Opposing offenses are taking advantage of Browns defense’s aggression

Can the defense adjust and get back on track?

It has been a rough couple of weeks for the Browns defense as Sean Payton of the Broncos and Sean McVay of the Rams have out-schemed them badly. They have shown the blueprint on how to beat the Browns defense: use their aggression to your benefit with motion and misdirection.

Jim Schwartz’s unit has had no answer for zone reads with athletic quarterbacks or jet motion runs. The Browns defense has been so aggressive this year and for a while, it was working until they got a little too aggressive. They aren’t playing assignment-sound football and haven’t had many answers in the run game.

Against the Rams, it was clear that McVay was not going to allow the Browns pass rush to disrupt his offense. They got the ball out of Stafford’s hand so quickly that it neutralized the pass rush and Schwartz couldn’t adjust. The injury to Denzel Ward has been huge for the Browns, as the past couple of weeks, teams have taken advantage of Greg Newsome II, who has been playing poorly in Ward’s absence.

The good news is this is fixable. The Browns have the talent if they can show they are willing to adjust their game plan on game day if things go wrong initially. We have seen them do it before, but Cleveland has got to fix its run defense and stop biting on play action and misdirection. They must get it figured out as Cleveland controls its own destiny for the playoffs and it all starts at home on Sunday.

[lawrence-auto-related count=1]

Leonard Williams trade a bad move by Seahawks, according to PFF

Williams is a great player, but the trade has aged poorly pretty quick.

What a difference a month makes. For the minute there, it really did seem like these Seattle Seahawks had a window to break into the Super Bowl contender conversation, or at least overtake the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC West race. Fast forward a handful of games and the Seahawks don’t look any better than they did last season, while the Niners are now considered five-point favorites on a neutral field against any NFL team. As for Sunday’s matchup in Santa Clara, they’re favored by 12.5 points.

To be fair, nobody sees what’s coming and the Seahawks made an aggressive move to try to punch through the scrum and emerge as a real contender. That’s why they traded second and fifth-round picks to the New York Giants in exchange for defensive end Leonard Williams, one of the top interior defensive linemen in the league.

Unfortunately, that trade has aged poorly pretty quickly. While Williams has performed well on the field it’s become painfully clear that the Seahawks are still very far behind the best teams in the game – making the draft capital they gave up more precious than anything Williams might offer.

Here’s a nugget from Pro Football Focus which takes Seahawks general manager John Schneider to task for the move.

“The decision to move second- and fifth-round picks for Leonard Williams, a 29-year-old pending free agent who is not franchise-taggable, has received virtually zero criticism, despite it being an arguably worse move than the Chicago Bears trading for Montez Sweat. Understandably, the Seahawks saw a window to get aggressive after the NFC West rival San Francisco 49ers dropped three straight games, but Seattle subsequently got demolished 37-3 by the Ravens in Week 9.”

If your knee-jerk reaction is to call PFF wrong one should keep in mind that truth hurts – and getting defensive is likely a sign you know they’re right.

The Seahawks can still get a high-end comp pick back if they let Leonard Williams walk in free agency. However, the fact that Williams has bought a house in the Seattle area indicates he intends to sign a long-term contract after this season is over.

Williams is a great player, but the trade is a questionable move and part of a broader trend of mismatched pieces on this roster. While there are some quality young foundational pieces in place, their franchise quarterback just turned 33, their defense would probably fall apart without their 33-year old middle linebacker and a lot of key contributors are on the wrong side of that critical 30-year old landmark.

What are we doing here? Where is the window, exactly? How do Schneider and Pete Carroll plan to break into that elusive tier of top-eight teams when they keep getting decimated in the trenches by any team that really matters, even after they’ve invested a ton of resources on their defensive line?

More Seahawks Wire stories

Ranking all 32 QBs by passing yards going into Week 14

One player from each team who should be in Hall of Fame

Lakers player grades: L.A. sinks the Suns in knockout round thriller

The quarterfinal round of the NBA in-season tournament lived up to its promise, as the Lakers beat the Suns in a very competitive affair.

The Los Angeles Lakers took on the Phoenix Suns at Crypto.com in the quarterfinal game on Tuesday. As the league desired, the in-season tournament quarterfinal definitely had more intensity than a normal regular-season game. Both teams seemed to have extra motivation to win the knockout round contest.

