Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. – The Who, We Won't Be Fooled Again
I seriously hope the above lyric does not apply to the 2009 Cleveland Browns. But given the team's performance in the preseason opener, it made me think of that line. It was more like a bad flashback to what we've witnessed the last 10 years than the expected change in attitude we've all been hoping to see.
While you expect some problems in the preseason opener, this was beyond the little problems that need to be ironed out. While the Packers starters looked solid, very little went right for the Browns. There were fundamental breakdowns all over the place.
Instead of focusing on the details of the problems, let me list a few bright spots:
- Despite not scoring points, Brady Quinn moved the offense. The interception was a really bad decision, but Quinn was the class of the quarterbacks, though that isn't saying much.
- Mike Furrey looked very good as a possession receiver. He might fill the shoes of Joe Jurevicius, a role the Browns desperately missed in 2008. Furrey had two third down conversions on the opening drive.
- Josh Cribbs has a ways to go as a receiver still, but you can tell he has really been working at it. He had a big catch on a drive right before halftime and his 29-yard run on an end-around was vintage Cribbs.
- Eric Wright looked very good in coverage.
- Coye Francies looks like the real deal. He had an interception, a stick on a running back, and he was active throughout the second half. He has reportedly had a good camp, so if this kind of play continues, he's going to see the field some this fall.
- While Titus Brown got playing time with the starting defense, it was Marcus Benard that made plays. Admittedly, Benard played against the backups, but he stood out when others did not.
- Kamerion Wimbley looks like there is improvement in his pass rush. Perhaps moving him around has helped.
- Aaron Walker looks like a solid veteran pickup at tight end, though once again, he played against the backups.
- I like David Veikune's hustle.
So much went wrong. This game raised more questions than it answered. The offensive line got no push on running plays and contributed to the four interceptions by allowing the quarterbacks to be hit too many times. The Browns could not run and they could not stop the run. Receivers could not catch the ball and at times I was left wondering if they were running the right routes. The defensive line got pushed around and there were serious coverage breakdowns. The only pressure came from all out blitzes. Dumb penalties took away three points and led to seven by the Packers.
Does any of this sound familiar?
The preseason is always dicey to analyze. Teams do things they would not normally do, and they don't do things they would do in a real game. Add to the fact that the Browns play three of the four preseason opponents in the regular season, and it means we are likely to see some pretty vanilla stuff.
I also realize that with new schemes on both sides of the ball, players might be thinking too much. They may not be able to use their football instincts just yet. If so, then perhaps things will improve as the players settle into the new systems.
I don't expect the Browns to be in the playoffs. I am not expecting them to be a contender. But I did expect to see some enthusiasm, some fire, some hunger to show improvement. There were not many difference makers for the Browns in this game.
I'd be less concerned if the Browns were not repeating patterns we've seen repeatedly over the last 10 years. I'd have no qualms if the team lost but at least the starters looked competitive. But this looked like a team that was not ready to be on the field. We've seen that far too often, especially under the previous coaching staff and some of the flaws, especially the inability to run the football, will doom this team if not corrected.
Let's not even get into the fan reaction if the team lays an egg at home. We'll begin to see how that will unfold on Saturday.
Eric Mangini looked to me as if he were a little surprised. Perhaps he underestimated the task before him. Perhaps he hasn't gotten through to the players as much as he had thought. Perhaps his staff hasn't got it all figured out just yet. No matter what the reason, there is plenty to be done in the classroom, on the field, and perhaps by looking deep into the mirror in some cases.
This team needs a lot of work before September 13.
A lot of work.
The season is short. Bark hard!