Kevin Byard essentially won the Titans the game on Sunday

Game Film, Gif Breakdowns, NFL

Mansur Shaheen

Kevin Byard had the game of his life last Sunday when the Tennessee Titans met the Cleveland Browns. The AFC defensive player of the week was the deciding factor for the Titans as they won a 12-9 snooze fest against possibly the NFL’s worst team. The second year safety out of Middle Tennessee State intercepted three passes and was the most important player in the Titans defense that did not allow a touchdown last week.

Byard had only had one career interception before this game. He became the eighth player in franchise history to intercept three passes in a single game, and the first to accomplish this feat since Keith Bulluck in 2007.

The safety ended back to back drives for the Browns by intercepting quarterback Deshone Kizer. Kizer would eventually be benched for Cody Kessler, and Byard intercepted him too.

His first interception of the day came while the Titans were playing cover-2 man on first down as the Browns drove downfield.

Cleveland lines up with two receivers lined up to the right of Kizer and one towards his left. The two split wide receivers both run vertical routes against one on one man coverage. The linebackers stay underneath covering more shallower zones, and the entire Titans defense stays disciplined as Cleveland runs a play action. The Browns designed this play for the two peripheral receivers to draw the attention of the two deep safeties, allowing Rashard Higgins single coverage over the middle of the field with no safety help over the top. Higgins does a great job gaining separation from his defender and should have gotten open for a deep completion. Kizer overthrows his man though, and Byard jumps into action. The quarterback lets the ball sail on him and Byard in is perfect position to intercept the pass

This was also a failure of the Browns offense. Both of the Browns receivers on that side of the field ran routes into the exact same spot, allowing Byard to put himself in a position to make a play on both in case the ball was thrown in either of their direction.

His second interception of the day came on the Browns next possession in much different fashion.

Byard was lined up as a slot corner up close to the line of scrimmage. He picks up a winged tight end out of the backfield. The Titans show man coverage pre-snap with only one deep safety. Da’Norris Searcy (No. 21) is lined up as a deep safety, while Logan Ryan (No. 26) lines up across from receiver Bryce Treggs (No. 11). Ryan drops deep back to play as a deep safety while Searcy switches with him and comes forward to pick up Treggs on a deep crossing route.

Searcy is a little late getting to Treggs though, as his first few steps are backward. As Kizer rolls out of the pocket he spots Treggs running free between the layers of the defense. Byard reads the quarterback, though, and jumps off his shallower man to Treggs as the ball is thrown. He makes an athletic catch jumping backward and snags his second interception of the day.

Byard’s third interception came in the fourth quarter and helped the Titans protect a slim three-point lead.

Kessler has now entered the game for Kizer at this point as the Browns yet again made a change at quarterback. Cleveland lines up three wide, with tight end David Njoku running a route as well. They run a four verts play, and the speedy Njoku is able to get a step on the linebacker that picked him up in man coverage. The Titans are in cover 2 man, with Byard as one of the safeties in a deep zone. Kessler tries to fit a pass over the top to Njoku, but it’s terrible. It’s a slow pass, telegraphed by the quarterback before he threw it. Both of the Titans deep safeties read Kessler like a book and spring into action. The overthrown ball is intercepted in what was essentially a punt by the Browns offense. Even if the pass was on target, Njoku most likely would not have come down with it as there were three different defenders in position to land a hit on him.

Cleveland’s quarterbacks made it easy for him, but Byard essentially won the Titans the game. Tennessee’s offense was ineffective and practically useless all game, and had Byard not come down with these three turnovers, the Browns may have walked off the field with their first win Sunday.

 

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The Baltimore Ravens and their turnover happy defense

Game Film, Gif Breakdowns, NFL

Mansur Shaheen

The Baltimore Ravens defense has been incredible to start out the 2017 season.

The Ravens defense already has forced 10 turnovers in two games this season. They shut out the Cincinnati Bengals and they held a young Cleveland Browns offense in check all day. Baltimore has only allowed one touchdown this season and their defense is reminding many of the team they had put together in the early 2000’s.

Their secondary has looked like the best in the NFL so far this season and they were responsible for every single turnover on Sunday. Even the strip sack of Deshone Kizer in the first quarter.

