Good day, Browns fans!
The last time we saw our heroes, they were dashing our hopes by blowing a big lead in Pittsburgh. After a long and eventful offseason, the Browns took the field once again, this time in a controlled scrimmage against the Bills. It's early, and there were a lot of rough spots. Even so, there are some causes for concern. This team has a long way to go before it opens the season against the Colts.
I'm going to give some overall impressions and opinions position by position. You will also find a complete log of each play at the end.
The scrimmage was run with some confusing and not always consistently enforced rules. On each possession, each team starts at its own 30 and gets 12 plays. If the team fails to convert a third down or turns the ball over, they go back to the 30. If a sack, penalty, or other event would cause a team to go back inside the 30, the ball stays at the 30. After nine plays, the ball goes to the opponent's 20-yard line for three red zone plays. Finally, the teams usually got three goal line plays starting from the two-yard line.
Sacks are almost like the halo rule for kick returners. If the quarterback is touched or anyone gets within reach, they are sacked. Also, if the quarterback scrambles and passes the line, the play is dead. This rule became annoying, as it cost the quarterbacks some positive plays.
The teams had five possessions each. As best as I could tell, they went like this:
· Field goal kicking by both teams simultaneously
· Tim Couch and starting offense against Buffalo starting defense
· Browns starting defense against Drew Bledsoe and Bills starting offense
· Kelly Holcomb and starting offense against Buffalo #2 defense
· Browns starting defense against Alex Van Pelt and a mix of #1 and #2 offense
· Tim Couch and #2 offense against a mix of Bills #1 and #2 offense
· Browns #2 defense against Travis Brown and Bills backups
· Kelly Holcomb and #2 offense against Bills backups
· Browns #2 defense against Travis Brown and Bills backups
· Josh Booty and backups against Bills backups
· Jason Johnson and backups against Browns defensive backups
Well, here is the topic everyone wants to talk about, I suppose. Let me say up front that there will be those who will argue about the fact that the reps were unequal because of Buffalo's personnel changes. The Browns started out tight, but loosened up as the scrimmage went along, and Couch went first, to his disadvantage. There are always extenuating circumstances. You have all my caveats. That being said, Holcomb was the better quarterback this day. Now, some of the early articles I have seen portray a wider margin than I thought existed, but that's still the way I saw it.
Couch started out rough. He fumbled the snap on the second play. He had no running game. He locked on to a receiver at times, but other times, he went through reads slowly enough that you could watch it unfold. Given the halo rule, that led to some "sacks". However, Couch threw the ball with noticeably more zip than last year, did not get tremendous help from his receivers, and didn't always get great protection. He was also victimized a couple of times by the goofy rules of the scrimmage, such as getting the Browns to the one on a first down play on his first possession. But, it was the third red zone play, so they did not get the chance to score. I didn't think Couch was terrible. Couch threw a nice TD strike of nine yards to Marc Soumah, the French wide receiver from NFL Europe. His best throw might have been a strike to Kevin Johnson on a third and long play. Couch ended up completing 8 of 13 passes for 79 yards.
Holcomb looked a little rusty at times, but for the most part, he looked more comfortable and sharper than Couch. Both of his possessions resulted in touchdowns. He threw at 20-yard touchdown to KJ over double coverage, and then threw a nice 15 yard strike to CJ Jones in traffic. Holcomb's best play of the day, a beautiful 41-yard bomb to Antoine Burns was called a sack because of the halo rule. Holcomb's stats after the fact seem better to me than the reality of what I saw, 12 of 16 passes complete for 164 yards and 2 TDs.
Josh Booty saw action with the scrubs. He completed four of six passes for 20 yards. He looked a lot more comfortable than last preseason.
There isn't much to say here. The blocking was so awful that who could tell anything. William Green did not have a good day. He ended up with six rushed for nine yards, a fumble, and dropped a pass. James Jackson saw more action, but other than one good run that went for 12 yards, his best run was for two yards and most went for a loss. He ended up with nine rushes for 18 yards. He looked terribly slow hitting the "hole", but there usually wasn't a hole. Jamel White did not dress with a hamstring problem.
Billy Blanchard and Keala Keannanina both saw action with the backups. Neither did a lot to impress.
