A preseason game in a driving rain makes it hard to judge certain things. It also evidently makes it hard to hold onto the football. Well, at least for one of the teams.
Five turnovers later, the Browns lost to the worst team in the NFL in 2009. It helped that the Browns handled them 12 points on a silver platter with those turnovers and penalties.
That's not to say there weren't bright spots. Statistically speaking, the Browns had the better numbers offensively. There were some nice performances on defense. But despite the bad weather and the normal bland approach you see in the preseason, some judgments can be made.
Once again, some random observations from the game:
- Jake Delhomme knows the game, and it shows. His ability to read the defense alone will be a massive improvement over the past few years. OK, he fumbled, but he did not get rattled when the Browns got down 13 points early. Delhomme moved the team.
- We saw more of the "run it down their throat" approach we saw at the end of last year, perhaps because of the weather or perhaps because they didn't do much of that last week. Peyton Hillis did pretty well in that mode, though he perhaps needs to feel his blocks more.
- The right side of the line was a problem this week. John St. Clair was mostly OK. Billy Yates may ultimately be a decent backup, but he isn't ready for the big time yet. He whiffed on a play that led to a sack. St. Clair wasn't so hot on that play, either.
- Lawrence Vickers is a blocking machine. There wasn't a Ram linebacker than didn't feel the hammer from the best fullback in the NFL.
- I know the knock on Watson in New England was questionable hands. I'm waiting to see an instance of that. In the meantime, we get yet another highlight reel catch.
- Why is Jerome Harrison still on the kickoff team? It's the preseason, can't someone else fill that spot, at least until the games count?
- Maybe, just maybe, Josh Cribbs had finally made the leap at receiver. It's early, but this bears watching.
- We finally saw from Chansi Stuckey some of what we expected to see last year when he came over from the Jets. More, please.
- Eric Wright has had his detractors on the OBR. I'm not one of them. He put on a great performance in this game, despite the phantom interference call.
- Brandon McDonald, on the other hand, did not follow up a solid performance at Green Bay with a repeat.
- Robaire Smith, Kenyon Coleman, and Ahtyba Rubin all did a nice job upfront.
- The linebackers have a long way to go. Eric Barton did cover a receiver on one play, but backs and tight ends ran wild. These were largely no-name players. What will upper echelon players do to this group? I'm officially concerned.
- The rookie DBs did some good things. T. J. Ward continues to impress with his hard hits. Joe Haden made some nice plays, but he is also still getting burned from time to time. Haden also had a very nice kickoff return. If he can back up Cribbs, it may spell doom for Gerard Lawson.
- Seneca Wallace is going to be a nice backup. His interception on a deep throw was unfortunate. It was a rainy night and he got no help from the receiver. The touchdown throw to Cribbs was nicely done.
- I liked what I saw from Derreck Robinson and Brian Schaefering.
- Blake Costanzo has been a special teams maven, but he made me take notice on defense. He's not just making plays, but he was calling the signals on defense. I hope he sticks. Ray Ventrone, not so much.
- Syndric Steptoe is playing his way off the team. Not catching the ball is bad enough, but fumbling doesn't help his case at all.
- Was that Robert Royal I saw making a key catch down the seam? Strange but true!
- Colt McCoy was bad. The back up offensive line was worse. At least Ratliff was able to get one first down behind these guys before throwing it to the Rams. I still think Pat Murray has potential and Scott Kooistra's experience will help him.
- Alex Smith is making some noise, but he's a veteran playing against guys who won't be on an active roster come September, so take it for what it is worth.
- Reggie Hodges is inconsistent. He's also slow getting the ball off. Not a problem on a rainy, slippery night, perhaps, but I'd prefer to avoid a repeat of the block in Kansas City last year.
- A little gambling, eh? It's the preseason, so why not go on some fourth downs? I love Mangini's reaction on the one they did not get. He's playing to win. Kick a field goal there and the Browns probably win the game, but it's easy to say that now.
While there were some good individual performances on defense, overall, you have to be concerned. Sure, after the opening drive, the Rams got 28 yards the rest of the first half. But that was against a rookie quarterback pressed into early playing time because of an injury. I know Rob Ryan isn't running his normal schemes yet, but when opposing backs and tight ends are running free, it still says something about the problems on defense. The Browns were aided but a number of bad throws and drops.
As far as the fumbles, the Rams managed to avoid a turnover in the same weather, and they play inside. Last year, there was a huge outcry when Mangini dared to have the Browns practice in the rain. Looks like they need some practice in the wet stuff to me.
The offense is a work in progress, but so far so good -- if they can just hold onto the ball. Special teams will be fine despite two fumbles. The defense, well, let's hope a real game plan and getting some of the veterans back will cure what ails them. I'm not holding my breath on that.
The season is short. Bark hard!