Browns-Eagles: Instant Analysis

Long-time Browns columnist Frank Derry offers his analysis of what we saw on Thursday night as the Browns lost to the Eagles 20-7. With the team's offensive line suddenly in disarray, how did the Browns do? Here's Frank's take...

About a decade ago, when the Cleveland Indians were in the beginning stages of their incredible run of playoff appearances, then-manager Mike Hargrove went to Eddie Murray and told him he was going to have to play first base a little more often.
Murray bristled. He pretty much told `Grover" to take a hike. Murray then went to general manager John Hart and protested, saying the contract he signed was to be the team's designated hitter, not DH and part-time first baseman.
Hart and Hargrove were never close friends, so you can imagine how their relationship deteriorated even further when Hart sided with Murray.
Hargrove's relationship with Murray, which was bad to begin with, grew even worse and was one of many "fires" that the Tribe's skipper somehow managed to keep under control during the team's heyday.
I bring this up because there are some people who believe the reason Bob Hallen began complaining about back problems was because the contract he signed was to be a backup offensive lineman, not the starting center for 16 games.
Hallen should have known that if you are the No. 1 backup at several positions on the offensive line for the Cleveland Browns, you can pretty much anticipate playing at least a dozen games. History shows that Browns offensive linemen rarely stay healthy for an entire year.
Obviously, no one other than Hallen knows whether the skeptics are right or whether Hallen does indeed have back and "personal" problems, which led to his leaving the team earlier this week.
All I know for sure is that there has not been this much attention centered on the centers in the preseason since Marty Schottenheimer decided just prior to the start of the 1988 season that second-year center Gregg Rakoczy was ready to replace veteran Mike Babb.
That move went over like a lead balloon with Babb's fellow veteran linemen and the quarterbacks, who were extremely comfortable with Babb at center.  
Long gone are the days when guys like Doug Dieken, Robert Jackson, Cody Risien, Joe DeLamielleure, Rickey Bolden, Dan Fike and Tom DeLeone could be counted upon year after year to anchor the offensive line, making it one of the best units in the entire NFL.
When Cleveland signed LeCharles Bentley, arguably the best free agent available this off-season, to anchor the offensive line from his center position, it appeared the Browns were well on their way to regaining some measure of respectability.
But then came the season-ending knee injury to Bentley and the back woes for Hallen and suddenly quarterback Charlie Frye's insurance rates quadrupled.
Nothing against Alonzo Ephraim, who has apparently inherited the starting center job, but even head coach Romeo Crennel admits the situation is critical.
Even before the team took the field for its first preseason game against the Eagles, the Browns had definitely lost their best offensive lineman, Bentley, for the year;  their best backup lineman, Hallen, for an undetermined amount of time; and their starting right tackle, Ryan Tucker, who is not expected back until the regular-season opener due to arthroscopic knee surgery.
That does not bode well for a team that playing in the same division as the defending Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers, not to mention the powerful Cincinnati Bengals and the always-tough Baltimore Ravens.

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The line did a commendable job in the team's 20-7 loss to the Eagles, but quite frankly it is impossible to draw any firm conclusions in an exhibition game.
The Eagles played a "vanilla" defense, meaning the offensive line didn't have to make a lot of pre-snap adjustments. That certainly won't be the case when the Browns line up for real against the New Orleans Saints on Sept. 10.
The best aspect about the preseason opener was the fact the team appeared to come through relatively injury-free. Gary Baxter suffered some type of pectoral injury but otherwise the starters and No. 1 backups looked to come through unscathed.
The Browns also avoided a plethora of penalties while a majority of the starters were playing. The offense only had two while Frye was on the field and the Eagles registered no sacks against Frye, who was pressured a couple of times.
The penalties mounted once Frye departed and had Crennel visibly upset.
Starting running back Reuben Droughns, despite his off-the-field legal issues, looked like his old self, showing a burst both up the middle and around the outside.  Neither William Green nor Lee Suggs did anything to get a grip on the backup running back role.
It was great to see Kellen Winslow Jr. get to see a little action, although his action was pretty much limited to a couple of pass patterns in the flats.
Defensively, second-round draft choice D'Qwell Jackson stepped in for anticipated starter Chaun Thompson at inside linebacker and was impressive with his speed and tackling ability. No. 1 pick Kamerion Wimbley showed promise at outside linebacker.
One has to wonder whether Thompson, who switched from outside to inside linebacker this year, will be able to stay ahead of Jackson.   
David McMillan, who is listed as an outside linebacker, was very impressive on several plays in the first half.
The backups I really wanted to see were quarterbacks Ken Dorsey and Derek Anderson. Dorsey will likely be Frye's No. 1 backup, but Anderson has looked very sharp in camp.      
Dorsey showed some mobility, which was necessary because the line didn't give him a lot of protection. Overall, he did little to inspire confidence that he would be capable of filling the No. 1 role if something happens to Frye.
Anderson took over in the third quarter and was equally unimpressive.
The only quarterback who really did anything was free agent Lang Campbell, who put together a nice scoring drive late in the fourth quarterback, capped by a perfect strike to Jerome Harrison.
Overall, the offense showed absolutely no cohesion for three quarters while the defense played well in the first half, allowing just a field goal on the Eagles' first possession.
There's a lot of work to be done between now and the second exhibition game on Aug. 18 at home against the Lions. Unfortunately, it involves far more than just the center position.

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