Despite the Ravens blitz the Browns offensive line did a great job giving Kizer time in the pocket. The Ravens edge rushers forced the quarterback to step up in the pocket. He steps up and pulls back to throw, but can’t find anyone open. Kizer starts a scramble drill and Terrell Suggs chases him down for a strip sack and forces the turnover.

The pass rush only had that much time to get to Kizer because how great the Ravens were in coverage. All four of the Browns receivers who ran routes on the play were blanketed in one on one man coverage. The deep safety was lurking behind the play but did not have much to do. Every single Raven that dropped into pass coverage came up huge today and created a takeaway for their front seven.

Free safety Eric Weddle was heavily involved in the second takeaway of the day for Baltimore, incepting an overthrown pass by Kizer.

The quarterback attempted to quickly get rid of the ball to his running back Duke Johnson who was open on an out route out of the backfield. He throws to far in front of him, though. Johnson reaches out a hand for it and tips it in the air. Weddle dives in from behind him and picks off the pass.

The play Weddle made was not as simple as it looked, though.

Weddle initially backpedals out of his deep spot, then spots Johnson running free into the flat. He fly’s up the field and puts himself in the right place at the right time to make an athletic play on the ball.

Kizer did not read the play correctly and threw a bad pass. Even if Johnson had managed to make a play on the ball he would have been blown up from behind by Weddle. His throw was dangerous by nature and ended up turning over the ball.

This play also shows Kizer’s inaccuracy, which was one of the biggest knocks against him when he was coming out of the draft.

Kizer would leave the game with a head injury and was replaced by Kevin Hogan. The Ravens did not seem to mind the change though.

On this play the Ravens showed a blitz pre-snap, then had a few of their rushers drop back into coverage. Hogan seemed entirely thrown off by this. He instantly bails out of the pocket just throws to the first receiver he sees. The Ravens were in zone coverage, and their pass coverage read the young quarterback like a children’s book. He stares down his receiver and they converge on his target. Hogan throws a pass that three different defenders could have potentially intercepted.

From this angle, you can see how badly Hogan panicked. He clearly read a blitz pre-snap and already had it decided in his mind that he was going to scramble. Hogan still had time in the pocket and there was no Ravens rusher anywhere near him. There was no reason for him to try to extend this play with his feet, and he had no reason to throw that awful pass. Baltimore was all over it and intercepted their second pass of the day.

Kizer would later return to the game and made sure his interception total would not be matched by his back up.

The Ravens line up in the nickel with all three of their corners playing man coverage. They run a cover one robber scheme in the red zone, with two safeties playing in zone over the middle. Off the snap the Ravens linebackers clear the middle of the field and take zones on the peripheral. Kizer saw the two defenders clear the middle of the field, but he did not account for either safety. He saw his man over the middle in man coverage and tried to hit him in the back of the end zone. Both safeties, and the corner, were in great position to make a play on the ball. It was a clear inexperienced rookie mistake by Kizer that gave up a scoring opportunity that could have gotten the Browns back into the game.

Kizer finished the hat trick in the fourth quarter.

The Ravens only rushed four on the play but they came off of the left edge fast to pressure Kizer. Instead of stepping up into the pocket, the rookie loses his cool and darts to the right. Baltimore was in man coverage on every receiver with the linebackers and the strong safety on the opposite side of the field with the free safety hovering over the middle. Kizer sees a receiver with a step on cornerback Brandon Carr and tries to get him the ball when on the run. He underthrows the pass and does not hit him in stride, though, and Carr undercuts the pass to earn the Ravens their fifth takeaway and seal the victory for Baltimore.

Baltimore’s defense has definitely been fearsome the past few weeks, but they got a lot of help from some boneheaded quarterback play.  Andy Dalton played one of the worst games of his career against the Ravens week one and Kizer and Hogan made many of the mistakes you would expect from young quarterbacks. Their offense has had trouble moving the ball themselves, and have not done a great job capitalizing on the combined 10 turnovers their defense has forced in two games.

They will not play these two awful offenses every week, but the Ravens should have another turnover happy game against the Jaguars and Blake Bortles in week 4. If their offense does not hold them back this year their defense could take them far this season.

 

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Deshone Kizer is far from a franchise quarterback, and that is ok

Game Film, Gif Breakdowns, NFL

Mansur Shaheen

The Cleveland Browns were one of the most active teams in the league the weekend of the draft last spring. They drafted the likes of Myles Garret, David Njoku and Jabrill Peppers, all first rounders who have the potential to shape their franchise for years to come. None of their selections have the potential to shape their franchise more than their second-round pick, Deshone Kizer out of Notre Dame.

