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[Grades] Week 2: Colts Vs. Browns


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Check out Coffeedrinker's Things to Watch For thread leading up to Week 2's game vs. the Browns. I'll touch on some things in my grades this week. Let's start with the special teams.

Special teams, C-

Coffee says "Watch to see if they tackle." Well, they didn't. We allowed two more big returns, one a kickoff for 52 yards, another a punt for 43 yards. Aside from those two plays, the coverage was fine, and on the big punt return, our gunners got held up and didn't get downfield fast enough. Still, we've got to stop giving up big returns. If we can't cover them (WHY CAN'T WE COVER THEM???) then either hang the punts up in the air and make the returner fair catch, or kick them out of bounds. On kickoffs, either put the ball out of the endzone (which Pat did a couple of times), or kick it directionally and take away half the field for the returner. It's not that difficult to contain kickoff returns. I can understand a big return here or there, but we've given up four in two games. There's a problem. Rychleski's job is in trouble. The bright side to special teams is that Vinatieri bounced back from an uncharacteristic miss last week, and went 4/4, including a 52 yarder. There's still life left in that leg. Just fix the coverage, and we'll be okay. Nice tackle by Terrence Johnson. That's what he's here for. I don't even expect anything from our returners, so Lefeged with a 32 yarder is like gravy on top of runny mashed potatoes.

Offense, C-: 285 yards total yards, 4.3 yards/play, 19 first downs (12 passing, 6 rushing, 1 penalty), 4/14 on third down, 2 turnovers, still lost time of possession

Offensive line/blocking -- Much better performance than last week, but still some problems. Not nine or ten mistakes like last week, but between the false start and the few times blockers just plain got beat or overpowered, we could still stand to clean it up a bit. We were able to get our backs 25 carries, with a very acceptable 4.3ypc average, but there were still a number of runs for no gains and even losses. Saturday sometimes looks like he's running on fumes, and for an offensive line with several question marks, he might be the biggest one. I'm still not concerned with the blind side. AC/Reitz look nice together. The injury to Diem could have been problematic, but Pollak came in and teamed with Linkenbach for a couple nice run blocks to spring good games on the right side. We're still inconsistent in short yardage, but this was a much better effort than last week. We even looked dominant on a couple of run plays. Long way to go yet... Also, the pass blocking seemed to be better, but I think the big difference was that the quarterback was more decisive and more aware of the pressure. More on that later... C

Backs/receivers -- Still the bright spot for our offense right now. I'm excited about the potential for our line, but our skill guys are pros. Reggie and Dallas did what they have always done, which is get open and catch passes, and our two-headed rushing attack is showing that they'll produce on the ground. Throw Joe the ball four times, he gives you four receptions. Plus, he and Carter had long runs of 15 and 18 yards respectively. Plus a couple other strong runs a piece. Minimize the mistakes that lead to no-gain runs, and keep giving them the ball, and we can have a few more 100+ yard rushing days. And we're going to need that this year to have even an outside chance at winning some games. One concern is that Collie can't get in the mix. Ten targets, three catches. Not really his fault, but we have to get production out of our slot receiver. B-

Quarterback -- I'm of two minds on this. He obviously started this game out much better than he did last week, and we even went with some no-huddle, so he's getting more familiar with the offense and gaining some chemistry with his receivers. He also looked more decisive and quicker to get rid of the ball, partly due to fewer mistakes by the offensive line, but also due to his identifying pressures before the snap and throwing hot. The problem is that his throws were erratic, at best. He'd rope a throw between two defenders 20 yards downfield, and then he'd throw the ball half a yard behind another receiver on a quick slant. Feast or famine. At one point, I think he had a 1/9 stretch in the second half, when we couldn't get anything going offensively. I don't understand why we didn't pare our plays down at that point and go with some high percentage throws to give our receivers a chance to make something happen. And then the interception, which was inexplicable from a decision-making standpoint. And another lost fumble, primarily because he held the ball too long and got caught with one hand on it when the pressure got there. I can understand getting sacked, but I don't think that everytime you get sacked you have to cough the football up. Just secure the football. I'm inclined to cut Collins some slack, because he's in a rough situation. But the rest of the offense is doing their job right now. You've got to step up. C-

