Passan: Grab the Positives

Rich feels the Browns first exhibition contest is a good start for Romeo Crennel and crew...

How does one grade out an exhibition game victory? An exhibition game loss?

If you're a Browns fan, you celebrate victories, any kind of victory, such as last Saturday's over the Kansas City Chiefs. Browns victories these days are hard enough to come by, no matter when they occur. They are to be cherished.

Never mind that they don't count at this time of the season. A victory is a victory. Who cares that it doesn't count?

The losses you blow off because they're meaningless at this time of the season.

Until the Browns develop a winning attitude and find ways to win games, not ways to lose them, all victories are considered precious. Soon, however, victories will be expected, not hoped for. And that's when the corner will be turned.

If you believe in the cyclical order of things, that time will arrive sooner rather than later.

As meaningless as exhibition games are, the Browns nevertheless should take away more positives than negatives from this victory. They came out ready to play for the most part, especially the defense, which surrendered just three points.

It's obvious the Browns are concentrating more on shutting down the opposition on first down. They had the Chiefs in second and long all evening.

Was it because the Chiefs have quarterback problems like the Browns and were without their best running back, Larry Johnson, absent because of a contract dispute? Or was it because the Cleveland defense outplayed the Chiefs' offense? Beat them off the ball, made plays in the secondary, tackled well. Depends on your perspective.

On the plus side, the lines, clearly two of the major problems the past few seasons, appear to be improved. The offensive line blocked and protected well and the defensive line made significant strides on trying to improve against the run.

And it's beginning to look as if the secondary is well on the way to becoming one of the team's strongest areas. Eric Wright does not play like a rookie, Daven Holly picked up where he left off after being a major surprise last season and Leigh Bodden is back and healthy.

Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham seems to be getting more comfortable shooting a cornerback or other members of the secondary on a blitz from time to time.

Scattershooting: Kamerion Wimbley doesn't believe in the sophomore jinx; it looks as though Antwan Peek can stop the run; Jamal Lewis' quickness seems to have returned; and tight ends Ryan Krause and Buck Ortega didn't hurt themselves with solid performances.

On the minus side, the club yanked way too many yellow hankies from officials pockets and once again showed a proclivity to gag in the red zone. Four trips result in only nine points? Touchdowns, not field goals.

And what the hell was Romeo Crennel thinking in the first quarter on fourth and a yard from the KC 10? Why a Phil Dawson field goal? This is an exhibition game. Why not go for it? Why play so conservatively, especially so early in the game? Go for it, man. If you don't get it, so what? It's still an exhibition game.

The offense overall was too vanilla. Outside of an early reverse by Joshua Cribbs, the Browns showed little. Very little pre-snap movement, very little imagination.

Is it because the troops haven't learned Rob Chudzinski's new system well enough to warrant his confidence? Or is it because he doesn't want to show regular-season opponents too much? If it's the latter, that's nonsense. Why not give other teams something to think about? Don't be shy.

The Browns are also in trouble at quarterback if this game is a portent of things to come. The more we see of Charlie Frye and Derek Anderson, the more we believe Brady Quinn might be under center well before the bye in week seven.

Neither quarterback stepped up and screamed, "I'm your starter." If one of them doesn't step up and soon, how radical would it be to say the Browns will go as far as Quinn carries them this season? Not as radical as one would think.

Anderson looked tentative, very unsure of himself and his throws reflected it. He threw the ball just about everywhere but into the receiver's hands: At his feet, over his head, to the opposition. He should have had two interceptions. He looked more like an indecisive rookie than someone who has a chance to become the starter. He's blowing the opportunity. So far.

Frye looked much better, but as usual he made a bonehead play, this time at the end of the first half, to spoil an otherwise solid effort. That's his M.O. He gets his team into a position to do something positive, then coughs up a brain cramp.

Until he learns that the game is played from the neck up as well as the neck down, he will be nothing more than a journeyman who will be as likely to rip out your heart as he will to make it pound furiously with excitement after a series of positive plays.

And someone should sit Jerome Harrison down, place a rules book in his lap and make him study it, especially the rule regarding backward passes. Teams that play smart usually win.

Special teams were just so-so. Dave Zastudil continues to punt well and Dawson seems to have regained his pre-2006 form. Despite Chris Barclay's game-winning kickoff return, which was made ridiculously easy by some sloppy play by the Chiefs, the Browns' return and coverage units on punts and kickoffs need work.

All in all, a good start. Now it's up to Crennel and his coaching staff to put together another strong effort this Saturday night at CBS against the Detroit Lions, who will come in with one of the National Football League's most explosive offenses and provide a good test.

The OBR Top Stories