Delhomme is Ready for the Regular Season, Defense Looks for Pass Rush in Browns' 35-27 Loss to Detroit

DETROIT - AUGUST 28: Jake Delhomme #17 of the Cleveland Browns throws a first quarter pass while playing the Detroit Lions during a preseason game on August 28 2010 at Ford Field in Detroit Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND BROWNS (1-2) GAME #3 DETROIT LIONS (1-2)
VS.
27 35


As a Cleveland Browns fan, I think we're put in a very difficult situation now in terms of judging our expectations heading into the regular season. After the offense was run so poorly most of last season by Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn, we rated our passing games as one of the worst in the league. Heading into this season with Jake Delhomme as the starter, the expectation was that he would hand off to the running backs for the most part and try to manage the game. Now? I'm not so sure...

PRESEASON GAME 2 - RAMS VS. BROWNS (GENERAL THOUGHTS)

  1. Delhomme's Efficiency: The reason I'm not so sure [read the intro] is because of just how darn efficient Delhomme and our receivers have been. On top of that, all of a sudden we went from having virtually no reliable receivers to having a large crop of players who seem reliable.
     
    I'm not ready to proclaim that our receivers are elite or anything of that sort, but we've seen Mohamed Massaquoi, Brian Robiskie, Chansi Stuckey, Joshua Cribbs, Ben Watson, Evan Moore, and Peyton Hillis all catch the ball regularly to help move the chains. Offenses throw the ball a lot in the preseason, and Delhomme was 20-of-25 in just one half of play against the Lions. If he continues to be this accurate, and with the amount of times we've shown the spread offense, I suddenly feel confident that we could be a very balanced team this year.
     
  2. The Play Calling: I haven't credited the play-calling of Brian Daboll this preseason, so I'll do it here: it has been light years ahead of last season [excluding the end of the year]. Whether it be the shifts, the motions, the formations, the play design, the timing, the fourth-down calls, etc, everything has seemed to work well. Maybe all it took was having a quarterback who at least mentally understood how to read a defense before the snap.
     
  3. Fourth Down Conversions: It is true that some of our early drives under Delhomme have only continued because we have gone for it on 4th-and-3 or less. More times than not, we've converted with solid throws by Delhomme. On two of those attempts, the ball was fired to Mohamed Massaquoi. We might be going for it just because it is the preseason, but I hope we continue that trend if it comes up during the regular season and it is our first offensive series.
     
  4. Cribbs' Progression: One of the most impressive things this offseason has to be the improvement of Joshua Cribbs at the wide receiver position. While he still looks a little awkward to me at times when he goes to catch the ball, he's getting open and using his body to block off defenders and make the catch.
     
    There haven't been any issues with his hands yet either. I think back to an earlier game in the preseason where Seneca Wallace tried to hit him on a deep post route but a safety came over and knocked it away as Cribbs dove in the end zone. I get the feeling that had the safety not broken the play up, Cribbs would've hauled it in.
     
  5. Harrison Struggled? Not So Much: I don't look at Jerome Harrison's 3.3 yards per carry average and think that he necessarily struggled. In fact, there were several plays where he made a nice move or two to make defenders miss at the line of scrimmage, but then another defensive player would shoot in and hammer him. Other times, he still moved forward for positive yardage. With a few better blocks as the offensive line gets in sync, he can hit the home runs just like last year. He might have had one on the first play of the game, but either Joe Thomas missed his block or he expected Harrison to run to the sideline.
     
  6. The Fumbling Issue: What concerns me a little bit is the fumbling issue, and that would be more related to a confidence issue than a technique issue. I don't want Harrison to be so concerned with ball security that it diminishes his style of play. If he puts it in the ground to start the regular season, Mangini won't hesitate to put Montario Hardesty or Peyton Hillis in the game. Some people thought Harrison might have been down, but it wasn't conclusive on the replay so I don't fault the officials for the call.
     

  7. The Lions scored on a touchdown pass to WR Bryant Johnson on their first drive, only took three plays.
     
  8. Not Digging Bowens' Debut: I praised the effort given by veteran David Bowens last year and I know he just came back, but I was not very impressed with what I saw from Bowens. He looked like a liability against the tight ends in coverage, appeared to miss at least a tackle or two, and just wasn't very fast in pursuit of the ballcarriers.
     
  9. Linebacker [Lack of] Impact: If one unit has disappointed this preseason big time, it's the linebackers. Everyone has looked slow, maybe with the exception of Marcus Benard who hasn't been with the first unit as much. I haven't heard anything from Matt Roth except for a quarterback hit last week. Scott Fujita hasn't had a significant impact.
     
    In coverage, our linebackers can't defend the swing passes to the running backs, and they are also getting torn apart by big-name and no-name tight ends. Hopefully Rob Ryan either has something up his sleeve or will compensate with more safety help in the regular season, because right now it's not too difficult to march up and down the fields utilizing the tight ends.
     
  10. Schaefering Shows Off: I continue to be impressed with defensive end Brian Schaefering, partially due to the fact that he's been one of the few linemen capable of generating a pass rush. He had quite a few reps in the rotation with the first unit, and I expect him to make the final roster. Besides Schaerfering's one quarterback hit, two other players registered a hit: Robaire Smith and Marcus Benard.
     
