What a difference a week makes.
The Browns played a solid game, especially on offense in Denver. The Broncos are a solid team, albeit one in transition. After a shaky game against the Chiefs and a pretty lousy one against Detroit, the Browns showed some marked improvement. Yet, there is cause for concern. Let's dig into what happened.
This "quarterback derby" just continues to get more murky. At least this time, it's because all three players did good things. Charlie Frye played very well. He made some nice throws and had a very nice scramble. Frye looked comfortable and confident, which was a nice change. His out throw to Braylon Edwards on the first series was a rare sight, indeed. Derek Anderson didn't have as much luck in terms of the outcomes of his possessions, but he looked decent. Brady Quinn got an extended look this time, part of it against Denver's first unit and he made some nice plays. There was the disputed throw to Jurevicius was beautiful, even if it did not count. Quinn continues to impress.
Jamal Lewis looked decent running the back, getting 15 carries in just over a half, but he looked very good in the passing game, not something for which he has been known. Jason Wright continued to look solid as the change of pace back. In the third back derby, the edge has to go the Jerome Harrison. He played well on offense and special teams. Chris Barclay was OK. Fullback Charles Ali filled in for the injured Lawrence Vickers and did not do a lot that impressed me.
The Browns have some challenges at the receiver position. Braylon Edwards and Joe Jurevicius are fine as the starters. Jurevicius had his first catches of the preseason. Josh Cribbs finally showed some flashes with a nice end around run (note to Jim Donovan: not a reverse) and a nifty run on a touchdown from Quinn. Cribbs really needs to continue to step it up on offense. Beyond that, the Browns have some issues. Tim Carter played and never even sniffed the ball. Syndric Steptoe might have a chance if he continues to catch the ball.
With Kellen Winslow on the bench in the first quarter, Steve Heiden got a chance to play. The reliable Heiden did a solid job as usual. Despite Winslow's talent, after being held out for a quarter, he came in and jumped offside then he did not know how to line up. I don't care how talented a player is, I expect to see some effort. Ryan Krause and Darnell Dinkins continue to battle for the third tight end spot. I give the edge to Dinkins because of his blocking, but Krause is no slouch.
With Kevin Shaffer getting his bell rung, we got a Ryan Tucker sighting. Tucker was solid, but he missed the snap count on a play that hurt. I guess all I can say is that there were often holes in the running game and the pass blocking was solid from the first team unit. Quinn's first series was with the first team skill players but the backup line. There was very little drop off. The line should only get stronger with the return of Eric Steinbach. Probably the one player I noticed as a negative is Isaac Sowells. After a promising showing at the end of last year, he has had a disappointing camp.
Give credit to Chud – this offense looks good. The play calls were vanilla, but a nice mix of run and pass. My only beefs were running on 2nd down on Anderson's red zone situation and the ultra-conservative calls to run out the clock at the end.
If the offense looked good, the defense was, well, not so good. There were some excellent individual performances, but overall, the defense looked pretty shaky. Crossing routes were open much of the night and killed the Browns.
The defensive line continues to be a concern. Shaun Smith is playing out of position at end, and he is no end. At best, the line was OK. At times, it was awful. Ethan Kelley has never been a favorite of mine. He gets shoved all over the place. Robaire Smith did a couple of nice things. I was pleasantly surprised by the play of Babatunde Oshinowo. I honestly expected him to be an early cut, but he had a decent showing. J'vonne Parker also made a couple of plays later in the game.
At linebacker, Kamerion Wimbley is a monster. When the defense makes a play, it is often because of some disruption he has caused. Antwan Peek continues to look like a great find. D'Qwell Jackson had a very good game. Last year, he gave a lot of effort, but often missed plays because he didn't recognize what was going on. Seeing him read a screen and blow it up for a six yard loss shows a lot of progress. I like Leon Williams, but he missed multiple tackles. He's looked better. This was the kind of game from Chaun Thompson we've all been looking for over the five years he has been in Cleveland. He was flying all over, blowing up plays. He did miss one tackle, but you can live with that when he is making plays like this. Meanwhile, David McMillian might have played himself off the team with two penalties. Kris Griffin has experience and gives great effort, but it may not be enough.
While the secondary overall has played very well, at times receivers were wide open. Sean Jones wiped out his own interception with a defensive holding call. Eric Wright missed a play, but the Broncos didn't throw at him much. Leigh Bodden continues to play well. Daven Holly was OK. I thought Jereme Perry blew yet another play. He might be toast. Brandon McDonald made a nice tackle. Kenny Wright played and exceeded my expectations. Mike Adams also did some nice things.
Todd Grantham blew it by going with prevent defense right before halftime. In a real game, that momentum killer might have had far worse effects.
In the thin air, kickoffs went far. The Browns got little on kickoff returns. Not much is happening in the punt return game. The Browns coverage teams struggled to contain Akron product Dominic Hixon.
Another missed field goal by Dawson. Be afraid. Be very afraid.
I'm not a fan of Romeo Crennel, but I applaud his tough line with Mr. Winslow. I'd have liked to seen Quinn play earlier and more against the big boys, but he did get a decent number of plays.
If the quarterback play is as solid as it was in this game, the Browns just might be alright. I'm not saying we are going to the playoffs, but the team may be competitive.
It was really nice to see some Browns receivers actually catch passes when they – gasp! – weren't open. Very nice.
This was an encouraging tune up for the season. It's unlikely much will be learned about starters from the final game. On the other hand, a lot of players will end up unemployed next weekend. This is their last chance to catch the eye of the staff.
On to Chicago to face the NFC champion Bears.
The season is short. Bark hard!