The Four Deuces saw limited action, and Andre Davis did not dress with a knee problem. Kevin Johnson looked the best, catching a touchdown from Holcomb and key passes from both Holcomb and Couch. He led all receivers with five catches for 78 yards. Quincy Morgan dropped a pass from Couch that skipped off his hands. Morgan was dropping balls even in warmups. He did catch one pass for 15 yards. Dennis Northcutt had a nice 19-yard catch and run but fumbled at the end.
Among the backups, CJ Jones stood out. This guy can catch in traffic, has good hands, and is fast. He had three catches for 31 yards, including the touchdown, and ran for seven more on a reverse. He looks like a keeper to me. Two of the other backups looked good. Antoine Burns caught two passes totaling 51 yards. Richard Alston made some nice catches in traffic, and ended up with four catches for 28 yards. Marc Soumah and Brian Haugabrook both made catches but are deep down the depth chart. Andre King did not dress.
Steve Heiden did not dress, which was disappointing because I really wanted to get a look at his reported improvement. In his place, Aaron Shea looked about the same: OK at best blocking, decent receiving, but he only had one pass thrown to him. Darnell Sanders had a catch and got a lot of playing time, but didn't show a whole lot.
Chad Mustard sure looked good blocking at times. I'd like to see more of him. I did not notice anything from Rod Monroe.
I can't say anything but that these guys were a major disappointment. I hope it is just because of the shakeups in positions. The first line, right to left, was Ryan Tucker, Paul Zukauskas, Shaun O'Hara, Barry Stokes, and Ross Verba. The Browns repeatedly ran right, presumably testing Z at guard and the interior of the line. Those plays went nowhere. Going left was a little better. I recall only one play up the middle, James Jackson's 12-yard run, where there was any appreciable hole. Verba had a holding call that was such a blatant take down that everyone sitting around me saw it and groaned. Stokes got a chance to catch a tackle-eligible pass from Couch, but it was just out of reach. There was no push whatsoever from the interior of the line on running plays, and the pass blocking was not great, either.
The second line was Joaquin Gonzalez, Qasim Mitchell, Jeff Faine, Melvin Fowler, and Chad Beasley. In general, they did a little better than the #1 line in the middle, but overall, the results were the same. These guys had some problems pass blocking, too. Chad Ward saw action with the third unit in place of Fowler.
Overall, the starting line did well, especially against the pass. Running plays, well, let's just say things look a lot like last year. There were huge gaping holes anyone could have run through. Of the starting line, the guy that looked best was Orpheus Roye. He did a great job against the run, flowed and stayed with plays, and made good tackles. Gerard Warren and Kenard Lang both had sacks. In both cases, these were not cheap halo calls; they busted through and blew up the play. Mark Word was the invisible man. He got totally out of position against the run at times, leaving holes for the running game. He did not do much against the pass, either.
The second line featured Tyrone Rogers, Cedric Scott, Alvin McKinley, and Felipe Claybrooks. These guys made some things happen. They were better against the run than the first unit, but still struggled at times. Rogers had two sacks, and Alvin McKinley was making plays all over the place. Antonio Garay, Thomas Pittman, and Corey Jackson saw action with the third unit. Garay was in on a sack play at the end.
It was a little tough to tell with these guys. I have a hunch some of the problems against the run were because these guys were not in position to make a play. Kevin Bentley, Barry Gardner, and Ben Taylor started. Taylor made a couple of nice plays against the run. While Gardner broke up a pass play nicely, he also allowed Travis Henry to run right past him.. Bentley did not do anything of notice.
Among the backups, Andra Davis made some plays, but he also missed tackles. Chaun Thompson saw limited action but made one nice stop. Howard Clark, a University of Miami product, saw a lot of playing time but didn't really make any plays. It looked to me like moving Michael Josiah to LB has paid off. He is fast coming off the edge and might make a good third down pass rushing specialist. Mason Unck was active and had his name called more than once. Sherrod Coates had a good play. It's hard to sort out all the competitors here, but it does look like there is some talent.
While Anthony Henry had a nice interception, the ball was thrown to no man's land. He had a mixed day. Daylon McCutcheon had his problems. Earl Little was quiet. Michael Jameson started in place of the injured Robert Griffith and did some good things.
Most of the backups saw action, including Ricky Sharpe, Oliver Celestin, Jermaine Jones, and recently signed draft picks Chris Crocker and Michael Lehan. Of all the backups, the only one that I thought really had a good scrimmage was Kalvin Pearson, a star in NFL Europe.
