What a stinker.
It's hard to assess just what took place in the swamps of New Jersey on Monday, but it is obvious that the Cleveland Browns have not yet arrived. I know there is a lot of debate about lack of preparation, something that was a consistent theme in 2005 and 2006. Let us remember, though, that the Browns did stop the Giants three-and-out on the opening possession and the offense moved the ball leading to a long field goal. After that...
Ugly though it may be, lets look a little at what happened.
When the vaunted Browns offensive line is physically manhandled the way they were in this game, the results are not going to be good. The resurgence of the Browns in 2007 began with the offensive line. Their stumble in this contest also started with the line. Kevin Shaffer was surprisingly bad. Many expected him to struggle at right tackle last year, but he played very respectably. In this game, Shaffer was shoved around and completely ineffective. I don't remember seeing Hank Fraley beaten like he was here. I was stunned that Eric Steinbach had so many problems, something I never expect to see. While Joe Thomas fared best, he was being pushed well wide of the play at times, opening up inside lanes for other defenders.
Given the problems upfront, it is very hard to judge the performance of the skill players. Derek Anderson didn't have time to do anything and Jamal Lewis rarely found a hole. The timing was off with Kellen Winslow. It looked like fullback Charles Ali was the only player that could be counted on to gain yards. On the other hand, when it comes to mistakes like the botched handoff to Lewis, there's just no excuse for that.
However, once the first teams left and the carnage was over, we could settle down and evaluate some of the players fighting for roster spots. Brady Quinn looked solid in relief, even though he was the beneficiary of the thievery of Syndric Steptoe on his touchdown reception. Ken Dorsey had a much better outing than in the opener.
In the running back battle, Jason Wright was ineffective, but Jerome Harrison had a very nice outing. His 23-yard run was impressive. It should be noted, however, that Harrison played more against bottom of the roster players. In the battle between Austin Scott and Travis Thomas, neither has done much on offense. Ali looked very solid filling in for Lawrence Vickers. He catches the ball consistently, something Vickers has had problems doing.
The receiver battle is resolving itself. Travis Wilson did not help himself with a poor performance. If he made a couple of plays when given the chance, things might not have gotten so far out of hand. Meanwhile, Steptoe may have made the team based on this outing. He looked great both on offense and on special teams. I did not think Steve Sanders did anything to hurt his chances, but he did not stand out, either. Guys like Efrem Hill and Lance Leggett made plays, but they have no real chance to make the roster.
As much as many people were writing off Darnell Dinkins, he did a nice job and showed surprisingly good hands. I was surprised how rusty Steve Heiden looked. He hasn't seen the field much, but he is a veteran and I expected better.
If you wondered if Shaun Rogers was a valuable pickup, compare this game to the previous one. Without Rogers, the defensive line has its problems. The result of the ineffectiveness up front is that the linebackers largely disappeared, unless it was to take a swing at someone. With no push, the defensive backs got roasted. I've come to expect so much better out of Eric Wright than what we saw here. Out of the starters, the only one I thought had a good outing was Sean Jones, and even he had some problems. I'll acknowledge some good plays by D'Qwell Jackson and Brandon McDonald, but beyond that, yuck.
Among the backups, I was impressed with Shante Orr. He is definitely a high-motor guy. I think the Browns might want to consider Kris Griffin as a viable option inside on defense. He might be a valuable addition on short-yardage plays or in other particular game situations. Alex Hall had a penalty, but this guy brings it. I like his style. People said he was a project when he was drafted, but I think he will contribute this year.
The backup defensive line could not stop the run at all. They were getting shoved three yards back on most every play. The drop off from the top four players in this group is a big one, and the gap looked worse without Louis Leonard in the mix.
Among the backup DBs, with Brodney Pool out of the game, the safeties had to step up. We saw a lot of Nick Sorenson. While he is a great special teams player, he is just bad on defense, and that goes for run or pass coverage. I thought Jereme Perry was solid. A. J. Davis looked better as well.
Overall, I think the lack of depth on defense is looking like a bigger concern all the time. I'm sure Phil Savage is quietly working on this issue.
Fans of the Browns have become spoiled by great special teams play. That's why the disastrous performance in this game was so shocking. I suppose when you block an extra point and it still goes through, you know it isn't going to be your night.
There were good plays. Dawson's 56-yard field goal was a great kick. We had good returns by Josh Cribbs, Steptoe, and Gerard Lawson. Lawson could do better with following his blocks, though. There were a few bright spots on kick coverage.
But after that, ouch. Hearing Ted Daisher at camp the last two years, he might have had to come up with new vocabulary words to rip these guys after this mess. Travis Thomas might have earned his ticket out of town for blocking a Dave Zastudil punt. Daisher said he was worried about kick coverage and now we've had touchdown returns in each game. On the other hand, look at who was on the field for that return and many of those players won't be suiting up on September 7th.
When you play like crap, brown pants are strangely appropriate. Traditionalist though I am, I wanted to like them. They are hideous. I hope we never see them again.
This is a team that acted like it thinks it just has to show up to win. The Cleveland Browns are not to that point yet. Clearly, this team still has a lot of work to do.
As many things as there were in this game that went badly, the lack of discipline in this game was probably the worst. Veterans like Andra Davis and Mike Adams should know better than to do the stupid things they did here. I'm still shaking my head as to why Eric Wright hooked the receiver so obviously on a play when the ball was not likely to be caught.
Romeo Crennel will show how far he has come as a coach by how the team bounces back from this debacle.
The Browns continue their three-games-in-twelve days barnstorming tour in Detroit. We may get the most extensive look yet at Brady Quinn.
The season is short. Bark hard!