Didn’t it feel so wonderful to watch our Brownies take the field for the first time this season? I love that I can be so filled with hope in August each year… before it is crushed horrifically sometime in October…
But enough with the negativity. Here are some (mostly positive) thoughts on the first preseason game against the Lions:
As expected, John Greco is fighting hard to maintain his starting role. He had a nice game against the Lions’ massive defensive line. Shedding weight in the offseason has made him a faster, more efficient blocker. At this point, I would be happy to see him or Garrett Gilkey start at right guard.
I was less impressed with starting right tackle Mitchell Schwartz, who struggled to hold the edge a few times. This is a problem that Schwartz had last season, and he needs to get better at it or the Browns need to draft a new tackle next year. But I’m getting ahead of myself…
All in all, the Browns’ offensive line is decent, but it could still be better. Despite picking up several free agents, the Browns’ depth here still seems insufficient. This was made especially obvious by watching the subpar protection the second string offered (or rather didn’t offer) Manziel or Thigpen later in the game.
Offensive Skill Positions
Brian Hoyer played well. ESPN isn’t telling you this because it doesn’t improve their national ratings, but it’s true nonetheless. His quick release and accuracy are a refreshing sight. And his completion percentage would have been higher if the ghost of Greg Little didn’t seem to be haunting the entire receiving corps all evening (with Gordon’s drop in the endzone being especially painful to watch). My favorite Hoyer moment of the evening came on 4th and 5… The man is unflinching and unphased in high pressure situations, and I enjoy watching his poise and confidence.
Johnny Manziel’s first two possessions were underwhelming and a little nerve wracking. If you were nervous before the game about his tendency to quickly abandon the pocket and risk his safety, you are probably still feeling nervous. I almost passed out the first time he sprinted from the pocket and dove headfirst into three defenders. Luckily, he eventually seemed to find his stride and threw a couple of nice passes to Taylor Gabriel and Charles Johnson. There was also a well-called quarterback draw that led to a nice run and slide. That said, Manziel must still do a better job of anticipating his open receivers and getting rid of the ball.
My favorite part of the night was probably watching the Browns run game. Because unlike last year, we actually have one. Tate had a couple of nice runs, and then the rookie Terrance West took over, displaying nice footwork and speed. He still hesitates occasionally when he gets the ball, but this is something I expect to improve with time. Edwin Baker also had a couple of nice runs in the fourth quarter, and I continue to admire his strength given his size—that little sucker just will not go down. Dion Lewis, on the other hand, may have sealed his fate with a major fumble that could cost him his roster spot.
Despite the entire receiving corps having a slight case of the dropsies, a couple of young receivers showed promise. Taylor Gabriel snagged some nice catches and paired them with a couple of nice returns. Charles Johnson did a nice job of setting up his own blocks and maximizing his runs after catch. Willie Snead and Jonathan Krause, on the other hand, totally underwhelmed. Snead dropped passes from both Manziel and Thigpen. Krause also dropped a pass and showed poor judgment when trying to return a punt from the back of the endzone. Their time with the team may be limited.
Wow ,do I really like watching Karlos Dansby read an offense! I anticipate him really messing with quarterbacks and making a huge impact this season as the leader of the Browns defensive line. Linebacker Craig Robertson also had a great game. He was aggressive, and his pass coverage in the backfield was much improved from last season. Kruger seems to be back to his old pass rushing self now that he is reunited with his old coach, Mike Pettine. John Hughes did a nice job stuffing the Lions inside run game, Armonty Bryant came up with a beautiful sack, and free agent Zac Diles had several nice tackles. Josh Aubrey and Justin Staples also played well—with Aubrey forcing a fumble that was recovered by Staples—and rookie Jaccobi McDaniel continued to show a lot of promise. The rookie who stood out the most, however, was Chris Kirksey, which is no surprise as he continues to battle Craig Robertson for a starting inside linebacker spot.
The defense was far from perfect, however. They missed way too many tackles and seemed to really struggle to contain the outside run, with tackles getting pinned inside and linebackers finding themselves too far upfield. Specifically, Aaron Berry, Tank Carder, and rookie Pierre Desir all struggled to make one-on-one tackles. While Desir will get more time to work on his craft, Berry and Carder might have cost themselves spots on the roster.
I should mention that I owe a small apology to Leon McFadden. Although he drew a couple penalties, he played aggressive football, breaking up passes and making some nice tackles on both special teams and defense. He may have saved his roster spot.
Oh man did special teams look rough at the beginning of the game. The tackling was terrible! But they seemed to find a rhythm later on. Spencer Lanning looked improved as a punter, and Taylor Gabriel and Marlon Moore had some nice returns. Surprisingly, the star of special teams may have been running back Chris Ogbannaya with a HUGE tackle that sent the Lions returner cartwheeling down the field. He may be able to make the roster in this capacity.
Also, Cundiff was 4 of 4 on field goal attempts. So that. #IstillmissPhilDawson
And that about wraps it up…