Monday, March 17, 2008

How Good or Bad is Derek Anderson?

by Jason Jones

With Cleveland Browns fans excessively excited about the upcoming season, there are still some questions. My biggest question is, “How good, really, is Derek Anderson?” I have no doubt that the Derek Anderson I think I know is capable of leading the Browns into the playoffs. However, I do not think he is capable of winning a Super Bowl. I also do not believe the Cleveland Browns are a Super Bowl-contending team going into 2008. They are a serious playoff team. The idea that they can own Pittsburgh, beat New England, beat Indianapolis, and/or Jacksonville is still a far-fetched idea to me. Today, the NFL Network replayed the Browns vs. Bengals game from Week 2. I decided to Tivo the game then go back and analyze each and every offensive play (especially since there was next to no defense played in that game). I am going into this project with my eyes open and no bias. Most who know me or have read anything I’ve written on this subject are aware of my bias to Brady Quinn over Derek Anderson. This time, I will objectively look at DA’s best game to decide just how good he really is. Keep in mind I am watching an NFL Network Replay, which means we will only see the plays they deem worthy as to fit it into a nice 90 minute block. There may be some skips in time.

CIN-7 CLE-0, 7:57 1st Qtr

First Possession

7:57-J.Lewis 7 yd dive

6:52-J.Lewis 3 yd lt. guard

6:03-DA 28 yd pass to a flipped Edwards called incomplete (not DA’s fault) the announcer’s criticized the throw claiming it set up Edwards to get hurt.

5:51-J.Lewis HB Sweep 5 yds

5:12-DA sits in the pocket until he inexplicably fumbles the ball with no one touching him, then scrambles to his right and wildly throws the ball to a relatively open Jurevicious and misses him by 7 or 8 yards. The ball ended up just in front of the camera men. He didn’t even look at the 3 receivers he had wide open running intermediate routes.

5:02-39 yd FG attempt is good by Phil Dawson

CIN-7 CLE-3, 3.24 1st Qtr

Second Possession

3:24-DA throws over the middle 22yds to Kellen dropping it into a zone of a 4 yd radius for a 20 yd gain.

2:46-J.Lewis lt. counter for a 4 yd gain.

2:03-DA bootleg lt. throws on the run to Jurevicious in a closing window of defenders for a 13 yd gain.

1:20-DA steps up in the pocket and throws a bullet just before getting hit to Edwards (who had to lay way out to catch it) into a zone with a 7 yd radius. Edwards should not have had to dive for the ball; had he caught it in stride, he could’ve taken it to the endzone.

0:56-J.Lewis off rt. guard for a 3 yd gain.

0:18-DA short-hops this pass a good 6 yds. to Edwards on a very tightly-covered curl route. Terrible decision in double coverage when at no point was his receiver ever open.

0:13-DA throws this one directly to the linebacker 6 yards in front of Edwards never even looking at another option. It was read perfectly and should have been intercepted. Caleb Miller was clearly in view, while Edwards didn’t come into view until the last second.

0:09-39 FG attempt is good by Phil Dawson.

CIN-7 CLE-6, 14:36 2nd Qtr

Third Possession

14:36-DA hands to J.Cribbs in a make shift end around for a 9 yd gain.

13:07-DA throws over the middle to a streaking Kellen for a 20 yd gain. This ball was actually thrown really well, up top where only Kellen would be able to adjust to get it.

11:44-J.Lewis rt. stretch play for 3 yds.

11:03-DA throws to Jurevicious in the lt. corner of the endzone for a 17 yd touchdown. Another very nice throw. If Jurevicious was 2 inches shorter it would have been incomplete, but he put in front of the receiver so the DB would have to go through Jurevicious to get to it.

Let’s pause from the QB analysis for a Josh Cribbs moment…

7:33-Josh Cribbs receives the kick off in stride just rt. of the hash marks, cuts back toward the middle of the field, finds the first seam between two blocks at the 20. He watches the seam close at the 30, and proceeds to bounce outside to the left bypassing 6 Cincinnati defenders. He regains his balance passing a linebacker and turns up the speed and the field en route to splitting the kicker with only Leon Hall to beat. He lays a stiff arm on Hall and proceeds to drag Hall the better part of 15 yards. He is eventually knocked out of bounds at the 12 yard line. This kid is amazing. He sets up blocks like he is playing a Madden video game.

CIN-14 CLE-13, 7:20 2nd Qtr

Fourth Possession

7:20-J.Lewis runs off lt. guard for a 1 yd gain.

6:43-DA throws to his rt. to Edwards who didn’t have anyone within 8 yards of him in any direction. If Braylon Edwards is 6’3, DA threw it as if he were 13 feet tall. Just a terrible throw. It couldn’t have been a throw-away because Edwards was so very open.

6:37-DA on 3rd and 8 from the 9, throws to a wide-open Jurevicious just having a picnic all by himself in the back of the endzone. Joe had the entire endzone all to himself.

The next play of note as I fast forward through the Bengals offensive drive is the wide-open touchdown pass to Chad Johnson. Mr. Endzone Celebration spent the time to figure out that he was going to jump into the Dawg Pound, but didn’t take the time to find out which endzone they were in.

