Yesterday saw the kickoff of the Cleveland Browns’ 2018 NFL season. They started the season with a visit to FirstEnergy stadium by their AFC North rivals, the Shitsburgh Squealers Pittsburgh Steelers.

The weather conditions for the game weren’t great and are what many are citing as the reason for Tyrod Taylors apparent reluctance to pass the ball.

Tyrod Taylor

I might as well start with the biggest factor in the Browns’ lack of a passing game…Tyrod Taylor. Now, I’m one of the fans that have been saying this team is Tyrod’s in 2018 and Baker steps in and takes them to the next level in 2019, and my thoughts on that haven’t changed, yet. But, if Tyrod continues with his apparent reluctance to throw the ball in less than perfect conditions, I fear his time at the helm will be short-lived.

I don’t really understand why people are surprised by the way Tyrod played in this game (myself included, I suppose) with the constant downpour throughout. He’s been brought into the team on the last year of his current contract and is blatantly only going to be here for this one season before he becomes a free agent looking for a big payday. The media have built up this reputation for him as an ultra-safe, ball control, steady and dependable QB who doesn’t turn the ball over. If he carries on playing the way he did in this game, it’s obvious he’s more annoyed at his current situation and feels he owes the Browns nothing and would rather just protect his reputation and pad his stats as a safe QB in order to get a good contract from another team next year.

Maybe that’s a little harsh and perhaps he just didn’t like the conditions and genuinely struggled but I don’t get it. He played in cold, wet, windy and snowy Buffalo last year. 15/40 completions for a 4.9-yard average, 1 TD, 1 INT, 7 sacks and a rating of 51.8 is just not good enough, let’s be honest.

People will blame the offensive line for those 7 sacks but when the QB is holding the ball for as long as Tyrod did, he’s going to get sacked. It was as if he’d rather take the sack than trusting his arm to be able to get the ball to a receiver on a few occasions. But hey, at least he wasn’t turning the ball over, right?

Maybe I’m being overly critical, but his apparent lack of confidence made for a difficult watch for this Browns fan. He obviously trusted his legs more than his arm in these conditions as he ran 8 times for 77-yards and a TD. He did put his body on the line on a few runs as well so no one can accuse him of not wanting the win.

Next week the Cleveland Browns travel to New Orleans and face the Saints in a dome. If Taylor plays the same kind of game in there as he did in the conditions in Cleveland for this game against the Steelers, that’s when alarm bells will start to sound, for me.

Running Game

I thought the running game looked ok once it was allowed to get going. Although Carlos Hyde’s stat of a 2.8-yard average looks bad, he did get a 1-yard TD to get the team back in the game and did his job well in such conditions.

Carlos Hyde TD

Rookie Nick Chubb looked decent on the 3 carries he had for 21-yards, but he did miss a key block that resulted in Tyrod Taylor getting sacked. Chubb was looking to block someone to the right but the defender he could have done with blocking came in from the other side. he did see him and get his hands on him but it was too late by then.

Duke Johnson was used a bit out of the backfield and looked ok. He only ran 5 times for a total of 17-yards but did take a nice one for 13 of those yards.

Passing Game

Hmm, I came away from the game thinking “If only we had a passing game!”. As I’ve already said, Tyrod Taylor looked too apprehensive about throwing the ball to start with and only started doing so when he had to a bit later into the game. Even when he did start throwing, too many were inaccurate, especially for the conditions.

People have been slating Jarvis Landry for his short amount of yards per catch but he had 7 receptions for 106-yards which equals a 15.1-yard average. Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ll take that in every game, thanks very much. I can’t help but wonder how the game would have gone if they’d gone with ‘Check-Down Taylor’ utilising Landry and Duke Johnson in a dink-and-dunk style that people have been saying they play too often. Mixed in with solid running from Hyde and Chubb could have worked nicely in these conditions.

I guess many fans will be very pleased to have seen Josh Gordon get a TD on his one reception from 3 targets. He, along with the ‘rushed together at the end of preseason’ offensive line, might take a few games to get up to full speed, and will, hopefully, be more of an impact when they are.

One more thing I noticed in the passing game was David Njoku’s not too great performance as he let Tyrod Taylor down on at least two catchable passes that he dropped. Again, we could blame the conditions, but he was doing this quite a bit in training camp this year. Something to keep an eye on methinks.

