Good day, Browns Fans!
While we all enjoyed the results of the game against the Vikings, the mood of fans everywhere is subdued by the loss of linebacker Jamir Miller. There is plenty to be excited about though, as the Browns dominated the Vikings more than the score indicates, and there were a lot of reasons for optimism. On the other hand, there is plenty to work on as well.
I'm going to give you my thoughts position by position. For those of you who can only get the game by radio or through the Internet, perhaps this will fill in some gaps. In the preseason, radio coverage is not very useful for evaluating players or the team in general
If you've read any coverage of the game at all, you've read the superlatives being heaped on Tim Couch. He looked very crisp and I liked the way he spread the ball around. Couch had two things going for him that bode well for the season: good pass blocking from the offensive line, and a running game. Other made plays around him, and that's what needs to happen this year. Kelly Holcomb gave pretty much the same type of performance. In particular, I like how each of these guys spotted mismatches with White and Andre Davis being covered by a safety.
I finally got a chance to see some of Josh Booty. Man, the guy throws a nice looking ball. He just need experience. His interception was a terrible decision to force the ball into a crowd. On one play, Booty looked like he was abut to get sacked, but he scrambled to one side and then the other and threw the ball into the end zone. Replays showed the pass was a TD, but the officials didn't see it that way. I'd like to see Booty get a whole half of play, perhaps in the final preseason game. Kevin Thompson has looked better in past years, but he was in with the scrubs, too. It looks like he is injured and we may not see much more of him anyway.
I say what I've said coming out of the intrasquad scrimmage and the Buffalo scrimmage: Jamel White is the starter. He just makes plays. He ran well, and he caught well. He even blocks well. What a threat. I've read a couple of comparisons of White to Marshall Faulk. While premature, White can do a lot of things well like Faulk. He is clearly the class of the running backs. I also have to give kudos to Autry Denson. He follows his blocks unbelievably well. Given his performance out of the backfield and on special teams, I don't see how the Browns can let Denson go.
William Green still looks rusty. Of his six running attempts, one went for nine yards and was very nice. Another went forward for two. The other four add up to no gain. Green was in with the same guys who blocked for White. I wonder if Green might end up being just a change of pace back this year. The talent is there, the experience is not. James Jackson got only three attempts and gained one yard. By far, he was the worst of the backs. Since he is Miami material, it's hard to see this, but if I had to make the cuts right now, Jackson is at the bottom of the backs. Carl Fair had some nice runs at garbage time, but that was when the Browns were running out the clock, and the Vikings still did not stop him.
Both of the new fullbacks played. I didn't see anything spectacular there. Ben Miller looked very good both blocking and he had a nice 16-yard catch and run, but he is off to the service. Too bad he isn't available for the season.
Maybe this sounds crazy, but Couch threw to KJ one time and Johnson was being held. There was no flag. But – the Browns moved the ball very well without throwing to Johnson! I think that is progress. Quincy Morgan looked great and if he plays at the level he did in this game, it will help the offense tremendously. Andre Davis caught a 52-yard pass from Holcomb to set up the final TD and had another reception as well. Davis looked very fast. Andre King continued solid play in a possession sort of role. JuJuan Dawson had one nice catch but otherwise did little.
Dennis Northcutt had a tough night as a receiver. He dropped a pass that would have converted a third down. He had a 26-yard pass ruled incomplete because he did not know where he was on the field and he failed to drag his foot. This performance looked much more like the Northcutt of the previous two years than the one of the Buffalo Scrimmage. Kwame Cavil had the TD catch that was ruled no catch. Frisman Jackson had a couple of balls thrown his way, but on both plays he was well covered. Chris Sanders did get in the game, but did not do much. He seems to have sunk to the bottom of the depth chart.
Ricky Dudley played and it was on turf, so you have to like that. I tried to watch his blocking but I did not see much to comment on. He must have done well enough given the protection Couch enjoyed. Aaron Shea had a very nice catch, but he looked poor in blocking. Darnell Sanders also had a great catch and run late in the game. Mark Campbell had the TD catch and he played hard in his stint.
