Browns-Bills: Return of the Twelve-Pack

How did the Browns do with the twelve-pack that John Taylor set out for them last Saturday? JT revisits the set of cold, frosty, freshly-brewed, um, objectives and reports on the team's progress while they were in the land of the spicy deep-fried chicken part.

Here's a look back at Saturday's Pre-Game 12-Pack of "things to look for" and how well the Browns did—or didn't—do in their 20-17 win over the Bills.

Charlie Frye getting two to two-and-a-half quarters of work with the first team and showing more than just occasional glimpses of why this organization has hitched their collective wagons to the third-round pick. 

The first drive, good.  Scary good, in fact.

The next three, ummm, not so good.

In fact, the second through fourth series were eerily reminiscent of the early expansion years.  All three were three-and-outs, totaling a whopping minus-one yard in total offense.

Frye's fifth series saw three first downs and ended with a missed 56-yard field goal off the right foot of kicker Phil Dawson. Frye's only series of the second half was yet another three and out.

So, in summation:  six drives, seven first downs and, most importantly, a mere seven points.

The whole of the work was not impressive—especially when the Carson Palmer-less Bengals hung 44 points on the same Bills defense a week earlier—but Frye prefers to hang his Kangol on the first drive as a sign of the real Browns offense.

"We're coming together as an offensive unit, and also as a team," Frye told reporters following the game. "I tell you… we're close."

If not for the four three and outs in six series, that closeness would be a lot easier to see.

*****

Chaun Thompson is expected to get the start at inside linebacker and will, in all likelihood, need to overwhelm the coaching staff in order to stave off rookie D'Qwell Jackson and keep the starting job handed to him at the start of camp.

Perhaps "overwhelm" is too strong of a word to describe what Thompson did Saturday night, but he may have done enough good things to jump back into the race to start inside opposite Andra Davis.

One play in particular stood out and showed a glimpse of what made former Browns head coach Butch Davis take the LB in the second round of the 2003 draft.

Early in the third quarter, Bills running back Willis McGahee took the handoff and immediately cut to his left, followed by yet another cut to his right.

Now, in the past, Thompson would have continued in the general direction of the first cut and tackled the left guard.  Or air.

This time, however, Thompson read the second cut and tackled McGahee for a one-yard gain.

Does that kind of play—and his overall production in the first pre-season game after missing the first two with a calf injury—put Thompson in a position to overtake Jackson as the starter?

No, the smart money is still on the rookie Jackson to get the starting nod come Sept. 10, but Thompson at least gave the coaching staff a reason to keep him in the running for the time being.

*****

Will backup quarterback Ken Dorsey replicate the somewhat serviceable journeyman he looked like last Friday against the Lions, or will he revert back to the erratic form he displayed in the pre-season opener and the majority of training camp? 

Dorsey wasn't good and he wasn't good versus the Bills.

(Yes, that was intentional.)

Much like settling for Hydrox when you really want an Oreo, he is a pale imitation of an NFL quarterback.

The fact that the Browns are considering going into the season with him as the team's backup to Frye is simply stunning.  The Browns are one Byner-esque whiff on Lloyd Burress away from having Dorsey under center.

Nice guy in the locker room or not, we're talking about Ken Freakin' Dorsey here.  That notion sends more chills up my spine than the "The Shining" twins appearing at random in the hallway while I'm riding my Big Wheel.

(Yes, I still do that on occasion.)

That being said, Derek Anderson's play thus far in the pre-season may make the idea of Dorsey as the backup a moot point.  Anderson has shown coolness in the pocket and displayed an NFL arm that causes coaches to break into a fit of drooling.

Put it this way: if I were head coach Romeo Crennel, I would feel more comfortable heading into the regular season with Anderson as the backup than with Dorsey occupying the same spot.

Since I'm not, it would come as no great surprise if Dorsey were released in the final round of cuts and another veteran added to the roster, with Anderson assuming the #3 QB role for one more year of seasoning.

*****

The continued blossoming of rookie running back Jerome Harrison.

Were it not for the return of Braylon Edwards from injury and centers going down at a faster clip than early-80's Russian presidents, Harrison would likely be the story of training camp.

The rookie back simply makes plays in both the running and passing games.  He would be what some people technically refer to as a "playmaker".

While not as spectacular as he was in the previous game, Harrison carried the ball nine times for a robust 7.8 yards-per-carry average.  Eight of those runs and 68 of the yards came on plays between the tackles; although, to be fair, one of the runs—a seven-yarder in the second quarter—came on a third and 17 and two others totaling 22 yards came in the two-minute offense at the end of the game.