There you have it. The team has a lot of work to do before they take on the Titans in Tennessee next Saturday.
Couch and Browns #1 offense, Bills #1 defense
1. 1st-10, Browns 30: Couch long pass to KJ, incomplete, KJ is hit hard.
2. 2nd-10, Browns 30: Couch fumbled snap, recovered by Couch.
3. 3rd-10, Browns 30: Dump pass to Green gains 2 yards. Quick check down.
4. 1st-10, Browns 30: Green off right tackle, no gain.
5. 2nd-10, Browns 30: Play action, Couch scramble. Holding on Browns, blatant take down by Verba.
6. 3rd-10, Browns 30: Couch to KJ, 12 yards, hard tackle by Winfield.
7. 1st-10, Browns 42: Green of tackle, no gain. Scuffle results in offsetting penalties.
8. 1st-10, Browns 42: Couch sacked. Locked onto a receiver.
9. 2nd-15, Browns 37: Couch to Morgan, good throw, bounces off Morgan's hands, incomplete.
1. 1st-10, Bills 20: Couch to Shea on the right hash mark, 9 yards.
2. 2nd-1, Bills 11: Two backs, handoff to James Jackson lined up as a wing, counter play, three yards.
3. 1st-Goal, Bills 8: Couch to KJ, ruled not in the end zone.
1. Bills 2: Overload right, 3 TE, Green runs right and loses 1.
2. Bills 2: Shea at FB, rollout, quick whistle stops play before throw, "sack".
3. Bills 2: Handoff to Green, 1 yard, no TD.
Bills #1 offense, Browns #1 defense
1. 1st-10, Bills 30: Bledsoe to Josh Reed 10 yards over Anthony Henry.
2. 1st-10, Bills 40: Travis Henry 12 yards, ran past Gardner, Lang on tackle.
3. 1st-10, Browns 48: Henry run, 3 yards.
4. 2nd-7, Browns 45: Browns blitz, Bledsoe to Sam Gash, 4 yards. Great stop by Roye and Ben Taylor.
5. 3rd-3, Browns 41: Bledsoe to Bobby Shaw over McCutcheon, 17 yards.
6. 1st-10, Browns 24: Bledsoe pass intercepted by A. Henry at Browns 4, returned to Browns 32. Moulds wide open, but pass off the mark. Miscommunication between Bledsoe and Moulds.
7. 1st-10, Bills 30: Travis Henry 3 yards, nice ankle tackle at line by Jameson.
9. 1st-10, Bills 39 [why?]: Bledsoe sacked by Warren.
1. 1st-10, Browns 20: Bledsoe to Moulds, 6 yards. Gardner and Henry push out of bounds.
2. 2nd-4, Browns 14: T. Henry run, 5 yards.
3. 1st-Goal, Browns 9: Lang sack coming clean through the middle.
1. Browns 2: T. Henry run, 1 yard, gang tackled.
2. Browns 2: T. Henry run, 1 yard, stopped by McKinley and Warren.
3. Browns 2: Henry run, touchdown.
Holcomb and Browns #1 offense, Bills #2 defense
1. 1st-10, Browns 30: Green run, 5 yards.
2. 2nd-5: Browns 35: Holcomb to Morgan, 15 yards.
3. 1st-10, at 50: Holcomb nice look off, but busted screen pass, short throw. Ineligible man downfield on Browns.
4. 2nd-10, at 50: Short throw dropped by Shea.
5. 3rd-10, at 50: Holcomb to Northcutt, 19-yard catch and run, but Northcutt fumble recovered by Bills.
6. 1st-10, Browns 30: Green run middle, 1 yard, fumble recovered by Bills.
7. 1st-10, Browns 30: Holcomb swing pass to Northcutt, tipped at line, incomplete.
8. 2nd-10, Browns 30: Slant to KJ over double covereage, 13 yards. Great play.
9. 1st-10, Browns 33: Play action pass to KJ to Bills 33, KJ wide open.
1. 1st-10, Bills 20: Holcomb to KJ, corner of the end zone, double covered. Touchdown.
2. 1st-10, Bills 20: Holcomb to Darnell Sanders on right hash, bulls through defenders, 8 yards.
3. 2nd-2, Bills 12: Holcomb to Northcutt, sideline pass, no gain.