Defense, C+: 27 points, 303 yards, 4.5 yards/play, 18 first downs (9 passing, 8 rushing, 1 penalty), 8/16 on third down, 1/1 on fourth down; this was a good up until Hillis' second touchdown

Defensive line -- Again, a pretty good performance by the line in this one. Aside from one carry, we kept Hillis bottled up nicely, even though he broke a ton of tackles. He's 250 pounds, that's what he gets paid to do. And we just don't have a lot of punishing tacklers, especially at linebacker, so that's what happens sometimes. Up until the 24 yard touchdown run, Hillis was averaging 2.7ypc. And a lot of that was after first contact. The big run wasn't the line's fault, either. More on that later. Mookie played a better game, Nevis was very disruptive, and while you didn't see a lot of Moala, he controlled his gap all day long, as did pretty much all of our linemen. In the passing game, Pat Shurmur and Colt McCoy found out right away that they better do something to neutralize the pass rush, and after Freeney's sack, there weren't a lot of opportunities for significant pressure. McCoy got rid of it quick, they moved him around, etc., much like the Texans have been doing with Matt Schaub for two years. The difference is that their bootleg game wasn't as effective because we did a better job controlling their running backs. When I see Eric Foster jump offsides and change the complexion of a possession, it makes me wish we had kept Tommie Harris instead. But for the most part, the defensive line did a fine job. Just need to tackle better. B-

Linebackers -- This unit is getting better. It might sound like heresy, but Angerer looks better in the middle than Brackett. Conner does his job in the run game, though he's a liability against the pass. Wheeler even looked decent in his action, although we seemed to go nickel a little bit more to take him off the field. I think the reason for that is because our corps struggles in pass coverage, especially with Brackett on the sideline. Still, a few more games under their belts (and it sounds like Brackett and Sims will be out for a while), and I think some of those coverage deficiencies start to go away. In the meantime, we can't keep letting teams put on zone-beater pass plays for short catches and decent yards after the catch, especially on routes that our offense has perfected over the years. The Browns ran the same crossing patterns Manning and the receivers have made popular, and ran them all game, with virtually no counter from our defense. Between the linebackers, the secondary, and the coaching philosophy, there are problems in pass coverage that are going to be exploited all year long. Can't let mediocre quarterbacks complete 69% of their passes against us. The corps is very much a work in progress. C

Secondary -- It's becoming more and more difficult to grade the secondary. What do you expect from them? We give up cushions, and the quarterback completes short throws. It's that simple. We did a much better job tackling after the catch than we usually do, and Lacey and Powers even got some hits on the running back that were worthy of recognition. But the complaint stays the same. If we play off the receivers, we allow the offense to neutralize our pass rush with quick throws. We don't have press cover corners, but we can get a little more engaged on the outside and make the quarterback actually go through a progression once in a while. This is mostly a coaching complaint, so forgive me. The corners did a fine job, given their assignments. The safeties were again very active in both phases. Most of McCoy's 22 completions were against soft coverage over the middle. Jerraud made a mistake on the motion reception to Cribbs, and the touchdown to the tight end looked like someone was late getting over, but other than that, not much to complain about. We've just got to put them in better position to make plays on receivers. The major complaint is the touchdown run by Hillis, when Bullitt overcommitted to the inside and then let Hillis run through an arm tackle for the score. We contained perfectly on that play, and one guy made a minor mistake that turned into a major game changer. Stay in your lanes. C+