CIN-21 CLE-20, 2:48 2nd Qtr

Fifth Possession

2:48-DA throws to Edwards in the flat. Edwards had to wait for it for a couple seconds, but found a way to get an 8 yd gain out of it.

2:11-J.Lewis runs a HB Slam play off lt. tackle, then cuts inside a Jurevicious block and makes the first DB miss. He eventually gets knocked out at the CIN 48 for a 17 yard gain.

2:00-DA takes a 5 step drop while CIN blitzes the kitchen sink. He throws it across the middle to Kellen who had to dive outward to catch it for a 9 yd gain.

1:34-DA throws the ball high to Edwards who reaches out for it in triple coverage and tips it into the air. As Edwards fall behind all three CIN defenders, he turns his body just enough to catch the ball on his back. Miraculous. Color Commentator: “This ball SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN THROWN, what a concentration by Braylon Edwards”

1:11-DA throws another nice ball in perfect stride with Kellen between two DB’s; they never had a chance. Touchdown.

CIN-21 CLE-27 Halftime

Sixth Possession

15:00-DA steps back and fires one to Edwards separating from his defender. DA didn’t notice the other DB eyeballing him the whole way. Interception Dexter Jackson. Terrible read. He had good protection, had he waited one or two seconds Edwards would have been all alone 10 yards further down field.

CIN-24 CLE-27, 12:04 3rd Qtr

Seventh Possession

12:04-J.Lewis takes the handoff off rt. guard for a tough 4 yds.

11:17-DA locks in on Edwards and throws a strike to his outside shoulder and Edwards does the rest. With Jerry Rice-like precision Edwards toe taps the sideline for a beautiful reception. He still had to dive for it.

11:00-J.Lewis gets a solid 10 yds. on a lead draw play up the middle.

9:08-DA in shotgun, fires it just outside of Kellen who brings it in just past the first down marker for an 11 yd gain.

8:25-DA sets back, he could’ve had a beach chair out there, pump fakes short then lobs one to the endzone with Edwards in perfect stride leaving two DB’s in his dust to coast in for a touchdown. Not DA’s best ball in this game, but a very nice throw.

Chad Johnson finally gets into the Dawg Pound and apparently thought it would be more fun than it was. To think, arguably the most arrogant WR in the game thought he would just jump into a crowd of the most rabid fans and WOULDN’T get doused with whatever they had with them at the time? Interesting.

CIN-31 CLE-34, 6:04 3rd Qtr

Eighth Possession

The following is the case study example for anyone who thinks Jamal Lewis is old, slow, over the hill, or flat out doesn’t have it anymore.

6:04-From the 34 yd line (1st and 10) J.Lewis takes the handoff cuts from the guard to outside the lt. tackle, makes it through the seam of 3 Bengals and on to daylight. The rest is Lewis trucking for 66 yards and one short possession but one long Touchdown run (66 yards).

CIN-38 CLE-41, 13:07 4th Qtr

Ninth Possession

13:07-J.Lewis 3 yd dive play.

12:28-DA steps back and fires one hard down the middle of the field to a wide-open Steve Heiden with a cushion of 4 yds in any direction (albeit, 3 DB’s around him). The Color Commentator spent at least 30 seconds talking about how he was certain that play would be a short conservative run or pass. Yeah, conservative, if by conservative you mean a 30 yd. pass into loose triple coverage.

11:42-J.Lewis takes the handoff on a dive play and busts it up and over no less than 4 immediate tacklers for an 11 yd gain. (it was at this point during the live action of this game my mother called and said, “he looks a little like Jim Brown”).

10:54-DA bootlegs rt., finds L.Vickers at the last second, then Vickers puts a nasty spin move on the linebacker for a first down.

10:06-DA rolls back looks rt. then lt. and throws of his back foot to a WIDE OPEN Edwards who has to lay out like he was diving into a pool and proceeds to roll his way to another touchdown. refers to this one as the “keep it rollin” play.

CIN-38 CLE-48, 8:29 4th Qtr

Tenth Possession

8:29-J.Lewis does it again. On a delay with a great block from Vickers, he splits the seam and shakes in and out for a 48 yds. gain. No gas left in the tank my arsecheek!

7:56-DA looking very relaxed sends a pass over the middle that looks overthrown. DA wasn’t looking for Jurevicious though, it lands nicely in the falling arms of Kellen on the 5 yd. line.

5:54-DA drops back under pressure and lofts the ball out of the back of the endzone. With a second look, Winslow was covered and if he had thrown it low enough Edwards could have caught it on his curl route and fallen down shielding the ball from the two defenders close to him. The third read was Jurevicious basically running the baseline (basketball analogy) with the closest defender trailing a good 6 yds. behind him. A good QB would’ve seen that.

5:44-18 yd FG attempt is good by Phil Dawson

CIN-45 CLE-51, 3:36 4th Qtr

Eleventh Possession

3:36-J.Lewis cuts outside for a 3 yd gain. (the most yards rushing by a Brown is 34 years-Jim Brown 223-Nov 3, 1963)

3:24-DA throws one across the middle to a waiting Edwards who has to adjust his run after the catch and caves under 3 defenders for a first down.

