A few observations from the Cleveland Browns' 17-16 win over the Miami Dolphins…
- The main problem with Chad Henne is that he seems to process everything a step slowly, and his physical game reflects that issue. He reminds me of Drew Bledsoe in that regard — in and out of the pocket, it just takes him too long to get up to speed. His blitz and pressure recognition are each average at best, and he's not able to evade pressure in the pocket as the best quarterbacks do. You don't have to be a speedster to evade pressure; Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are two of the all-time best at that, and nobody would ever mistake either one of them for Michael Vick. But they understand how to shift their positions and re-set their feet quickly to throw. With Henne, that same kind of pressure upsets the applecart and destroys the play far too often.
- Of course, it's not all his fault — the Dolphins' interior line is a work in progress, and I'm hard-pressed to find much good to say about Richie Incognito from a blocking perspective. The lack of a consistent deep threat also hurts.
- Running back Daniel Thomas is coming along, but he's still struggling with blitz pickup at times — the Chris Gocong sack was at least in part the result of Thomas letting Gocong fly right by on a six-man blitz.
- The Dolphins use formations as their play tells a lot — they're not very formation-diverse, and that really handicaps them in an era when most of the best offenses can run all kinds of stuff. If it's run, far too often it will be heavy I-formation, sometimes with an added H-back. If they go trips, it's pass for sure. One way to make that offense breathe a bit more would be to find ways to create unexpected plays out of different formations. The Packers and the Saints are probably the best at that, and they won the last two Super Bowls. It's not a coincidence.
- In the end, you can see why there's so much talk about Tony Sparano's job. There are things going on with this organization that he has no control over, and the botched offseason hunt for Jim Harbaugh proved that. But there are times when a team just needs an overhaul, and the Dolphins have too much talent to be this bad, They're not world-beaters by any means, but they shouldn't be this bad.
- Cornerback Sheldon Brown is getting beaten a lot. I first noticed this against the Bengals when he had no answer for A.J. Green, but that's at least understandable — Green is already scaring the pants off most defenses he faces. Getting shredded by Brian Hartline on quick comeback routes? That's a different story.
- Colt McCoy is very dynamic when he's rolling right and out of the pocket, but his decision-making needs a lot of work. That's common among first-read college quarterbacks who have to face more complex coverages in the pros. On the good side, he's a fine example of that mobility and pressure awareness Henne doesn't have. He will evade the sack without blowing up the play. He's also very resourceful when it comes to dumping off just as a play is about to break down.
- The Browns are getting more creative with their blitz packages, and it certainly helps that they drafted two solid defensive linemen in Phil Taylor and Jabaal Sheard. Taylor ifsa huge man, but he's built more like a plus-size three-tech tackle than a round mound of nose tackle. He'll lose momentum with pad level problems once in a while, but I like what I see. And Sheard has a nice burst off the edge. Defensive coordinator Dick Jauron is mixing pressure and coverage concepts in very effective ways.
- There's no reason that Josh Cribbs couldn't be a legit leading receiver, both outside and in the slot, and grab 60 catches a season — well, besides the fact that he may be the best special teams player in the NFL. Cribbs gets open in short spaces, can certainly get vertical (as he showed on his touchdown catch), and has the speed and toughness to extend the play upfield. I also liked the play call on Cribbs' touchdown — it reminded me of the call on Cam Newton's first completion against the Packers in Week 2. Run slide protection to the left, get the defense rolling that way, then roll right and time it up with the open read receiver.
- Peyton Hillis was out for this game, but I liked what I saw from backup Montario Hardesty. He reminds me a bit of LeGarrette Blount — a power back with a little shake-and-bake to get free for longer gains.