Jake Delhomme and the Browns' Offense Look Alive in 27-24 Victory Over Packers

GREEN BAY - AUGUST 14: Brian Robiskie #80 of the Cleveland Browns makes a touchdown catch during the NFL preseason game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field August 14 2010 in Green Bay Wisconsin. (Photo by Tom Dahlin/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND BROWNS (1-0) GAME #1 GREEN BAY PACKERS (0-1)
VS.
27 24

 

The Cleveland Browns offense got off to a great start against the Green Bay Packers in the team's first preseason game of the year, paving the way to a 27-24 victory for the Orange and Brown.

More important than having the "W" on the board though is the way the Browns played early on. Even kicker Phil Dawson, who has been with the team since its expansion season in 1999, couldn't help but notice a different atmosphere:

"To march down like that with confidence right out of the chute, I don't remember ever seeing that in our first preseason game," said Dawson. "We may not execute like that every game, but now we know what we can do if we execute."

Let's get to my first comprehensive review of a Browns game this season...

PRESEASON GAME 1 - BROWNS VS. PACKERS (GENERAL THOUGHTS)

  1. Run vs. Pass: I thought we would be more known for our running game this season, and ultimately that will still probably remain true. With that said, I was pleasantly surprised with the number of passes that were called for our quarterbacks because I think it's more important to work on passing and route-running issues in the preseason than it is issues in the running game.
     
  2. Success Allows for Evaluation: It's amazing how when you don't go three-and-out, or when you don't allow the opposing team to run the ball down your throats for half the quarter, that you're able to better evaluate the players on a team. I thought we'd have a situation where we wouldn't see enough of Colt McCoy or Brett Ratliff in the second half, and yet we saw McCoy in the second quarter with enough playing time already going to Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace.
     
  3. "Cautiously Optimistic" on Jake: You can't get too excited about one drive with Jake Delhomme for the simple reason that one of his biggest issues last year was that he turned into a headcase after throwing his first interception. Until we see how he rebounds from a couple of bad plays in a Browns uniform, we won't know if he's capable of being the "old" Delhomme.
     
  4. Delhomme's First Drive: With that said, Delhomme's first drive was very good and saw was the playcalling. I loved the formation that the Browns came out with right away, which featured a packed four receiver set. If you read my review of the Browns scrimmage a week earlier, then you might remember that I briefly touched on how I was intrigued by this formation. It obviously caught the Packers off guard, because Evan Moore was wide open for a quick 17-yard gain.
     
    One play later, the Browns stayed aggressive and Delhomme looked comfortable in the pocket as he hit Mohamed Massaquoi for 17 yards. For all of the talk of Delhomme hitting his tight ends and running backs too much in camp, he spread the ball out on his first drive, even counting on Massaquoi to haul in a slant pass on fourth down and short. Altogether, Delhomme targeted both of his starting receivers and the backup tight end in his only drive, which was capped off by a four-yard Jerome Harrison touchdown run.

  5. RB Jerome Harrison punched it into the end zone for a four-yard score on QB Jake Delhomme's first and only series.
     
  6. No Cyclone Plays to Speak Of: The closest thing we had to a trick play was when Colt McCoy entered the game and a reverse was run to receiver Carlton Mitchell. Other than that, the Browns never used Joshua Cribbs in the backfield, and since Delhomme only had one series, Wallace really didn't have the chance to spell him. I wasn't too disappointed to see the Cyclone empty from Saturday's playbook; the formation is more likely to have an impact when the same players are in the game for four quarters straight.
     
  7. Rubin's Instant Impact: On the Packers' first offensive play of the game, running back Ryan Grant ran the ball and was stripped of the football by nose tackle Ahtyba Rubin. I love seeing Rubin's quick chop to the mid-section of the Grant where the football was located. It reminded me of how I've been reading camp reports that since players can't tackle in camp, you'll find them always trying to knock the football out as a running back passes by them.
     
    The fumble bounced off another Browns lineman and then fell right into the lap of Sheldon Brown, who took it 11 more yards before being stopped. Overall, the Packers' running game seemed to have trouble mustering anything against our first-string front seven, and I'm sure Rubin played a part in that. Maybe we can work on generating a better pass rush once Shaun Rogers is back in the mix of things.
     
  8. Rodgers is Scary Good: When the Packers originally let go of Brett Favre a few years back, I was upset at their organization as a fan of Favre's. In hindsight though, they definitely made the right move because Aaron Rodgers continues to get better and better as he climbs toward being one of the best in the game today. His accuracy and ability to diagnose where the Browns' blitzes were coming from were solid.
     