2:00-J.Lewis runs up the middle for no gain.

CIN-45 CLE-51, 0:28 4th Qtr

Just for fun…

0:28-Carson Palmer steps back looking for Chad Johnson only to have Leigh Bodden catch the ball Willie Mays-style over his should and toe tapping the sideline shades of Braylon Edwards’ catch from earlier in the first half to end the game.

This was the second highest-scoring game in the history of the NFL. The idea was to take Derek Anderson’s best statistical performance and analyze just how good it was.

End of Game Stats:

Derek Anderson: 20/33 (60.6%), 328 yds passing, 9.9 avg per comp, 5 TD’s, 1 INT

Jamal Lewis: 27 carries, 216 yds, 8.0 yds per carry avg, 1 TD, long run of 66 yds.

Braylon Edwards: 8 receptions, 146 yds, 18.3 yds per rec, 2 TD’s, long rec of 37 yds

Kellen Winslow: 6 receptions, 100 yds, 16.7 yds per rec, 1 TD, long rec of 25 yds

Joe Jurevicious: 4 receptions, 44 yds, 11 yds per rec, 2 TD’s, long rec of 11 yds

Clearly, no one should knock 20/33 for 328 and 5 TD’s. The issue I am stuck on has nothing to do with what Anderson does, but what he doesn’t do. If reading this one time didn’t get the point across, read it again. Take note of how many times players are described as “diving” or “laying out." Note how many times the ball is not even close. Then take note of the descriptions of the big plays he did make. You will notice that a great deal, probably in the ball park of 80% the players he is throwing to are more responsible for making the plays. I am not completely down on Anderson. There were about 5 throws that he made, that I did not think he was capable of making going into this game. Every now and then Anderson will surprise you with a gem of a throw. As I mentioned early in this post, DA is good enough to take this team to the playoffs, he is not good enough to win a Super Bowl. Super Bowl winners don’t miss as badly as DA tends to miss. Yet, they make the plays that DA made in this game with much more precision and a higher frequency. Now for the angle almost no one wants to hear…Brady Quinn can make every throw from this game that DA made and at least half of the mistakes.

Example 1: 5:15 of the 1st Qtr. Quinn doesn’t fumble the ball all by himself with no contact by a defender. That one is nitpicky though, chalk that one up to bad things happen to just about anyone. Same play, when he eventually threw the ball, DA sent it via UPS to the cameraman, overthrowing Jurevicious. Now I could say that it is a hard throw to make. But later on, he completes a much more difficult pass to Jurevicious on the other side of the endzone.

Example 2: 6:03 of the 1st Qtr. Quinn generally doesn’t put his receivers in a position to get tagged and ultimately hurt. The only time he ever risked it was throwing to his now turned Cubs minor leaguer former Notre Dame teammate Jeff Samardjia. But he was huge, a young Joe Jurevicious.

Example 3: 0:18 of the 1st Qtr. Quinn is exquisite at putting the right touch and softness on his short and intermediate passes. With the exception of getting the first time jitters out, I cannot fathom a world where Quinn would short-hop a pass as poorly as DA did here. Edwards was running a curl route through the teeth of the secondary. Even if the throw wasn’t short hopped, chances are one of the 3 DB’s would’ve intercepted it.

Example 4: 0:13 of the 1st Qtr. A good QB rarely ever throws the ball directly to a defender because he has his blinders on for his target. Good QB’s on occasion will throw the ball directly to a spot that a defender is converging on. This example, the defender didn’t move on foot for about 6 seconds leading up to the throw. When the ball came, he didn’t have to move an inch to catch it. Luckily for us, he cannot catch.

Now these are only the mistakes in the 1st quarter. They continue throughout the game. In this instance, since CIN cannot play defense any better than we could in this game, they are mistakes that ultimately didn’t cost us the game. All you needed to read was Browns win 51-45 to get that. I ask you, what happens when Anderson is playing against the Steelers (Week 3 and 11), the Colts (Week 5), the Cowboys (Week 6), the Giants (Week 7), the Jaguars (Week 12), the Eagles (Week 14) --all of which have substantially better defenses than CIN. Granted, with the improvements on defense, he may not have to put up 51 points, but these are mistakes that could/will cost the game next season. I don’t want to sound like a pessimist, but I as a fan want as much improvement as anyone else. I am not suggesting that Quinn be given the job. However, I do hope the coaching staff look at the spot with an open mind. If DA justifiably wins the job, I’m OK with that. But if we go into a game and DA is struggling, I hope they don’t stick with him for loyalty's sake. Quinn is a much more headstrong QB, who is less likely to make risky mistakes.

All-in-all, I am ecstatic for next season. If DA starts and plays the entire season, I still believe the Browns are a playoff team. The only question is, “what happens once we get there?” This team should be realistically looking for a Super Bowl run in 2009-10, I just hope the QB position is figured out long-term by then.

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