Cleveland has infamously had issues finding a franchise quarterback for over a decade now. Last season they entered the season hoping Robert Griffin III was the answer, only for him to get injured after one game. Throughout the year’s quarterbacks like Brandon Weeden, Cody Kessler and Johnny Manziel have disappointed the franchise proving not to be a long-term fix under center.

Kizer was not supposed to start this season but managed to out play Brock Osweiler and Kessler over the first three games of the preseason. He sat out of game four in preparation for the Browns season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

So how did Kizer win the job, and what should Browns fans expect to see out of their newest quarterback in 2017?

The play that turned the most heads by Kizer in the preseason was his final pass in the Browns opener against the New Orleans Saints.

On a fourth down and two on a do or die drive for the game, Kizer let it fly towards the end zone and found fellow rookie Jordan Payton for a 45-yard touchdown to win the game. The quarterback sees his receiver beat the cornerback down the side line. He stays in the pocket despite the pressure and hits his man in stride with a well-placed pass.

His most impressive downfield pass of the game, though, may have been the play just before.

The rookie quarterback has a fairly clean pocket. His check down option in open in the flat on third and long as the Saints are in a prevent defense. Kizer pump fakes, and one of the Saints deep linebackers jumps towards the sideline to prevent a catch and run by the running back. This opens receiver Rannel Hall down the field. Kizer finds him to turn a third and 27 to fourth and two.

Kizer’s deep ball was one of the most appealing part of his game coming out of Notre Dame. He will allow the Browns to have a more vertical passing game and take full advantage of some of the speed and deep ball potential of the Browns receivers. He is confident in his arm and always has is eyes downfield.

His deep ball was not perfect this preseason, though.

On this play during the Browns week 2 matchup against the New York Giants Kizer overthrew Njoku on what would have been a touchdown. Kizer drops back into the pocket, and as the rush comes he calmly steps forward and lets it fly for Njoku. His poise in the pocket is impressive, and a little better than what you would expect from a player only playing in his second game at NFL speed. That is a pass he has to hit on though.

Inaccuracy haunted Kizer in college. He was never a precision passer and has trouble hitting his receivers when they are not absolutely wide open. The passing windows in the NFL will be even smaller meaning the rookie will have to greatly improve to survive at this level. As we expected, his accuracy was not fixed over the course on one summer training camp and he threw many errant passes in his first few games.

Even some of the completed passes above where a little bit off target. Kizer was playing against much worse defensive units than what he will on a regular basis in the NFL, and even then, had issues fitting his passes into space.

He did seem to gain confidence and accuracy as he got more familiar with NFL play, though. He completed a lot of shorter routine passes, though. His decision making was good for the most part and he was safe with the ball, at least for the first two games of the preseason.

Kizer’s first real experience against a first team NFL defense came in week three against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

It was also far and away his worst performance.

Kizer’s lone interception of the preseason came early on in the second quarter of that game.

The quarterback stares down his receiver nearly the entire way. He tries to get the ball into space between two defensive backs, but a Bucs linebacker reads Kizer and jumps the pass. He gets a hand on it, tips it in the air and it is intercepted.

He got away with only that interception, but the Tampa defenders easily could have snagged a few more.

His decision making was awful. Kizer threw a lot of passes that there was no reason to try and he had a habit to stare down his receivers. He could not get much going, and he looked like a struggling rookie quarterback.

Kizer comes with a lot of flaws and will most likely struggle heavily this regular season. He will most likely be in the bottom tier of NFL quarterbacks, and possibly one of the worst in the NFL.

And that is ok.

The Browns are years away from competing in the NFL and plan to yet again sit near the bottom of the standings. All of the pressure will be off of Kizer this year. He won’t be expected to win many games and neither Kessler not Kevin Hogan should threaten his starting spot. Kizer has all the time in the world to develop and adjust to the NFL.

Cleveland hopes that Kizer will spearhead the new youth movement in Cleveland, and be a huge piece of what they hope to build over the next few years. They have a young roster as they hope to develop talent nearly everywhere. We will not know for another few years, but the Browns are hoping Kizer gives them a reason to finally retire their infamous quarterback jersey.

