In the aftermath following the disaster that was Johnny Manziel’s first start...
Cleveland Browns Preseason: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of Game Three
By Dave Jack
After playing pretty well in games one and two of the NFL preseason, many were hoping for a strong showing in what is considered the dress rehearsal of preseason games. Instead, the Cleveland Browns decided to not score any touchdowns and only kick two field goals in a 27-6 loss at the hands of the Indianapolis Colts.
By the numbers this game was a nightmare. The Browns only managed 270 total yards of offense (211 yards passing, 59 yards rushing) and only picked up 13 first downs to the Colts’ 26. They didn’t score until 7:16 in the 3rd quarter, and only managed 104 total yards and four first downs in the 1st half of the game. However, this game wasn’t all that bad, as there were definitely a few things left to be desired.
Statistically Brandon Weeden didn’t have a good game, nobody can argue that. His line read 12-of-25 for 105 yards, no touchdowns or interceptions and a QB rating of 59.6. Stats aside, what this writer saw was a quarterback who appeared pretty comfortable in the pocket and under pressure. He only made a couple bad throws (one to Greg Little that was nearly picked off and a miss to a wide open Kellen Davis), and for the most part didn’t try to force what wasn’t there. He even threw the ball away under pressure a couple of times instead of trying to make something out of nothing. His throws were, for the most part, put in a place where only his receiver could catch them.
With both guards Jason Pinkston and Shawn Lauvao being out, we saw backups Oniel Cousins and Garrett Gilkey taking turns at the right guard position, with John Greco appearing to have the left guard job locked up. As a group, the starting offensive line played fairly well, considering they were banged up and out of position. Weeden had time on most of his throws, blitzes were picked up fairly well and while running back Trent Richardson didn’t have any gaping holes to run through, the run blocking wasn’t all that bad out of the first team offensive line.
Richardson didn’t have a big night (as was expected), only totaling 31 yards on seven rushing attempts and one reception for 10 yards. However, he did look good in pass protection, something that he definitely needed to improve coming into the season. Richardson did a nice job of picking up blitzes on free defenders, giving Weeden extra time in the pocket.
On the defensive side of the ball, Paul Kruger is an animal. There is no other way to put this, Kruger is a beast. While watching the game, it was tough to keep a tally of the number of times Kruger got into the backfield to put pressure on Colts QB Andrew Luck. This writer lost count at eight, and this was without projected starter Jabaal Sheard on the other side of the field. Undoubtedly the defensive line gets some credit here for occupying blockers (and backup linebacker Quentin Groves did a nice job replacing Sheard), but Kruger’s motor was nonstop. Also, while Tashaun Gipson was credited with an interception near the endzone, this writer gives the lion’s share of the credit to Kruger as he was in Luck’s face, disrupting the entire play.
While the second half was spent watching for players on the defensive side of the ball to jump out and make a positive impression; this was done to no avail. However keep your ears out for undrafted rookie running back Jamaine Cook, a product of Youngstown State. Cook is a tiny back, measuring at only 5’9” and weighing only 210 pounds, but he was elusive. Cook did a little of everything, rushing for 11 yards on two carries, tallying three receptions for 24 yards and willingly picking up blitzes up the middle. With Dion Lewis out of the season, Cook has an outside chance of making this team and contributing.
Also, on the topic of running backs, Chris Ogbonnaya is the best fullback on this team. I’m not sure what that says about Owen Marecic or Brad Smelley, but Ogbonnaya should be the starter. While not that physical, he showed multiple times he can be an effective run blocker and he’s a sure handed target out of the backfield.
For starters we have the huge list of injuries. On top of Pinkston and Lauvao, receivers Davone Bess, Jordan Norwood and David Nelson, along with running backs Montario Hardesty and Lewis were not on the field for the offense. Defensively the Browns were missing Sheard and Barkevious Mingo, as well as Desmond Bryant and Chris Owens. Clearly this team was not at full strength.
While stats don’t tell the whole story in preseason games, two troubling figures in the first half for the offensive were 1st downs and 3rd down efficiency. The Browns offense only picked up four first downs, and was only 1-of-6 on 3rd down in the first half. These numbers won’t win you anything. These poor numbers are partly due to an untimely personal foul by tackle Mitchell Schwartz and a questionable fumble by Little (it doesn’t become questionable, however, if you hold onto the ball). Both of these things stalled two separate Browns drives.
Not much happened in terms of receptions. Little led all pass catchers with three receptions and WR Cordell Roberson tallied the most yards with 34. One thing of note was the lack of separation from receivers on the outside, specifically Josh Gordon. Weeden took a shot downfield in the first half to Gordon who was one-on-one on the outside, but as the ball hit the ground Gordon wasn’t even between the defender and the ball. The same could be said for several other Browns wide outs.
While this writer defended Weeden for a shaky game, that doesn’t excuse his performance. It’s not enough to just put the ball only where a receiver can get it. He must complete plays, and while some fault does go on the receivers, ultimately it comes down to Weeden. Simply put, he can’t have games like this in the regular season.
The Browns were penalized nine times for 84 yards. Clean this up, please and thank you.
The Browns 2nd half offensive linemen were not good. Backup QB Jason Campbell was under a good deal of pressure, he was sacked three times and had to leave the game with an injury – although it did not appear to be significant.
Reggie Wayne dismantled the Browns’ pass defense with seven receptions for 79 yards. The middle of the field was wide open for Wayne, and every other Colts receiver who happened to be there.
It’s shocking that Brian Hoyer was a starter at any point, under any circumstance, for any team in the NFL. He’s absolutely terrible, and the fact that he was being talked about as maybe starting for this team (by some fans and media members) is absolutely sickening.
The Browns also only made one appearance in the red zone, and they didn’t score. You can’t win if you can’t score and you can’t score if you don’t give yourself opportunities.
As is the case with the first two games, this was only a preseason game. For the most part they escaped unscathed from injuries – aside from Campbell who appears to be fine, and rookie safety Jamoris Slaughter with a tweaked groin. While this wasn’t the dress rehearsal many Browns fans (and probably players and coaches) were hoping for, it wasn’t a complete disaster (score/stats aside) and there were no significant injuries. If this was Week 7 of the regular season red flags would be up, but for preseason week three there is no need to panic.
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