While the first line did well on pass blocking, I'd still like to see them get more of a push off the ball. As their time in the game went on, that got better, though. There was one play in particular where the back ended up with a loss because a linebacker shot through, but the line was five yards down field. Must have been a blown assignment. I will say this: a screen pass to White was the best such play I've seen since The Return. In particular, Stokes and Wohlabaugh looked fantastic pulling on that play.
The backup lines did fairly well. It looked to me like they did well in pass protection and less well on running plays, but the drop off on runs was less than with the first group. I'll single out Paul Zukauskas for getting out ahead of some plays.
Of the first unit, Orpheus Roye was far and away the star. The man was disrupting play after play and made some great tackles for loss. Only Gerard Warren made anywhere near as nice a play. On one play where the Vikings converted a third down, Courtney Brown was being blatantly held, but no call.
Among the backups, Arnold Miller was the standout. He was disrupting passes and runs. His speed really showed. After Jamir Miller's injury, I wondered if Miller might not be a guy to try in that role. Also, a nod to Felipe Claybrooks, whose pressure and deflection of a pass led to the interception return for a TD.
Overall, I found the play of this unit to be fairly disappointing. Perhaps the loss of Jamir Miller led to subdued play from his teammates. Also, consider that Earl Holmes did not play. I did not see much to comment on in a positive sense from the starters. Dwayne Rudd and Brant Boyer did not do much. Boyer did look like he was playing hard. Marquis Smith still looked a little lost at linebacker, but that is understandable with the position switch. In general, the end unit did very pproly covering backs and tight ends.
Among the backups, I though Anthony Denman was very inconsistent. On the big catch by O.J. Santiago, Denman let Santiago blow right past him for a big play. On the other hand, Denman was in on some plays, too. Of the draftees, Kevin Bentley looked the best. Andra Davis played hard but made some mistakes. I like Lenoy Jones aside from his injury problems, and he seemed OK. Micheal Smith made some good plays, but sometimes seemed to be reacting just a step too slowly.
If the linebacker play was disappointing, the defensive backs were fantastic. Overall, this unit probably was the best on the team. Start with Corey Fuller who just looked very tough out there, both in coverage and tackling. Another guy who looked great was Lewis Sanders. You might recall I blasted him for very poor play during my visit to Berea. Well, Sanders made some fantastic tackles and looked very good in coverage, breaking up a long pass play. You also have to really like this kid Kalvin Pearson. Aside from the 60-yard interception return, which was great reaction and catch by the way, he was making hard hits all over the place, including on blitzes. The Browns have to find a way to keep this guy. I also liked some plays from Michael Jameson and one nice pass defensed by Dyshod Carter.
It seemed to me like Daylon McCutcheon had a sort of off game. Nothing horrible except that he did not look sharp or as on top of things as he usually is. And despite a nice play at another time, Anthony Henry seemed to be the one who was caught out of position on the long catch and run by Randy Moss. There are going to be some tough decisions to make in deciding who gets cut in this group.
The Browns have never had a return game since coming back like this one. Fine returns by Dennis northcutt (yes, you read that right), Andre Davis, and Frisman Jackson highlighted the evening. The coverage units did some good work, too. The most disturbing thing about this unit was that they were called for offsides penalties on kicks either two or three times, and one time they weren't called, Anthony Denman was offsides. Got to fix those mental mistakes.
As always, the trio of Phil Dawson, Chris Gardocki, and Ryan Keuhl was solid. Gardocki averaged 46 yards on just three kicks, Dawson's two 45-yard FGs were no-doubters, and Keuhl's snaps were good, plus he made a tackle.
Fifteen penalties is way too many, and most of them were dumb. Cut out half of those and the Browns score 45 points in this game.
One third-down conversion in eight tries is terrible. Part of the problem is that it is hard to convert when you find yourself in long yardage all the time due to penalties.
Nice touch at the end by Butch Davis to kneel with the Browns on the five yard line. No need to run it up.
The Browns were in command in this game. Other than a poor first series by the defense and a lot of mental mistakes, the Browns should have won by a much wider margin than the score indicates. Once again, a lot to work on, but there is certainly plenty to be encouraged about!
The season is short. Bark hard!