The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly: Offense

The Browns game against Denver revealed some improvement, and some of the same problems. Lane dives into what happened last Saturday, and how the performances impact battles for roster spots from the top to the bottom of the depth chart...

I feel as I am reverting back to my younger days... I can see Clint Eastwood, Lee VanCleef, and Eli Wallach on the screen, with that whistling music fresh in my ears. That classic ended on a high note for some, much like it shall for a great number of players in training camp. For others, there will be no celebration, as their dream comes to a violent end. Without further adieu, here's the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, Orange and Brown Report style.

While the performance from the Browns Saturday night in Denver was promising, it is far too early to believe this team has turned the corner offensively. Sure, the play from the quarterbacks was steady, the running game came to life, and the offensive line played well... a couple of wide receivers even held onto the football.

Let's not forget, though, that the Denver Broncos have struggled mightily during the pre-season and are seeking an identity on the defensive side of the ball. Needless to say, the Broncos are moving at a snails pace learning the scheme of new defensive coordinator Jim Bates.

Charlie Frye appears to have a solid leg up at the quarterback position following a consistent performance against the Broncos. Frye did not make any of the critical errors he has been known for, nor did he suffer the from any floating pass attempts, for which have become a commonplace for him.

In command and displaying a veteran touch, Frye was a leader on Saturday night, which is exactly what the Browns have been looking for from the third-year signal caller.

Frye was quicker in his reads, looked off defenders better, and was more decisive when throwing the ball. With the performance, Frye has earned the opportunity to be the starting quarterback of this team against the Pittsburgh Steelers on September 9th.

Not to take anything away from Frye, but Derek Anderson and rookie Brady Quinn also fared well against a Denver defense that struggled to match-up against the size of the Cleveland receivers. As much as their size appeared to play into the hands of the Browns offense, the Browns quarterbacks were consistently accurate, and had time to throw the football. Playing off a rushing attack led by Jamal Lewis, the Browns moved the football but failed to capitalize on opportunities in the red-zone.

Anderson was solid in his limited number of snaps against the Broncos, and showed the presence and ability that made him the favorite to land the Browns' starting job heading into training camp. Throwing the ball in the intermediate zones, Anderson and the Browns offense took advantage of a Denver defense that did not do a very good job of covering the backs and tight-ends. Jurevicius had not been on the receiving end of a pass until the Denver game, but caught three passes for 31 yards. Jurevicius was also on the receiving end of Quinn's perfectly thrown pass in the end zone, which was ruled incomplete, as it was ruled Jurevicius did not get both feet down.

All wasn't rosy for the Cleveland offense on this evening, as the red-zone woes of the team continued again. An Anderson-led drive resulted in a field goal, while a drive led by Quinn resulted in a missed field goal.

In all, this game did not provide answers to the team in regards to quality and depth at the wide receiver position. Joshua Cribbs was on the receiving end of a nice catch and run, resulting in a 20 yard touchdown pass from Quinn. A tremendous athlete, Cribbs' was the lone wide receiver other than Braylon Edwards and Jurevicius to catch a pass. A threat from anywhere on the field, Cribbs also scampered five yards on a reverse early in the game.

On a side-note, second year receiver Travis Wilson dropped another perfectly thrown pass in the game. It's a trait that shows no sign of abating. Wilson has quickly played himself out of contention for the number-three receiver position and could be jeopardy of securing a roster spot. Due to the precarious situation at the position, Wilson's performance needs to improve to secure his place, as well as provide this team with a viable option outside Edwards and Jurevicius.

Steve Heiden, starting in place of Kellen Winslow, was his customary consistent self, while Winslow was dynamic on a reception from Quinn early in the second half.

Facing a Denver defensive line which has been belittled during training camp, the Cleveland offensive line performed well, especially on the left side where Lewis found daylight running behind Lennie Friedman and rookie Joe Thomas. The right side of the Cleveland offensive line, led by Seth McKinney and Kevin Shaffer, has missed assignments against the blitz in the first two pre-season games. They were solid on Saturday, although McKinney had his hands full and was beaten by Sam Adams more than once. Former starter Ryan Tucker replaced RT Kevin Shaffer after the latter left the field with a concussion and played very well. Tucker should be a valuable reserve for the team, following his four-game suspension to start the season.

Starting center Hank Fraley may have been at his best against the Broncos. Rarely did the interior of the Denver defensive line penetrate at the line of scrimmage, except for Sam Adams against McKinney. Fraley's backup during camp, Rob Smith maintained the high level of play at the center position and could be finding himself a home with the Browns.

The Browns backup guards, fighting for roster positions, could find the upcoming days stressful coming off the performance in Denver.

Second year guard, Isaac Sowells continues to be an enigma. He is athletic, but tends to go with the flow, and displayed the same tendencies against the Broncos as we've seen in camp. Sowells was not getting off the ball well and did not provide a push the Browns are counting on in the running game. He did display the ability to get downfield and block on a couple screen patterns.

Backup left tackle Nat Dorsey appears to have cemented his spot on this roster with another workmanlike relief performance. Right tackle Kelly Butler, listed second on the depth chart due to the Tucker situation, looked solid in the first two weeks of training camp, but has struggled of late in pass protection. While a viable contributor to the offensive line, Butler's recent inconsistency is obvious and a weak link to what is quickly becoming a strong suit for the Browns.

The ability to run the football is becoming a positive for this Browns offense. Lewis, while not breaking free on anything of notable significance, has been steady in picking up the tendencies of the offensive line-mates. His backup, Jason Wright is beginning to show more patience waiting on blocks and continued to show his ability in the Browns victory over the Broncos.

In what has been one of the better position battles of the summer, second-year running backs Jerome Harrison and Chris Barclay continued their competition. Harrison rushed for 16 yards and caught one pass for 11 yards, while Barclay rushed for nine yards on three attempts. Harrison's overall play on special teams will gain him attention on the coaches' film early in the week, as he was first downfield on more than one occasion.

Despite only putting up 17 points in this game, the Browns offense was much more in-tune and not nearly as self-destructive as we have seen prior to last Saturday. The red-zone offense continues to be an issue for the team, as does the ability to get plays called and players lined-up in a timely manner.

The regular season begins in two weeks. This performance is a stepping stone for the Browns offense and those players fighting to make the final roster.


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