What We Saw: Week 1

The What We Saw team recaps everything you missed from this week's action

Bengals @ Browns

Final Score: Browns 24, Bengals 3

Writer: Ryan Radel (@RadelFF on Twitter)


The Battle for Ohio 2023 started on the rain-logged shores of Lake Erie. I would consider the weather a major factor in this matchup as players on both teams struggled to hold onto the ball and keep solid footing. What started off as a sloppy game from both sides eventually turned into a dominant performance by the Browns, with their defense creating all sorts of problems for the Bengals offense, especially in the trenches. This game may not be a strong indicator of the level of either team since they were playing in less-than-ideal weather, but there are no excuses in the regular season. The Browns take home a win in their season opener while the Bengals head back down to Cincinnati to review the tape.


Three Up

  • Deshaun Watson – His stat line wasn’t mind blowing but he got the win and easily outplayed Joe Burrow
  • Nick Chubb – Rain or shine, Nick Chubb is gonna do Nick Chubb things
  • Joe Mixon – Probably the only positive in the entire Bengals offense

Three Down

  • Joe Burrow – Recency bias plays into it heavily but you’d expect a guy who just signed a contract that large to produce more than 82 passing yards in a divisional game.
  • Tee Higgins – A lot of this falls on the shoulders of Burrow, but Higgins was targeted EIGHT TIMES and didn’t catch a single one.
  • Jerome Ford – Extremely poor efficiency (2.4 ypc) plus a bad lost fumble. Did a whole lot of nothing on 15 touches.


Cincinnati Bengals




Joe Burrow: 14/31, 82 yards, 2 sacks | 1 rush, -1 yards


The weather. Receivers weren’t getting open, and when they did, they were dropping the rock. The offensive line was not holding up long enough for routes to develop. The run game never materialized. There are a lot of things one could say about why this game was so bad for Joe Burrow. Ultimately it was a combination of negative circumstances, some of which were listed above. The Bengals offense never got in a rhythm and it looked like Burrow wasn’t comfortable in the pocket the moment the ball was snapped. The Browns generated pressure from all over the defensive line and disrupted any gameplan the Bengals had.


Jake Browning: 0/1 | 1 carry, -1 yards


Running Back


Joe Mixon: 13 carries, 56 yards | 5 targets, 3 receptions, 17 yards


Joe Mixon was the lone bright spot on the Bengals offense, which isn’t saying a lot considering the meager stat line. The Bengals got him involved in both the run and the pass game with 18 total designed touches, a number that would’ve been larger if the offense wasn’t a dead fish. Mixon ran strong, and even carried Browns safety Grant Delpit a few yards out of bounds when Delpit tackled him around the waist. Mixon couldn’t do it all on his own, though. Once the Bengals pass game regains a pulse it should open up the field for Mixon.


Chris Evans: 2 carries, 12 yards | 1 target, 1 reception, -1 yards


Trayveon Williams: 2 carries, 7 yards



Wide Receiver/Tight End


Ja’Marr Chase: 9 targets, 5 receptions, 39 yards


Ja’Marr Chase led the team in all three receiving categories but was held in check for the majority of the game. The weather and the lack of pass protection didn’t gave Chase any time to work his routes, so most of his receptions were closer to the line of scrimmage than you’d like to see. The Browns corners smothered Ja’Marr all day. He had the targets you like to see (9) but the rest of his stat line left a lot to be desired.


Tee Higgins: 8 targets, 0 receptions, 0 yards


The majority of targets sent to Tee Higgins were generally uncatchable, and when they were on target, the Browns secondary did a great job of breaking up the play. Not a lot to write about here since there was zero production. Zero catches and zero yards on eight targets is wild, especially for a player of Higgins’ caliber.

Missed Opportunities

  • Approximately eight of them


Irv Smith Jr: 5 targets, 3 receptions, 17 yards yards


Irv Smith Jr. is another victim of the extremely poor passing game overall. He was mostly used as a short-yardage safety valve, so a lot of his targets were not mean to turn into much more. There was one crossing route that would’ve been a nice 10+ yard gain but the ball was thrown high and broken up/dropped on the sideline. Irv showed he was talented in Minnesota but it will take at least another week for that talent to materialize in Cincinnati.


Tyler Boyd: 3 targets, 2 receptions, 10 yards


Much like Irv Smith, Tyler Boyd looks to be another safety valve-type option for Burrow this season with a lot of routes within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. Boyd looks to be a prominent check down option in the middle of the field while his two younger counterparts (Chase & Higgins) do their thing on the outside.