Coaching, C-

I have to give all the coaches credit on two fronts: 1) We didn't panic after a bad loss in Houston and get radical, changing a bunch of things that didn't need to be changed; 2) we identified a few areas that we needed to make adjustments in, and did so right from the start of the game. We gave Collins a game plan that he felt comfortable with, and he came out and looked like he would actually be okay in this game. We helped him identify pressures before the snap. We went with more two tight end sets, even in passing situations. Gave him a little play-action. The problem there is that we didn't adjust when he started to get shaky, and the next thing you know, our offense has completely shut down because he can't complete a pass or generate a first down, and now the Browns are blitzing like there's no tomorrow. Good initial plan, slow to make adjustments thereafter. And on defense, I said last week that we didn't really need to do anything different scheme-wise, just tackle better. The only issue I have with the scheme is the cushion on the outside, and we didn't play off as much this week as we did last week, though we still play off too often for my liking. We're still going to have to do something about special teams coverage. If you have a glaring weakness, like we do, the coaches have to find a way to cover that weakness. And I'm not talking about just kicking the ball out of bounds every time. We've got to put our coverage units in better situations. The blown punt coverage in the second half led directly to the game-clinching touchdown run. Cover better, and maybe we win this game. Caldwell does a good job with challenges, but I wouldn't have challenged the play he did, as the result of the play was a difference of two yards on 3rd down, and we gave up the first down anyway. If the two yard difference is going to change your defensive play call, then great. But we went with the same soft coverage we always go to on third and medium. And then he missed a great opportunity to challenge on a first down catch later in the game. Maybe Tressel would have helped on that one. Lastly, I liked the switch-a-roo on the onside attempt, but McAfee mis-hit the ball and put it right in Cribbs hands. So, some negative, some positive, plenty of room for improvement. Still, the problem this team has isn't a coaching problem. We've got to make the routine plays that mean the difference between winning and losing.

Again, we gave this game away with a few missed assignments, missed tackles, etc. And we still had an outside chance of getting the ball back with a chance to tie at the end. More than ever, we have to be perfect with those little things. We don't have #18 to erase mistakes. We don't have Bob Sanders to clean up a blown tackle. We don't even have Gary Brackett to get his hands on a couple of low throws over the middle. We have to tackle better. We have to get down the field on punts and kickoffs. We have to make routine throws and establish offensive momentum. We have to convert in short yardage. We have to score touchdowns in the redzone. Moderate improvement in those aspects, and we could win a few games here and there. We're not going to win 9 or 10 games and make the playoffs, but I still see room for optimism.

Next up, the defending AFC Champion Pittsburgh Steelers. Sunday Night. Have fun at LOS.

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Very nice and detailed write up. :)

As far as the LB's go, I think our existing problems are 75% coaching and 25% players. Isn't Moten supposed to be more of a coverage LB? If so maybe they need to bring him in more often on longer yardage plays instead of Conner. I agree fully with you though about Angerer...I think he and Mookie Johnson had great games...all things considered. It was so nice seeing a big DT moving the pocket and getting pressure on the QB. If McCoy isn't as mobile and elusive as he is, Mookie might have had 2 sacks.

As for the secondary I'd say its 50/50 and both coach and players share equal blame.

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We have to convert in short yardage. We have to score touchdowns in the redzone.

These are the two keys, I think. Especially the redzone offense. It's like what we try to do to teams happened to us, the Browns bent but didn't break and we had 4 FGs off of nice looking drives.

Not going to win with that.

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Your grades are too generous. Losing at home to the Browns (decisively) places you in the D to F range.

I don't care to have my grades reflect the final score or the nature of the game. I grade each unit based on how they perform, and come up with the aggregate grade. Everyone knows we lost at home to the Browns. No need to convey that in the grades.

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I don't care to have my grades reflect the final score or the nature of the game. I grade each unit based on how they perform, and come up with the aggregate grade. Everyone knows we lost at home to the Browns. No need to convey that in the grades.

Which is the way it should be. I'd personally have given the LB's a higher grade than the DB's though, unless you decided to further split secondary into Corners and Safeties and grade them individually...of course then why not grade each player individually...but you gotta draw the line somewhere. lol

I also agree with the coaching grades...I would personally give the offensive coaches a B to B- grade and the defensive coaches D+ to C-. Overall it'd come close to the C- overall you gave.


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