    Granted, it probably didn't take a rocket scientist to find the receivers he did when the Packers' offensive line kept picking up our blitzes, but Rodgers still made the right decision several times. Even when Joe Haden and T.J. Ward had decent coverage on the right sideline, Rodgers placed the ball where only his receiver could get it.
     
  9. The Defensive Backs: Haden and Ward had their backs turned on a few plays, and over time hopefully they'll get better at knowing when to get turned around and break up a pass like Sheldon Brown did on Rodgers' only incompletion of the game. I couldn't quite tell what happened on the play where Rodgers threw down the left sideline to a wide open Greg Jennings for 34 yards, but it looked as if Brown tried to jam Jennings at the line and then released him.
     
    As soon as Jennings got the release, Rodgers recognized it and threw right into a soft spot in what I'm guessing was zone coverage. I don't think every quarterback would tear us up like Rodgers did, but hopefully the unit can show better results over the next couple of weeks when they get Eric Wright back from a hamstring injury.
     

  10. QB Seneca Wallace rolled out to his left and fired a touchdown to WR Brian Robiskie on his first drive.
     
  11. Seneca Wallace is a Playmaker: I think we saw why it is compelling to have a subset of plays designed for backup Seneca Wallace during a game. In just a couple of series, he was 4-of-8 for 72 yards and 2 touchdowns. He was involved in two great plays. The first one came when he rolled out to his left side, to my disbelief. He then fired a strike to Brian Robiskie in the back of the end zone, and with the playing time Robiskie received in the first two quarters I think it's safe to say he'll be a starter this year. Wallace's other play came on a nicely designed quick fake and throw route to tight end Ben Watson that went for a touchdown. Both plays came on third down.
     
  12. Wallace's Pitfalls: While Wallace can be a contributor, you can't look at his stats and assume he would start over Delhomme. I look at a few plays where he gets into trouble; he ran out of bounds for a loss of three when rolling out to his favored right side; he misfired on a pass to Robiskie on a similar play that Delhomme had made earlier when coming to him as a late read. That might seem a bit picky, but it serves as more assurance that the Browns do not have any form of a quarterback controversy heading into the season.
     
  13. Massaquoi Involved Early: Delhomme completed three of his six completions to Mohamed Massaquoi, and it was nice to see the second-year receiver display some good hands, especially on the fourth-down play that was fired at his hip. Of course, it would have been better for him to have gotten an extra yard on the previous third down play, but he still came away with a reception and set up a manageable play. Massaquoi left with a hamstring injury but it doesn't sound like anything too serious.
     
  14. T.J. Ward Can Hit: Fans couldn't wait to see second-round safety T.J. Ward heading into the game, and he didn't disappoint. On the first kickoff of the game, he came from around the backside to wrap up the returner. On the next kickoff, he made an even better individual play to take down the returner.
     
    Throughout the rest of the game, Ward was flying all around the field making sure tackles or throwing players to the ground. It was the type of solid, manhandling type of play you never saw from guys like Sean Jones, Brodney Pool, Brian Russell, etc. That tackling ability doesn't just go away -- if he did it consistently in game number one, he's going to keep doing it and only get better.
     
  15. With the Good Comes the Bad: I'd say the positives still outweighed the negatives for Ward in his first game, but it can't be overlooked that he was involved in the Packers' first two touchdowns. On the first, as previously mentioned, he came over to cover Jennings after a Joe Haden blitz. The throw was on target in the end zone and Ward's attempt to defend it failed.
     
    On the second touchdown, Packer fullback John Kuhn bounced off of several would-be tacklers two yards away from the end zone, the last of whom was Ward. Ward gave him a good stick that Kuhn spun off and just barely had enough strength to prevent his knee from hitting the ground, but he still stood up and dove into the end zone. I'm sure next time Ward would like to make sure he gets wrapped around the ballcarrier all the way through his hit, especially at the goal line.
     
  16. Special Teams Heroes: Last year, the special teams unit was brilliant for the Browns. The unit picked up right where they left off with an outstanding combined effort against the Packers. Let's start with the coverage units. Ward's two tackles were already mentioned, but newcomer Peyton Hillis also had two special teams tackles. Special teams veteran Nick Sorensen had an assist on two tackles and also recovered a fumble after a Packer muffed a punt. Larry Asante and Ray Ventrone each had an assist on special teams too.
     