Cleveland Browns





Deshaun Watson: 16/29, 154 yards, TD, INT, 3 sacks | 5 carries, 45 yards, TD, fumble (recovered)


Just like how the weather affected Burrow negatively, Deshaun Watson had to battle the elements as he attempted to lead his team to victory. The Browns offensive line did an above-average job protecting Deshaun (even with the loss of RT Tyler Conklin) which allowed Deshaun to stand tall in the pocket and make strikes downfield. When nothing developed, Watson was decisive with his decisions to tuck and run. When he did so, he ran with power and agility that some running backs don’t have. The yardage wasn’t anything astonishing, but Browns fans across the world would be delighted if they got two scores with only a single turnover every game. Ultimately, Deshaun looked pretty good, all things considered.


Missed Opportunities

  • Two deep balls to Goodwin that were underthrown; each could’ve been a score



Running Back


Nick Chubb: 18 carries, 106 yards | 4 targets, 4 receptions, 21 yards


While he was kept out of the endzone on the day, Chubb was the engine that kept the Browns offense on track and on schedule. The gloveless Nick Chubb ran like we have come to expect: hard and fast on every down. Turning in a monster 5.9 yard per carry on his way to 106 yards on the ground, Chubb also secured all four of his targets for another 21 yards in the air. A score would’ve been nice but Chubb looked fantastic every time he touched the ball, regardless. It was great to see the Browns giving him more targets as well.



Jerome Ford: 15 carries, 36 yards, fumble (lost)


I can’t say I expected Jerome Ford to end the game with three fewer carries than Nick Chubb, but here we are. Ford’s efficiency was on the opposite end of the spectrum from Chubb’s, though. Ford was given a lot of touches in an effort to keep Chubb healthy, and the plan seemed to work. Ford never found much space on any of his touches, and when he finally did, he lost a pretty bad fumble. I wouldn’t expect this split to continue this heavily once the weather is better.


  • Displayed poor ball security on the lost fumble.


Wide Receiver/Tight End


Amari Cooper: 7 targets, 3 receptions, 37 yards


Amari Cooper tied for the team lead for targets, bringing in three of his seven looks for 37 yards. Cooper missed a few snaps after tweaking his knee on a 20 yard catch towards the end of the 1st quarter but was able to return. Just like the other pass catchers in this  matchup, the weather did Cooper zero favors. The highlight of Cooper’s day was when he set an incredible seal block to spring Deshaun Watson’s touchdown run.


Elijah Moore: 7 targets, 3 receptions, 43 yards | 2 carries, 19 yards


Just like the preseason, the Browns are utilizing Elijah Moore as more than just a wide receiver. Moore lined up in the backfield a couple of times, getting two carries for 19 yards – only one of the two carries went as planned for the entire 19 yards. Moore tied with Amari Cooper for team lead in targets and was able to squeeze more yardage out of his receptions, but both receivers look to be a major part of the Browns plans this season.



David Njoku: 3 targets, 2 receptions, 24 yards


Nothing crazy to write about with David Njoku who played a more pivotal role in the run game than he did in the passing game; he was kept in to help block to alleviate the impact the weather had on the teams offense. Njoku was on the field for a majority of the snaps but lost his chance for a “big” day losing a passing touchdown to a fellow tight end. He was on the field 76 percent of the Browns offensive snaps, so I don’t have any worries about his production as the season goes on. This passing game should only improve.


Donovan Peoples-Jones: 2 targets, 1 reception, 12 yards

When the Browns brought in Elijah Moore it unfortunately meant less of a role for Donovan Peoples-Jones. The Browns clearly like him, as he lead the wide receiver group in snaps at 66, but it looks like his role in the offense takes a back seat to other playmakers in Cleveland. The Browns also like to keep DPJ involved as their punt returner.


Harrison Bryant: 2 targets, 2 receptions, 5 yards, TD


Harrison Bryant was only on the field for about half as many snaps as his counterpart David Njoku, but he made an impact in that limited time by finding paydirt. Outside of the touchdown, however, it was a very generic day for Bryant. While the touchdown didn’t go to Njoku, it was still good to see the position getting the ever-important red zone looks.

Jordan Akins: 1 Target, 1 Reception, 12 Yards


Marquise Goodwin: 2 Targets


David Bell: 1 Target



Thank you for reading!


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