Defence

Definitely the strength of the Cleveland Browns right now. #4 overall pick by the Browns in this year’s draft, Denzel Ward absolutely gets the game MVP award for me. Let’s not forget who it was that he was covering for most of the game, Antonio Brown; the receiver that many many people regard as the best in the game right now. We could yet again bang on about the conditions making it more difficult for AB, but Ward was fantastic. Not only was he good against Brown but he was also in on many other tackles and a big hit on James Conner for the stop that the runningback definitely felt.

The Steelers were desperately trying to get the ball to Brown, but Ward was having none of it. Well, apart from the TD Brown scored, but Ward even had good tight coverage on that play and had his arm in between Brown’s but the star WR just made a better play with a strong catch. I’ve seen people on social media trying to say that Hue Jackson blames Denzel Ward for ‘giving up the touchdown’ but I’d have to say those people are trying to make something out of nothing. Jackson was full of praise for Ward and his performance during the game and also for the way he defended that play. He said that Antonio Brown just made a better play, and that’s exactly what happened.

Denzel Ward and Antonio Brown

Ward came away from the game with an impressive 6 tackles and 2 interceptions. Add that to the good coverage of one of the best in the business and this young man should be very proud of himself. He and Myles Garrett are going to do wonders for each other’s careers so long as they stay on the same team.

Talking of Myles Garrett, what an absolute beast this guy is. I’ve mentioned before how much I like him due to his skill on the field and his mature personality off it. It’s right that we fans should be excited about the future of the team whilst this guy is playing and leading the charge. He suffered from a high ankle sprain early last season but all is fine with him so far and you can see the difference. He’s a season more experienced and is healthy and the difference can be seen already. He ended the night with 6 tackles and 2 sacks and, along with Ward, looked like a game changer. It was his play towards the end of the game that got the Browns the ball back and put them in a position to win the game.

Garrett and Ward have definitely got me on board as a fanboy but there is also one other player on the defensive side of the ball that I’ve been raving about since his 5th-round selection in this draft and then even more so through the preseason. That guy is the impressive Genard Avery. He also got in on helping to get the ball back late in the game to put the Browns in a winning position as it was he who knocked the ball out of Big Ben’s hand for Joe Schobert to recover. Although he’s a 5th-round rookie, I think Avery is the real deal and complements Myles Garrett well when they’re on the field at the same time. Avery is a great pass-rusher, but he also got in on stopping some runs for no/short gains only in this game.

It was nice to see safety Damarious Randall back after his preseason injury that he took himself off for a second opinion on. He started at FS and played well helping himself to 5 tackles and an interception.

The stat you’ll see the haters banging on about this week is the one that shows the Browns had 5 more takeaways than the Steelers and yet still could only manage the tie. I think it was FS Randall who was supposedly heard coming off the field saying “Five turnovers for a tie? a tie?!”

But that is coming from Aditi Kinkhabwala who I lost any respect I might have had for after her attempt at making something out of nothing when she took what Jarvis Landry had said out of context during the preseason/training camp. Typical modern media trying to create controversy where there is none.

Conclusion

So, how do I feel about the Cleveland Browns tieing with the Pittsburgh Steelers 21-21 in week one of the 2018 NFL season? Hmm, I’m not sure. I’ll take it as it’s not a loss but they really could have come away with the win after they looked dead and buried midway through the second half.

Overall, I liked the way the defence performed but that offence needs to get way better next week and going forward through the season. If Tyrod doesn’t start performing, the boo-birds will be back out and the media will get into Hue and he’ll buckle and throw Baker under the bus in a last-ditch attempt to save his own sorry ass.

Is it true that Josh Gordon was out on the field for the offences first play? If so, this shows you just how little respect Hue has within the organisation as even his coaching staff and coordinators aren’t listening to him and aren’t bothered by what he wants/says. Hue Jackson spent the lead up to this game telling everyone that Josh Gordon wouldn’t start…and then he did. O.M.F.G! The next two games against the Saints and the Jets could be massive for Mr Jackson and his chances of keeping his job.

One other thing I noticed was the fact that new LT Desmond Harrison was called for too many penalties. He had false starts and an illegal formation called against him as he lined up too deep on a passing play. As I said from the start, I think he’s going to be a good player if he can keep straight and interested in the game, but he’s just not ready yet. I was confused at the time they took Austin Corbett at the very top of the second round of the draft as everyone was stating he’s an inside OL in the NFL. I’m even more confused now as he wasn’t even dressed for this game but yet the undrafted guy was not only dressed but was starting. Yes, I know he would have been a high round pick had he not been immature and had off-the-field issues, but still…WTF!?

Anyway, what did you see in the game between the Browns and Steelers this week? Let me know in the comments below.