 

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After a Switch to Receiver, Terrelle Pryor is Only Beginning

Gif Breakdowns, NFL

Mansur Shaheen

Despite a treacherous 1-15 season, which started on a 14-game losing streak, Browns receiver Terrelle Pryor shined this season. After transitioning from quarterback to wide receiver, Pryor became a dynamic play maker. Pryor caught 77 passes for just over 1,000 yards and 4 touchdowns in 2016, leading the team in every major receiving category. He even reached the end zone on his feet once.

Pryor’s main attribute is his athleticism. His speed and agility makes him a great route runner, allowing him to find space within the opposing secondary, and then having the ability to turn up field and add yards after the catch.

On this play, early during the Browns week 8 match up against the Jets, Pryor takes advantage of a large cushion given to him by Darrelle Revis.

After sprinting 15 yards down field, he quickly turns and breaks towards the sideline. This catches Revis flat footed as he comes back on his route, and makes an easy catch in space. Revis, doing everything he can to catch up, misses a tackle as Pryor turns up field and gains another 13 yards after the catch to get the Browns into the red zone.

During the Steelers week 11 matchup against the Steelers, Pryor made one his longest catches of the year.

Given a smaller cushion this time, Pryor used his agility to get open. After running 7 yards down field, Pryor slightly pushed off to gain space, then faked a curl back towards the sideline. The defender stepped towards the sideline, then was caught flat footed when Pryor quickly turned up field.

He makes an adjustment to catch a poorly thrown ball, and avoids another tackle before going down.

His athleticism also makes him a threat on the occasional wildcat play.

On his longest run of the season, which came during the Browns week 3 game against the Dolphins, his best of the season, Pryor took a direct snap and used his speed to turn the corner.

After faking to Isiah Crowell, Pryor sprints towards his left, and after receiving a nice block to seal the edge, he still had one man to beat to turn up field. He makes a quick juke then cuts towards the sideline leaving a man in front of him on the ground. Pryor makes it to the sideline then turns up field for a 15 yard gain.

Even when he is not given much space to work with in front of him, Pryor can use his agility alone to find space for a quick catch.

Again against Revis, but given less room this time, Pryor makes a move towards the outside right off of the snap, then immediately breaks towards the middle and making an easy grab for an 18 yards.

Pryor is dangerous in single coverage, as he can take on any corner one on one. His is a great route runner, and somehow always manages to find himself space. The best way to cover him is to either double team him, or play a tight zone coverage to suppress him.

But even when he is picked up in a double team, Pryor still somehow miraculously makes plays.

On this play during the Browns week six game against the Titans, Pryor scored one of his two touchdowns on the day by making an impressive catch in the end zone.

The Browns receiver runs a fade route into the corner of the end zone, and picks up the attention of the deep safety as he turns towards the corner. Quarterback Cody Kessler for some reason ignores a shallower wide open receiver and tunnels in on Pryor despite being smothered by the defense. The ball is well thrown, though, and Pryor manages to jump higher than anyone else to make a touchdown catch.

His strength and ability make a better play on the ball came into play later in the same game, making a nice 14 yard grab with a defender draped over his back.

When his speed, agility and route running ability combine, Pryor can make incredible plays on poorly thrown balls, a skill especially useful on a team with quarterbacks as bad as the Browns.

Later on during the Steelers game, Pryor made this catch at the one yard line.

He ran a wheel route down the sideline, then slightly pushes off and comes to a quick stop to give himself space. The defender turns back towards Pryor, and Pryor jumps over him to catch an off-target pass. He comes down with it and fights two defenders to hold on before getting shoved out of bounds.

In his first year at wide out, Pryor impressed many and took off to break 1,000 yards on the season. The Browns had a lot of hype last off-season due to Pryor’s transition to wide out and the addition of Robert Griffin III. The hype was short lived, but there are a few bright spots on the roster.

There is still more for Pryor to work on this offseason, though. He is inconsistent and occasionally can disappear during games. Despite being the team’s leading receiver, Pryor failed to break 50 yards in 9 games this season, and only reached the end zone four times. Some of this may be a result of the Browns incompetence on offense in general, but it is still something to worry about down the line.

He had an impressive first year at wide out, though. And Terrelle Pryor has managed to emerge as the Browns full time WR1 in 2016, and his athleticism gives him potential to become one of the more feared receivers in the NFL in thee future, despite what Janoris Jenkins might think.

 

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