Alex Van Pelt and Bills #1/#2 offense, Browns #1 defense
1. 1st-10, Bills 30: Van Pelt to Reed, 12 yards.
2. 1st-10, Bills 42: Olandis Gary run, 1 yard. Good tackles by Roye.
3. 2nd-9, Bills 43: Sammy Morris, draw play, 7 yards, middle wide open.
4. 3rd-2, at 50: Van Pelt pass to Shaw incomplete, looked everywhere before throw.
5. 1st-10, Bills 30: Pass tipped away by Gardner, nice leaping tip, incomplete.
6. 2nd-10, Bills 30: Gary run middle, 2 yards. Great stop by Roye.
7. 3rd-8, Bills 32: Van Pelt to Clarence Coleman over triple coverage, 19 yards. Procedure penalty on someone?.
8. 1st-10, Browns 49: Van Pelt dump pass to Gary, 5 yards, missed tackles.
9. 2nd-5, Browns 44: Van Pelt to Coleman, 5 yards, missed tackles, 1st down.
1. 1st-10, Browns 20: Van Pelt to Mark Campbell, 11 yards.
2. 1st-Goal, Browns 9: Inside handoff to Gary, 3 yards. Stopped by McCutcheon and Jameson.
3. 2nd-Goal, Browns 6: Incomplete pass at Browns 1, Boyer gets away with holding on receiver.
Couch and Browns #2 offense, Bills #1/#2 defense
1. 1st-10, Browns 30: James Jackson run, loss of two.
2. 2nd-10, Browns 30: CJ Jones reverse, good misdirection, 5 yards.
3. 3rd-5, Browns 35: Couch to Antoine Burns, dropped at first down marker, incomplete.
4. 1st-10, Browns 30: Couch slant pass to Jones, 10 yards.
5. 1st-10, Browns 40: Jackson run, loss of three.
6. 2nd-13, Browns 37: Sack, quick whistle wipes out completion.
7. 3rd-18, Browns 32: Flag, no play.
8. 1st-10, Browns 30: Couch to Burns over double coverage, 17 yards, nice catch.
9. 1st-10, Browns 47: Couch to Richard Alston, 12 yards to Bills 41.
1. 1st-10, Bills 20: 4 WR set, sack.
2. 2nd-10, Bills 20: Pass to Darnell Sanders at Bills 5, incomplete, Sanders is mugged. Pass interference Bills.
3. 1st-Goal, Bills 9 (why?): Couch to Marc Soumah, touchdown. Good catch, Couch looked off!
1. Bills 2: Jackson run, no gain. Sad play.
2. Bills 2: Couch pass on tackle eligible play to Stokes, off his fingertips.
3. Bills 2: Jackson to goal line, no touchdown.
Travis Brown and Bills #2 Offense, Browns #2 defense
1. 1st-10, Bills 30: Travis Brown to FB Phil Crosby, 8 yards.
2. 2nd-2, Bills 38: Joe Burns run, 12 yards. Terrible tackling.
3. 1st-10, at 50: Browns to TE Ryan Neufeld, 8 yards.
4. 2nd-2, Browns 42: Burns run, 12 yards, Andra Davis overpusuit on blitz.
5. 1st-10, Browns 30: Brown swing pass to WR Andre Rone, 5 yards, great tackle one-on-one by Pearson.
6. 2nd-5, Browns 25: Burns run middle, 3 yards, bad tackling.
7. 3rd-2, Browns 22: Coverage sack, Rogers.
8. ???, Browns 22: Brown's pass broken up nicely by Ricky Sharpe.
9. 1st-10, Bills 30: Morris inside run, huge hole, 12 yards.
1. 1st-10, Browns 20: Parker run, 5 yards. Andra Davis tackle.
2. 2nd-5, Browns 15: Parker run, 3 yards. Chaun Thompson tackle. Pearson missed tackle at the line.
3. 3rd-2, Browns 12: Good coverage, Brown throws it away.
1. Browns 2: Play action, TE open in middle of end zone, ball overthrown.
2. Browns 2: Run for no gain, good stop by Andra Davis and Sherrod Coates.
3. Browns 2: Run middle, stuffed, no gain.
Holcomb and Browns #2 offense, Bills #2 defense
1. 1st-10, Browns 30: Jackson run, 3 yards.
2. 2nd-7, Browns 33: Jackson run left, 12 yards, nice run.
