play calling for both offense and defense. On defense, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams called his usual scheme where he over thinks things and puts players in awkward situations. One of the biggest mishaps was the numerous times the play calling called for Myles Garrett, the Browns best pass rusher, to go back into coverage on a passing down. This is simply dumb. Play calling should be called to put the players in their best situation to succeed. Williams on many occasions did not put his defenders in the best position to succeed.
On offense, the play calling by offensive coordinator Todd Haley was so oblivious to the elements of the day. The game was a tough weather day with rain and wind all day. But, the Browns did not try to lean on their run game. Even when quarterback Tyrod Taylor showed that he was struggling in the elements and the offensive line struggling to protect him, the play calling continued to call for passes. The Browns never established the run and for stretches would completely abandon it. The way Cleveland called some of the late fourth quarter and overtime series were some of more head-scratching moments of the game. One of the instances of this came with 1:29 in the fourth quarter. The Browns had the ball with a chance to win the game, but the Browns decided to start the drive with a run play. Yes, it was nice to see them call a run play, but this was not the time. The ball was on Cleveland’s 29-yard line and the team had no timeouts left. This was just one of the plays where the Browns got too fancy.
So, the Browns team is much improved as we all saw in the tie game against Pittsburgh. The talent is definitely better. But, the Browns are still struggling in the same area as last season, coaching. I am just not sure if this can improve with the current coaching staff. But, time will tell.
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