Good day, Browns fans.
After a weak performance in the opener, the Browns rebounded a bit in defeating the Lions. However, despite the improvement, there are certainly causes for concern. Let's examine what happened.
The offense executed better and was a bit more adventurous. It appeared to me that the Browns wanted to go deep a few times, but the pass protection was not there to support that. For the most part the, the offense was reduced to the same kind of horizontal approach we saw last week, but with better execution.
Lets start with the offensive line. Center-of-the-week Ross Tucker looked solid in the first half. He was called for a leg whip, but that was a bogus call. Like last week, the line looked solid up the middle it is the tackles that have problems. Left tackle Kevin Shaffer had a few problems, including on the Charlie Frye fumble play, but overall, he seems decent. Kirk Chambers, however, was a disaster at right tackle. Once again, isolating on each lineman, if a Lion defender got in the backfield, it was almost always because of Chambers. Running plays fared better than pass protection. Dave Yovanovits got a brief look at center with the first line and was better than I expected. The backup line had reasonable success in the game, but I still see this group as not providing the kind of quality depth the Browns will likely need given the injury history of Ryan Tucker, Cosey Coleman, and Joe Andruzzi. Penalties, especially on plays where they make no sense like screen passes, are a problem.
While Charlie Frye moved the team, turnovers are an issue. He had a terrible interception that was both a bad decision and a bad throw. Both the interception and the fumble were caused by pass protection problems. Frye did have a high completion percentage and his touchdown was vintage Frye, scrambling and making a play on the run. He's just going to have to be more careful with the ball. Ken Dorsey got a two-minute drill and played some after halftime as well, and he even resembled an NFL quarterback. He also moved the team, but he also made some bad throws, including a throw behind a receiver that led to an interception. Derek Anderson did OK, but he did not seize the opportunity to overtake Dorsey. He had a fumble on a bad exchange with Lee Suggs, but he also had a nice touchdown on a slant to Jerome Harrison. Darrell Hackney got a chance at garbage time and did not look good.
What a bizarre week for the running back corps with the fiasco of Lee Suggs being traded to the Jets... and then un-traded. Reuben Droughns had another productive stint, including a 27-yard run. Last week I said I wanted to see more of Jerome Harrison earlier in the game, and he got some chances with the first team as well as playing deep into the second half. The kid is quick and shifty. He looked good both running and catching the ball and led the team in both categories. He made William Green look like his feet were trapped in cement.
Speaking of Green, his two carries went nowhere. He looks like he has completely lost the ability to play at the NFL level. Suggs looked good in limited chances. He looked like he had something to prove. Jason Wright also got some carries at the end. Fullback Terelle Smith had some great blocks. Lawrence Vickers also got some playing time, including picking up a third and one.
The receivers across the board did better with
catching the balls that were thrown to them than the first game, but they also
did not make spectacular plays. I did think that Travis Wilson helped himself
with a couple of good catches. Brandon Rideau did a better job of taking
advantage of chances to make plays. Kendrick Mosely also has made some plays.
Josh Cribbs got the wind knocked out of him and didn't get as much of a chance to
show what he can do on offense. Among the tight ends, Kel
Once again, the starting defense was without veteran starters like Willie McGinest, Gary Baxter, and Daylon McCutcheon. Journeyman Ralph Brown started at cornerback. Despite this, the defense did an impressive job. Lions running back Kevin Jones was held in check and the Lions did not run effectively until garbage time. In the passing game, there was a deep pass before halftime and some lapses late, but considering Frye's fumble handed the Lions their lone touchdown, the defense was very effective.
If the 3-4 defense is all about the linebackers making plays, then the Browns are starting to get this thing down. In the first game, I thought Andra Davis was behind the plays, but in this game, he did a nice job. He showed quickness in snuffing out a wide run behind the line. The young linebackers made some plays. Kamerion Wimbley continues to show quickness and had a sack. He is looking good on the rush, but needs to keep working on coverage situations. I like the hustle showed by D'Qwell Jackson. He was late covering the back out of the backfield on the Lions TD, but he also was flying all over the field. He had one interception and just missed another. David McMillan got playing time again but didn't show the same playmaking as last week. Matt Stewart also saw playing time and made one nice play.
Ted Washington is an impact player for the Browns. When he was in the game, the Lions simply could not run up the middle. Washington allows the other players on the line, in particular Orpheus Roye, to flow and make plays. When the Browns replaced Washington with Nick Eason, the backup tackle did a solid job, but he is not Ted Washington. The Browns didn't shut the run down as well, but it was still an improvement over what we saw in 2005. In the second half, when Ethan Kelley was at the nose, he was shoved completely off the ball on several occasions. This is probably why the backup linebackers were so invisible. The pass rush still needs help, but at least the Browns were getting near the quarterback and hurrying throws at times. Three sacks is better than we saw most of last year. Babatunde Oshinowo had a sack in the late-going.
Leigh Bodden was the bright light in the secondary. He continues to make plays against both the pass and the run. Ralph Brown was better than Pete Hunter on the other side, but that isn't saying much. Pete Hunter had a better showing than in Philly, but that was largely against the backups and scrubs. Brian Russell did little in the game, but Brodney Pool and Sean Jones continue their active play. Justin Hamilton continues the show great effort.
What a great night for the special teams! Josh Cribbs returned a punt for a touchdown, but in an eerie reminder of last year, two penalties wiped it out. In addition, Kendrick Mosley has a 44-yard punt return as well that had no flags. The kicking game looked solid. Both Phil Dawson and Jeff Chandler made field goals. Kickoffs were consistently deep. Kyle Basler looked much better punting than last week. The Browns got pressure on the punter and forced a sideline kick that gave them great field position. Travis Wilson got a chance on kickoff returns and looked so-so. The lone dark cloud over this performance were the penalties. Brodney Pool had two special teams penalties and Justin Hamilton had one as well.
In this game, I was impressed with Romeo Crennel. He was teaching, getting mad at times, jawing with officials, all the things you want out of your head coach. You could see the teacher in him coming out at times, especially after someone made a bad play. The preseason games are a time to do that.
I'll probably get blasted for saying this, but I liked a lot of what Maurice Carthon did in this game. Many have argued that when the Browns had better players that executed his plays better, he'd look better. When the Browns did their jobs well, the offense was mixing it up and moving the ball. In my opinion, the problems on the offensive line, and in particular with Kirk Chambers, did not give the Browns any chance to go more vertical in their passing game.
Todd Grantham has been a steal as defensive coordinator. I cannot wait to see what he will do with the personnel Phil Savage has assembled when the season starts.
If the preseason games are a chance to evaluate your draft picks, you have to be pleased when most every draft pick had an impact on this game all the way from Wimbley at the top to Hamilton at the bottom. This draft class is looking very solid so far. We've already seen more out of them than any class since The Return.
A Saturday evening game in Buffalo. The third game is traditionally the one where the starters do the most. It is also a chance to see old friend Kelly Holcomb.
The season is short, bark hard!