  17. Return Team: Even without Joshua Cribbs returning any kicks or punts, a trio of players -- Syndric Steptoe, Gerard Lawson, and Joe Haden -- all had success returning kicks. That is a tribute to the blocking on special teams, probably due to the coaching after you see a guy like James Davis assisting on a block toward the sideline despite missing all of last year.
     

  18. K Phil Dawson drilled two field goals in the final two minutes to give Cleveland the win.
     
  19. Dawson, Hodges Get it Done: The second half wasn't very exciting, but I felt the adrenaline rushing through my body after Phil Dawson drilled a 58-yarder to tie the game with under two minutes to play. For the Browns to get the ball back again so quickly and then have Dawson drill the 46-yard game winner was just icing on top of the cake.
     
    Hodges wasn't too bad either. On one extra point try, he held on to a high snap by Ryan Pontbriand and put it down in time. On six punts, he had a net average of 41.8 yards per boot, which is nearly five yards more than he averaged last season with the team.
     
  20. Backup Receivers Fail to Stand Out: It was tough to brag about any of the team's backup receivers. Syndric Steptoe dropped a pass that was high but catchable near the sideline. You had to love Bernie Kosar pointing out that Steptoe let the ball go through his hands before the contact came from the defender, all while Steptoe is writhing in pain on the ground.
     
    Jake Allen caught the final pass of the game to set up Dawson's field goal, but it was a "make up" of sorts on a deep reception he landed out of bounds on earlier; there's really no excuse for not getting both feet in considering how open he was. Bobby Engram didn't have a catch, and Johnathan Haggerty and Carlton Mitchell each only had one for a couple of yards.
     
    If anyone stood out slightly on the bubble, it was tight end Alex Smith, who had three catches for 37 yards. His plays didn't particularly stand out though; they were just ordinary catches.
     
  21. Screen to Hillis: The Browns used Peyton Hillis early and often, including a 26-yard screen pass that had good blocking right from the start. Hillis has good enough hands and speed to make that play work, which could be deadly if other players in our offense are being closely guarded.
     
  22. Benard Keeps the Hot Streak Going: I was happy to see LB Marcus Benard on the field after he was carted off a few days ago in practice. Benard played with the second team and was very active, having a team-high eight tackles, including the Browns' only sack of the game. He also forced a fumble on that play, but the Packers fell on top of it. It's going to be tough to cut one or two of these linebackers; Jason Trusnik had a decent game and got a nice shot on the quarterback. The only player at linebacker that seemed "missing" was David Veikune, and the injury report says he did not play. That can't bode well for his roster spot.
     
  23. Horrible Pass Interference Call: If you wanted to see the referees make a poor call in the first preseason game, then look no further than the pass interference call on safety Nick Sorensen in the third quarter of the game. Sorensen did a good job of breaking the pass up, but he didn't even make contact until after the ball had already been in the receiver's hands. Sorensen had every right to be upset at the bogus call that gave Green Bay a gift at the one-yard line. Otherwise, the Packers would've been forced to try a field goal.
     
  24. Jennings vs. Davis: RB Chris Jennings still has the issue of dancing around behind the line of scrimmage in an attempt to get more yards, but in reality he loses more yardage. Jennings is going to have a tough time beating out Davis, who is ahead on the depth chart and seems like a pretty decent blocker.
     
  25. Offensive Line: I need to go back and review how Shawn Lauvao did at right guard, but the Browns' first-unit offensive line held their protection long enough for Delhomme and Wallace to step in the pocket and deliver their throws. The same can't be said for the backups, who had Colt McCoy and Brett Ratliff wishing they had more time to throw. McCoy injured his hand on a play when a backup lineman was pushed back into him. I didn't see a lot of keepers on that second-unit, but I think Scott Kooistra will win a backup job out of necessity.
     
  26. Brownies: As always, it was great to hear Bernie Kosar breaking down plays and providing the color commentary to Jim Donovan...Eric Mangini looked happy on the sideline, and rightly so...McCoy did a nice job scrambling twice on third down...the Browns only completed 36% of their third down plays, but the Packers were lower at 27%...for a first preseason game, the Browns kept the penalties to a minimum at five.

Up next, the Browns head home to take on the St. Louis Rams. Delhomme should see a few more series in that game, but hopefully the Browns' defense has more success since they'll be facing a team on the complete opposite end of the spectrum of the Packers' offense.

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