  11. Best's 51-Yard Dash: The last thing I wanted to see from our defense was them giving up a 51-yard run play to rookie Jahvid Best on the Lions' first offensive play. The Lions blocked well on the play, but it appeared that Sheldon Brown had the best chance at making the tackle after a few yards or at least slowing Best down. I won't blame Brown for the entire run, I'm just saying he was in the best position to prevent it from being as bad as it was.
     
  12. Scary Sight for Sorensen: I don't meant to poke fun at what was a potentially serious injury, but I cracked up at Bernie Kosar's reaction, which was something along the lines of "it's kind of eerie, I was talking to Sorensen this morning and the last thing I told him was to stay healthy." You'd probably have to hear how Bernie says it and the timing of it. Sorensen suffered a concussion and is recovering, but will sit this Thursday (understandably) against the Chicago Bears.
     
  13. Special Teams Tackles: The Browns were only able to register two special teams tackles against Detroit, partially because they only punted the ball once. The lack of punts was a combination of good offense and turning the ball over on fumbles. The tackles came from T.J. Ward and Blake Costanzo, although Ray Ventrone had two assisted tackles.
     

  14. The second- and third-stringers will have a chance to showcase their talents against the Chicago Bears.
     
  15. Bubble Watch - Wide Receiver: I didn't even see Syndric Steptoe out there, which seems like a decline from the past two weeks. It's interesting that the Browns ran at least a play or two with Carlton Mitchell and Bobby Engram while Delhomme was still in the game.
     
    Engram made a 9-yard catch during the second quarter, and Mitchell had a 26-yard end-around. Both receivers were part of the same series -- the one that resulted in Delhomme's touchdown pass to Lawrence Vickers. The recently signed Taurus Johnson also had a good catch on a pass from Colt McCoy, similar to the one Delhomme threw to Brian Robiskie earlier in the game.
     
  16. End-Around to Mitchell: I want to highlight this play separately because I loved how it looked. The offensive line sold the run so well, Delhomme did a good job acting like he was handing it off to the running back, and even Mitchell convinced me that he was going to block at first. It wasn't the typical end-around where the receiver starts sprinting toward the backfield right off the bat. It paid off, because Mitchell gained good yardage. That's the second time the team has run that play with Mitchell this preseason. Unfortunately, besides that, I haven't been very impressed with what I've seen from him.
     
  17. Wallace Spelling Delhomme: I was intrigued when I saw Wallace come in the game for Delhomme, and I still say we did so to try to see how a potential defense would react to the formations used. Among them was the "Pistol," as I believe Bernie referred to it as. That featured Wallace in a mini-Shotgun, with Peyton Hillis directly behind him a yard or two. The two plays Wallace was in didn't net a score and kind of halted the drive, but I still think such an idea -- but with Cribbs involved too -- can help us during the regular season.
     
  18. Not the Running, but the Receiving: I was annoyed by Chris Jennings trying to turn a dud play into something miraculous again, only to lose yardage. What I did see that reminded me what I like about his game is how he can spin off of tacklers probably better than all of our other running backs in screen plays. He did it a few times against the Lions, which earns him a few brownie points with me. At tight end, a potential person he's competing with for a roster spot, Alex Smith, dropped a pass or two that I think he could've had.
     
  19. Suh's Ridiculous Penalty: When Ndamukong Suh grasped and twisted Delhomme's facemask, followed by throwing him to the ground well after the ball had been thrown, I think the second overall pick should have been ejected from the game. Such a big deal has been made by the league about protecting quarterbacks, and yet for the game, what Suh did got the same punishment as Kyle Vanden Bosch's "opps, I touched him in the helmet" penalty later on. I've seen fans from around the league brag about how much of a beast Suh looked like on the play. I didn't think that at all, but I'll keep the post clean in terms of what I really thought.
     
  20. Correcting the O-Line Issues: Against the Lions, Delhomme seemed to have a big problem with getting out from under center quick enough. There were several times where the offensive line moved after the snap, a defensive tackle penetrated, and Delhomme had yet to even move his feet from beyond where he was under center.
     
    There was almost a disastrous play near the goal line when Delhomme and Alex Mack had a bad exchange, but Peyton Hillis picked it up and gained positive yardage. Later on, Mack snapped the ball for Seneca Wallace but literally none of the other four linemen even moved. Wallace fired the ball away to prevent being killed by four defensive linemen. We can't have these mistakes against a team like Baltimore, so it's a good thing we kick off the year against Tampa Bay and Kansas City.
     
  21. Dawson Connects Again: What more can you ask from Phil Dawson? He connected on kicks from 35- and 45-yards and looks to be in line for having some more kicks for the regular season.
     
  22. Brownies: Defensive back Coye Francies was not active, and neither was defensive lineman Travis Ivey...I liked how well we ran the screen play with McCoy in the game...the reaction that Brian Daboll and Eric Mangini gave Colt McCoy after his last pass of the game sailed out of bounds was priceless...I was impressed with the play of Matthew Stafford again; I get the feeling that he won't be a No. 1 bust...the Browns connected on 58% (7 of 12) of their third downs.

The Browns will have to start preparing their cuts soon as their final preseason game approaches this Thursday against the Chicago Bears. It's a short week for the game, but that means we're only closer to the debut of the regular season!

P.S. I'll have a recap of the Official DBN Fantasy Football Draft up Tuesday or Wednesday.

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