As we have stated on many occasions, the play of Harrison has made Lee Suggs expendable as the third-down, change-of-pace back.  Now, he might have also made William Green expendable as the backup behind starter Reuben Droughns.

*****

The battle for what could turn out to be one roster spot between Suggs and William Green

William Green's first appearance in the Browns backfield Sat. night: 7:30 left in the third quarter.

Lee Suggs' first appearance in the Browns backfield Sat. night: (crickets chirping)

(As far as I saw and without closer inspection that comes with a second viewing of the tape, the only time Suggs was on the field was on special teams.)

So, in a game that is widely viewed around the league as the official dress rehearsal for the regular season—where teams usually give their starters and key backups two and a half quarters of work—the combination of Green and Suggs combined for a grand total of three carries.

Could the Browns possibly be thinking of trading/cutting both Suggs and Green?  It would seem highly unlikely, but stranger things have happened.

*****

More of rookie Kamerion Wimbley blowing by quality left tackles en route to the quarterback. 

One sack and a forced fumble after stripping the ball from quarterback J.P. Losman.  Yeah, I guess that would fall under the "more of" umbrella.

While the sack didn't come against the left tackle—it came following a blown assignment by the entire right side of the Bills' offensive line—it did show Wimbley's explosive quickness as the rookie got to Losman as the QB was getting into the fourth step of his five-step drop.

Wimbley's play in the three games thus far has shown exactly why general manager Phil Savage passed on the chance to draft Haloti Ngata and take the Florida State product.  Pre-season or not, Wimbley has a fifth and sixth gear that has not been seen in brown and orange in a long, long time, if ever.

*****

Ross Tucker continuing to further cement exactly why I am an idiot for being utterly indifferent to his acquisition from the Patriots nearly three weeks ago.

For some reason, the word "yeoman" comes to mind when thinking of Tucker.  He's not spectacular; he just simply gets the job done.

The Browns running numerous times up the middle showed that the coaching staff is gaining confidence in Tucker.  It's beginning to look like the Browns will not only survive the loss of LeCharles Bentley, but will be positively, downright slightly below/above average at the position.

And, given the state of the position a mere three weeks ago, that is indeed a good sign.

*****

Can Nat Dorsey and/or Kirk Chambers do something, anything, to assuage the fear of either of them being forced into the starting lineup.

Number of quarterbacks killed, maimed or injured as a direct result of Chambers' and Dorsey's actions on Saturday: zero.

Right now, that's the best one can hope for.  That, and the return to action of Ryan Tucker.  Pronto.

*****

Will he or won't he?  That is perhaps the singular question for tonight's game: will we see Braylon Edwards in action on the field or will he be merely a nice cut-away sideline shot.

You can have your water-into-wine and raising-Lazurus-from-the-dead miracles.  I'll take Edwards' recovery from knee surgery, thank you very much.

(No offense, Jesus.  Or any members of the cloth in the reading audience, for that matter.)

What this young man has done over the course of the last seven and a half months is nothing short of miraculous.  Not expected to be back on the practice field—let alone the playing field—until late September or early October, Edwards not only blew that timetable to shreds but he's on pace to see significant action in the regular-season opener.

Simply.

Amazing.

Perhaps the best part of his sixteen-play debut was the fact that he jumped right up after taking a hard shot from Bills cornerback Antoine Winfield.  This in spite of the fact that the pass and subsequent hit caused my heart to drop and fight my colon for anatomical position.

*****

The main event:  Sean Jones versus Brodney Pool.  Jones has a slight lead to start at the safety position opposite Brian Russell, but it is far from a done deal that he will open the season in that capacity. 

Pool got the start, and might have picked up a tiny parcel of land on Jones in the hotly-contested battle for the starter at strong safety.

Regardless of who starts the regular season, this is a position battle that will likely continue throughout the course of the 2006 season.

*****

Joe Jurevicius becoming more involved in the offense and less like the third guy in an adult film. 

Mission accomplished, albeit in a George W. Bush kind of way.  There is still a lot of work to do to get Jurevicius involved in the offense before proclaiming victory in this area.

Yes, Jurevicius had two balls thrown his way—which, by the way, is double the total from the first two games—but the level of confidence Frye should have in the veteran receiver just doesn't seem to be there yet.

For whatever reason, Jurevicius seems to be an afterthought.

Perhaps it's the fact that both Edwards and Kellen Winslow are coming off injuries and are getting more looks, both in practice and in games.

Perhaps it's the fact that the first-team offense has had few opportunities and even fewer sustained drives in the first three games, which has led to the perception that Jurevicius is being ignored.

Whatever the case may be, it's a situation that bears watching to see if it spills over into the regular season.


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