The Lakers jumped out to as much as a 15-point lead early thanks to their defense, but they went cold in the second quarter, allowing Phoenix to come to within four. Los Angeles increased its lead to 12 at halftime, but its offensive woes continued in the third quarter. The Suns took the lead just over three minutes into the period.

From that point, the contest became a back-and-forth defensive struggle, especially for L.A. It scored 47 points after halftime, but came up with enough big plays from its best players to grind out a 106-103 win and improve to 13-9.

It did so despite shooting a terrible 37.3% from the field and 30% from 3-point range. However, LA forced 11 more turnovers than it committed, and it had a big edge in offensive rebounds and second-chance points.

The Lakers will head to Las Vegas for the semifinal round of the in-season tournament. It will face the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday. A win would put them in the championship game, which will be played on Saturday, against either the Indiana Pacers or Milwaukee Bucks.

Joe Flacco’s Browns debut included a feat not seen in Cleveland in awhile

Flacco accomplished something we haven’t seen in Cleveland for some time.

The debut of Joe Flacco with the Cleveland Browns was fun to watch even though it fizzled out in the fourth quarter. It was evident that what the coaching staff said about his arm talent was the truth as he displayed plenty of it. It was different from the type of play they have gotten this season so far.

Nothing shows that more than this stat courtesy of ESPN’s Next Gen Stats and Jake Trotter.

“Joe Flacco attempted 19 passes over 10 air yards Sunday. That was the most in a game by a Browns QB in five years.”

That is a crazy stat to think about even when Baker Mayfield and Deshaun Watson played at their best they never pushed the ball vertically like Flacco. For me, this is another sign and reason the team needs to stick with Flacco especially this week with the Jaguars coming to town. I worry about his age and his body holding up but the talent is still there.

[lawrence-auto-related count=5]

Power rankings: Where do the Bills stand coming out of the bye?

The #Bills moved up in some despite not playing:

The Buffalo Bills were inactive in Week 13. The team settled in, and most importantly rested up, during their 2023 bye week.

Even without the Bills (6-6) playing, there was still plenty of football going on throughout the NFL. That caused changes to Buffalo’s standings in the playoff picture… but in national media power rankings polls, too.

Surprisingly, some outlets even improved the team’s standing despite not playing.

Following the bye, here’s a power rankings roundup for the Bills following their week off:

Ranking all 32 starting NFL QBs by passing yards going into Week 14

Here’s how the top 35 quarterbacks stack up in passing yards this season.

Each week this season we have been ranking NFL quarterbacks using different stats. Usually we’ve gone with something a bit more complex than the traditional yards and touchdown totals you’ll see on Sunday broadcasts. Nevertheless, trends have emerged during the year – usually involving Brock Purdy at or near the top of the list. In an effort to get a breath of fresh air, this time around we’ve gone with passing yards. That yielded a different group of names at the top, including the guy who might be the best rookie quarterback in league history.

Here’s how the top 35 quarterbacks stack up in passing yards this season.

Browns Studs and Duds: Who showed up and disappeared in loss vs. Rams?

A look at the five most impactful people in the Cleveland Browns loss to the Los Angeles Rams in week 13 of the NFL season.

The Cleveland Browns return to the city without a win from their two weeks out west, wrapping up the trip against the Los Angeles Rams. The team comes back injured and badly bruised. The injuries became insurmountable as they finished the remaining Browns’ stars: Myles Garrett, Denzel Ward, and Amari Cooper. The team returns home to lick their wounds as they prepare for the Jaguars and a battle for wildcard positioning. Wide receiver Elijah Moore had his best game as a Brown, and guard Wyatt Teller continues to stack weeks.

The Browns were competitive against a well-coached Rams team for the first three quarters. The Browns stuck to their roots and showed an effective play-action passing attack off the backs of an inefficient run game. The Browns were unable to generate much offense outside of those staple concepts. 

Joe Flacco did an admirable job quarterbacking the Browns after signing with the team’s practice squad just weeks ago. However, the unfamiliarity between the quarterback and offense hamstrung the Browns in obvious passing situations. The Browns will need to spend the week deciding if they want to start Flacco or Dorian Thompson-Robinson on Sunday. Flacco played well enough to beg the question as the Browns are desperate for any offense. 

In this week’s studs and duds, we look at five difference-makers in the loss against the Rams.

