Just what are the Browns at the bye?

What exactly are the Cleveland Browns?

There are times such as Monday night that the Cleveland Browns look like they are a complete unit and play competitively against any team in the league. There are other games which they appear to be outmatched and outcoached with no business being on the field. This high level of variance makes evaluating this team particularly difficult.

Offense

Offensively they have shown to be an efficient unit that can put up points. Cleveland’s 25 points per game is tied for sixth in the league as their rushing attack ranks third (164.6 YPG) and passing game is 19th (221.1 YPG).

The Browns offense was the side of the ball that most were concerned with coming into the season. This was due to having Deshaun Watson suspended for 11 games and having to roll with Jacoby Brissett as their quarterback. Brissett has performed admirably and given Cleveland plenty of opportunities to win games, even with his tendency to have the occasional cringeworthy play.

Luckily this side of the ball features the NFL’s best running back in Nick Chubb. Chubb leads the league in rushing (841 yards), rushing touchdowns (10), and rushes for 20 or more yards (9). If Cleveland is going to somehow remain relevant this season it will have to be on the back of Chubb.

Also helping their cause is the performance of Amari Cooper. Cooper has been better than anyone could have imagined with 39 receptions for 553 yards and five touchdowns. Currently Cooper is on pace to have one on his better seasons. If he is able to continue at his current pace Cooper would finish with 83 receptions for 1,174.7 yards, and 11 touchdowns, a new high for touchdowns by three.

Cleveland’s offensive performance week in and week out is far from the biggest issue here. While game plan can be questionable at times, it has largely been successful.

Defense

This is where things turn sour. The Browns defense is allowing 24.9 points per game which is the sixth-most in the league. While it is just under Cleveland’s offensive output average, that is due to a couple lopsided games (both ways) and four of their five losses coming by just nine points. The yards per game departments do not appear to be all that bad, 331.4 total (12th-fewest), 208.3 passing (12th-fewest), and 123.1 rushing (13th-most), this is a case of yards per game numbers not telling the whole story.

There are plenty of marquee names on this defense and on paper they look to be one of the better teams in the league there are clear issues. The names on the Browns defense suggest it should be a better unit, but they have usually been a disappointment this season. Blame falls on multiple fronts here. From Andrew Berry to Joe Woods to the players themselves. Berry did not address the defensive interior in an adequate manner. Woods’ scheme and coaching has been a disaster. The players have blown coverages and appear lost on a near weekly basis. This is a problem and will continue to be until it is addressed in an adequate manner.

The only saving grace for this side of the ball is Myles Garrett. Garrett’s 7.5 sacks is fifth in the league, and eight tackles for loss ranks fourth. The performance of Garrett each and every week keeps this Cleveland defense from being completely useless.

Special teams

The Brown special teams continue to be less than special. Penalties at crucial times, blocked/tipped kicks, and bad decisions in the return game have been Mike Preifer’s calling card. To be blunt Priefer is bad at his job and should no longer be employed.

Coaching

This is where things get tricky. Kevin Stefanski is an excellent play and scheme designer. Play-calling is certainly above average. This may not be the most popular statement, but in game decision making and overall management of the game is incredibly average. There are times when it appears that Stefanski just lacks a feel for the game. With the way the Browns go about their business feel is not something that will be taken into account very often. The result is a lot of advanced metrics that absolutely love their decision making even though it can be questionable at times. Overall Stefanski appears to be a solid coach with areas he is strong in and others that need improvement.

Outlook

Cleveland is 3-5 and have three tough games on their schedule following their bye. The Browns will take on Miami and Buffalo on the road before coming home to face Tampa Bay. These are not games that Cleveland should be favored in and for good reason. These are clearly superior opponents who will likely give the Browns more than they can handle. Should Cleveland somehow win one or even two of these games things will get interesting. Watson returns in Week 13 as they embark on a slightly less difficult stretch against Houston, Cincinnati, Baltimore, New Orleans, Washington, and Pittsburgh, four of which are on the road.

The win over Cincinnati certainly gives Cleveland some life, but the early inexcusable losses may have put them too far behind the eight ball to go on a meaningful six-game run with Watson.

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