3. 1st-10, Browns 45: Holcomb to Burns over double coverage, 38 yards, called a sack due to halo rule.
4. 2nd-15, Browns 40: Holcomb to Alston, 9 yards, nice run after catch.
5. 3rd-6, Browns 49: Holcomb dump to Jackson due to coverage, 3 yards.
6. 1st-10, Browns 30: Jackson run, 2 yards.
7. 2nd-8, Browns 32: Screen pass to Jackson, ruled a sack.
8. 3rd-10, Browns 30: Bills prevent defense, Holcomb to Burns , 37 yards. Excellent run after catch.
9. 1st-10, Bills 37: Jackson run, 1 yard.
1. 1st-10, Bills 20: Holcomb poor underthrow to Keannanina, but caught anyway at shoe tops, 5 yards.
2. 2nd-5, Bills 15: Holcomb swing pass dropped by Jackson, incomplete.
3. 3rd-5, Bills 15: Holcomb to CJ Jones in traffic, touchdown. Good throw and catch.
Brown and Bills #2 Offense, Browns #2 defense
1. 1st-10, Bills 30: Run play off tackle, but holding.
2. 2nd-10, Bills 30: Pass to sideline, blitz from opposite side, 8 yards.
3. 3rd-10, Bills 30: Run, no gain, McKinley great tackle.
4. 1st-10, Bills 30: Play action, sack by Claybrooks.
5. 2nd-10, Bills 30: Busted screen pass, Andra Davis and Scott pressure.
6. 3rd-10, Bills 30: Brown to Wright, 5 yards, Pearson on tackle.
7. 1st-10, Bills 30: Blitz, Parker tackled for loss by McKinley.
8. 2nd-10, Bills 30: Brown dump pass to Parker, 12 yards, where was the defense?
9. 1st-10, Bills 42: Pass thrown to nobody, incomplete.
1. 1st-10, Browns 20: Parker run, 3 yards.
2. 2nd-7, Browns 17: Parker run, loss of one. McKinley on tackle.
3. 3rd-8, Browns 18: Brown pass to ?, 4 yards, great tackle by Pearson.
Booty and Browns backup offense, Bills backup defense
1. 1st-10, Browns 30: Blanchard run, 5 yards.
2. 2nd-5, Browns 35: Blanchard run, 5 yards.
3. 1st-10, Browns 40: Booty deep throw called sack. Dumb call, not close.
4. 2nd-14, Browns 36: Booty pass to Brian Haugabrook, 5 yards.
5. 3rd-9, Browns 41: Booty check down to Alston, complete but short of 1st down.
6. 1st-10, Browns 30: Booty to CJ Jones, 6 yards.
7. 2nd-4, Browns 36: Blanchard run, 2 yards.
8. 3rd-2, Browns 38: Booty to Alston, 4 yards, good play.
9. 1st-10, Browns 42: Busted play, fumble recovered by Booty.
1. 1st-10, Bills 20: Near interception at Bills 4, but pass interference.
2. 1st-Goal, Bills 4: Pass to Keannanina in end zone, incomplete.
3. 2nd-Goal, Bills 4: Fade to Darnell Sanders, incomplete.
Jason Johnson and Bills backup offense, Browns backup defense
1. 1st-10, Bills 30: False start.
2. 1st-10, Bills 30: Run, 1 yard. Good defense at line.
3. 2nd-10, Bills 30: Johnson to Aiken, 7 yards, Unck tackle. Holding on Bills.
4. 2nd-10, Bills 30: Draw play to Burns, 5 yards. Unck tackle.
5. 3rd-10, Bills 30: Coverage sack.
6. 1st-10, Bills 30: Simonton run, 9 yards. Coates went wrong way and could have stopped the play.
7. 2nd-1, Bills 39: Johnson to TE Thomas, 5 yards.
8. 1st-10, Bills 44: Run stopped by Claybrooks for loss of one.
9. 2nd-11, Bills 43: False start.
10. 2nd-11, Bills 43: Sack, Rogers quick to quarterback.
1. 1st-10, Browns 20: Burns tackled for one-yard loss, great play.
2. 2nd-10, Browns 20: Johnson to TE Thomas, wide open but overthrown, incomplete.
3. 3rd-10, Browns 20: Sack by Josiah and Garay.
4. 1st-10, Browns 20: One more play -- Josiah shot off the line to make sack.