[lawrence-auto-related count=5]

Rookie RT Dawand Jones continues strong rookie year for the Browns

The strong rookie campaign continues for Jones

It continues to be a crime that right tackle Dawand Jones was not drafted until the fourth round of last year’s draft when the Cleveland Browns selected him. According to PFF, since Week 9, Jones has played a total of 150 pass-blocking snaps and has allowed just one sack during that time. He has done this while battling injuries that caused him to miss a game and split snaps at times with James Hudson III.

If you think you are going to attack Jones and beat him with power straight to his chest you are sorely wrong. His power and ability to move people around his quarterback once he gets his hands on you it is over. At his size, you would think speed rushers could beat him often but he uses his long arms to control you and just guides you past his quarterback.

Jones continues to need work as a run blocker but he has shown progress of development under Bill Callahan and the sky is the limit for the young tackle.

[lawrence-auto-related count=5]

PFF’s 10 highest-graded Browns’ offensive players vs. Rams

The passing offense looked as good as it has in awhile

It wasn’t enough to get the win as the defense struggled on the road again but the passing offense looked solid in Los Angeles against the Rams on Sunday. The Cleveland Browns passing offense had failed to push the ball vertically in prior weeks but Joe Flacco showed early and often he wasn’t afraid to push the ball down the field.

The running game struggled at times like they have all year but it was promising to see the successful deep shots in the pass game. Elijah Moore had his best game as a Brown as his past relationship with Flacco was evident. The loss of Amari Cooper loomed all game long and you have to wonder how much better they could have been if he hadn’t gotten injured.

Time will tell if the 38-year-old quarterback will remain the starter and productive with his age but Sunday should give fans hope about the direction of the passing offense.

Here are the 10 best performances on the offensive side of the ball according to PFF.

Report: Rockets showed trade interest in Detroit’s Alec Burks

Earlier this fall, the Rockets reportedly showed interest in trading for Detroit’s Alec Burks, and his name could soon resurface as NBA trade season nears.

When the Houston Rockets canvassed the NBA for potential Kevin Porter Jr. trades in September and October (following his off-court arrest), general manager Rafael Stone eventually settled on a package from Oklahoma City headlined by Victor Oladipo.

Oladipo wouldn’t seem to have much, if any, basketball value this season, since the veteran guard is still recovering from a serious knee injury suffered in the 2022-23 playoffs. But his expiring $9.5-million salary does provide Stone and the Rockets with added financial flexibility to help match salaries on future trade proposals.

Before settling on Oladipo, Houston reportedly canvassed the league for possibilities that could provide both a salary slot and basketball value. However, the period leading up to the start of each regular season is usually a relatively quiet one, for trades, since many potential sellers aren’t motivated to do so on the eve of a new season. In theory, that new season offers unlimited potential.

But as results trickle in, that optimism can fade quickly for some teams. One example is in Detroit, where the Pistons (2-18) entered this week with 17 straight losses. Thus, the incentive to keep veteran players on expiring contracts is rapidly diminishing, since the value of the 2023-24 season is minimal in Detroit, and there’s a potential risk of losing players for no compensation after that.

In his latest column on the Pistons, Yahoo’s Jake Fischer writes:

As of now, Detroit is only expected to factor into this winter’s upcoming trade window as a potential seller of veteran talent, most notably combo guard Alec Burks and sharpshooter Bojan Bogdanović. Burks was of particular interest to the Rockets, league sources told Yahoo Sports, when Houston was navigating trade scenarios for Kevin Porter Jr. prior to this season, and Houston still has Victor Oladipo’s $9.5 million salary to play with before February’s trade deadline. There’s also veteran point guard Monte Morris, who’s been sidelined with a quad strain and has one season left at just $9.8 million.

On paper, Burks and Morris would seem to be the types of established veterans who teams are reluctant to trade prior to giving their current group a chance to succeed. But once it becomes evident that the current season is lost, and thus has no value, securing future draft capital for their services is a better outcome than potentially losing the player for no compensation in the next free agency window.

The Rockets (8-9) currently have three second-round picks in the 2024 draft, and they’d likely prefer to move at least one of those, since it’s not as if they would have room to roster so many young players. In theory, the Rockets could package Oladipo’s expiring contract and one of those second-round selections, and that could meet Detroit’s needs from the perspectives of both salary and an asset.

If Houston is eventually able to acquire Burks, the 32-year-old would likely fill the backup wing role that was once earmarked for Porter. Over an extended NBA career, the 6-foot-6 veteran has averaged 10.8 points (38.3% on 3-pointers) and 3.5 rebounds in 22.9 minutes.

[lawrence-related id=117170,118487]