UK Markets close in 7 hrs 1 min

Week 4 takeaways: The Browns have found their identity

Jeff Simmons
·5-min read

There is no bigger disappointment one quarter of the way through the 2020 NFL season than the Dallas Cowboys.

With a new head coach, a roster full of high quality talent and an elite quarterback, the Cowboys have been held back by a historically bad defense that was steamrolled by the Cleveland Browns in Week 4 and has allowed a horrific average of 42 points per game the last three weeks. They were torched by Matt Ryan, Russell Wilson and the Cleveland ground game in consecutive weeks.

The defense is giving Dallas no chance to compete despite Dak Prescott’s productivity in the passing game, and given the ineptitude of the NFC East, it is inexcusable for the Cowboys to not be leading the division.

The Cowboys have to wonder if bringing in Mike Nolan, the handpicked hire of Mike McCarthy, as defensive coordinator was the right decision, as the team’s play has been full of rudimentary mistakes and looks a bit too complex compared to the simple scheme of the previous defensive staff.

Nolan, a longtime NFL assistant, has not been a defensive coordinator since 2014 and when he did hold a head coaching job in San Francisco, one of his offensive coordinators was McCarthy. You have to wonder if the Cowboys got the best man for the job, or just a loyal friend.

Statistically, this is the Cowboys’ worst defensive stretch since they went 0-11-1 as an expansion franchise, and the team conceivably would be winless if not for a once-in-a-million onside kick.

Browns finally coming together

On the other side of the equation, the Browns deserve some credit as well. New head coach Kevin Stefanski has created a clear identity as a power football team and his squad has responded with three wins in a row after an ugly season opener in Baltimore.

Stefanski has been utilizing his talent to a much more efficient degree than his predecessor.

Myles Garrett has been phenomenal on the defensive line, the running game has gotten production out of multiple players (even with Nick Chubb’s injury), and Odell Beckham Jr. even showed up with his biggest game as a Brown on Sunday.

More importantly, the makeup of the team is much improved this season after the club made it a priority to upgrade the offensive line, signing Jack Conklin at right tackle and drafting Alabama’s Jedrick Wills in the first round. That group, under longtime offensive line coach Bill Callahan, has transformed them from one of the league’s worst into the clear strength of the team. That makes Cleveland a wild-card contender.

Dolphins need to start prepping Tua

The Miami Dolphins put forth a valiant effort on Sunday, staying within one score of the Seattle Seahawks before they pulled away in the fourth quarter. The Dolphins are pesky, tough and well coached, but big picture, it is painfully obvious how much the roster lacks the blue chip talent that will take them to the next stage of their development.

While QB Ryan Fitzpatrick is still productive and has played admirably for a bridge quarterback, the Dolphins need to spend the remainder of the season getting No. 5 overall pick Tua Tagovailoa reps behind center. He is the quarterback of the future for the Dolphins and nothing is more important for his development — other than staying healthy — than seeing game action. They need to get him ready to play at this level.

The good news for Miami: the talent it desperately needs could be coming, thanks to Bill O’Brien.

Rams can’t keep hiding Jared Goff

Yes, the Los Angeles Rams are 3-1. They have the best defensive player in the sport and a high-level head coach, but Sunday’s tight victory over the lowly New York Giants reinforced a familiar issue plaguing Sean McVay’s team: their high-priced quarterback.

Goff, while playing much better the first three weeks of the season, was the primary reason the Rams didn’t make the playoffs in 2019, and if his stat line on Sunday is any indication, he remains a potential problem for the Rams.

When McVay couldn’t scheme players wide open, Goff had trouble creating plays on his own and was trying to force the ball into tight windows. It looked like the Rams were doing everything they could to keep their quarterback from having to throw the ball down the field. That is not a sustainable way to win, and a big reason why they struggled to beat the Giants. Goff was 25-of-32, which looks good on the surface, but finished with a troubling average of six yards per pass and a grand total of 200 yards, most of which came on one fourth quarter play to Cooper Kupp. To get back to a Super Bowl level, Goff can’t be hidden, much like the 49ers hid Jimmy Garoppolo last year. He needs to be the focal point.

More NFL coverage from Yahoo Sports