"The Sunday Five" is a loosely-titled piece where I talk about five NFL- or Browns-related topics related to this past week. This morning, we ran a special edition of "The Sunday Five." Now it's time for the regular edition...what is on tonight's agenda?
Fans should be reminded of a major rule change that will probably be apparent even in the preseason games. John Bena from our Denver Broncos affiliate attended their local camp where the officials made it more clear how the process of reviewing every scoring play will go. I'll have some more commentary on the information below in my next bullet point.
This one was very interesting. You may remember that the Replay Booth will take a look at EVERY SCORING PLAY – TDs, FGs, Safeties – ALL OF THEM. Referees will be wearing a pager. The booth will buzz down to the referee letting him know if the score is confirmed or if it needs reviewed. Coaches can NOT challenge a scoring play – the booth is responsible for the entire play too (12-men, QB over the LOS). If a coach throws a challenge flag on a scoring play it is a 15-yard penalty.
The adjustment to the replay review system takes the responsibility out of the hands of the head coach and the official(s) who ruled the play a touchdown (let's be honest, reviewed field goals and safeties are far and few between). I have a few questions. If a team hands the ball off and a running back barely scores a touchdown, how quickly will the buzz come down before the team rushes their unit on the field for the extra point? In the past, opposing coaches could immediately throw the flag. If too many calls are reviewed upstairs, will it cause too many delays in games that are already filled with commercial breaks? If not enough calls are reviewed upstairs, will it cause fans to be furious that their coach had challenges available, but yet some anonymous officials were reviewing the play?
Unfortunately, this is one rule that can't be changed if it doesn't go over well. If you recall last year, officials were positioned in new spots and caused controversy in the preseason because it prevented teams, particularly the Indianapolis Colts, from running the hurry-up offense. The league made some adjustments, and I don't think there were any issues during the regular season. If anything, the benefit of the preseason is that the NFL will be able to test this system out and make some fine tuning adjustments. The officials upstairs can get a feel for how quickly they need to review plays and page the officials.
You don't hear much about our backup linebackers. When I did my first 53-man roster projection last week, the three backup linebackers I had on there were Titus Brown, Kaluka Maiava, and Steve Octavien. I think everyone else is an undrafted free agent who has not been put in position to make a splash in camp, but we probably should carry seven linebackers on the roster. I know Octavien made two awesome looking stuffs at the Family Fun Day, but he was also playing against some backup linemen. I really haven't seen or heard anything from Maiava or Brown, except for the praise that general manager Tom Heckert gave both men. I wondered, "is there a chance that Maiava could be a surprise cut," but there really aren't any other candidates on the roster. Those guys will need to step up and shine now that Eric Barton, David Bowens, Jason Trusnik, and Matt Roth are gone, and Marcus Benard has been moved to defensive end.
We are less than a week away from the Browns' first preseason game against the Green Bay Packers. We'll have a session of "Getting to Know the Enemy" with our Packers affiliate up later in the week. I'm going to try to attend Monday's practice, so we'll see if the team starts doing anything to prepare for their first game there. Hopefully guys like Jordan Norwood, Mohamed Massaquoi, and Jordan Cameron get back on the field soon, because Colt McCoy needs to continue building chemistry with everyone who is going to be in a position to make plays this year.