|CLEVELAND BROWNS (0-2)
|NEW YORK GIANTS (1-1)
The score doesn't really show it, but every single person who watched the game knows it: this is a game that you'll want to forget about...forever. I always say that what counts in preseason games is what the starters do, so I'm not going to be hypocritical and praise the team for only losing by three.
We lost this game 30-3. By Twenty-seven points. In just a quarter and a half of game clock. We wanted prime time, and we got it. If we want to hang with the big boys, it's going to take a whole hell of a lot more than our effort Monday Night to succeed. There is one saving grace though: a lot of what went wrong was a result of inexcusable penalties.
That's not an excuse, but rather a starting point of the first thing that needs to be addressed. Since so much went wrong, and we want to forget about this game forever, let me put a unique spin on this game review and just throw all of the bad stuff at you at once: just to get it out of the way.
WHAT WENT WRONG - THE BAD
- Travis Wilson: I was really disappointed by Wilson's effort in a starting role, as he failed to even record a catch. On one particular play, an all-out blitz came toward Anderson on a 3rd-and-long. Anderson got rid of the ball at the last second, and the ball landed about two yards past the first down marker on an intended comeback route. Instead, Wilson seemed to over-run the route by several yards. The timing factor on a blitz is probably a little less important for an inside receiver, which is where I want Wilson during the regular season. If I'm not mistaken, Wilson also had a dropped pass (on a not-so-great pass) a little later.
- Eric Wright: I was not too pleased with the coverage by Wright on Domenik Hixon. I mean, it's basically like their sixth receiver (think Paul Hubbard on our team, depth-wise) just dominating our starting cornerback. Sure, praise Hixon for making some nice catches. But fault Wright for balking on the first touchdown, and then tripping on the second (I think that was Wright on the second TD; couldn't get a look at the jersey number).
Dumb Penalties: Another dig on Wright -- an early 54-yard pass interference called on him. It's the preseason: I want to see how our defensive line and linebackers do; you can't do that when the Giants pick up chunks like this. Also, what in the world was with Mike Adams' interference on a punt, especially when the ball wasn't even close to coming down yet? He would've warranted his own subtitle had he not had some nice blitzes later on in the game. There were too many other holding penalties as well.
When You Practice, PRACTICE: Even though I didn't say it, when Crennel kept keeping everyone out of pads for a week after the first preseason game, I kept thinking: "isn't that a little too long?" Usually, I've heard of a day or two off from pads, but not a whole week.
"Unbelievable," Crennel said. "Evidently we didn't do enough work. I told the team it's my fault for trying to save them in practice by not hitting. We're not very good right now."
I'll say. The Browns were physically manhandled on the offensive and defensive lines while the starters were in. A lot of that has to do with the Giants' superiority, but I think a lot of it also has to do with Crennel giving his players a little too much respect during camp.
- Jamal Lewis: After two nice runs to start off the game, Lewis was victimized by the offensive line getting pushed into the backfield. However, failing to lock in a handoff down at the goal line is something he should have down pat right now -- what have the past three-four weeks of training camp been for?
- Kamerion Wimbley: We see the Giants with so many effective pass rushers against our tremendous offensive line. So then, why is it that Wimbley can't even record a footnote of a memorable play on gameday? It's instances like this where you start to wonder if Wimbley will inevitably be nothing more than average in this league, due to being one-dimensional.
Special Teams Coverage: I'm still very confident in the kick coverage ability of our starting unit. I'm not at all impressed by some of the youngsters in the second unit though, and that includes CB A.J. Davis. On Hixon's safety return for a touchdown, Davis was in prime position to stop him. Instead, Hixon blew by him with ease. Davis had a couple of nice hits later in the game, but that's not enough to hand him a roster spot. LB David McMillan was also in decent enough of position on the play.
- Never Again: Appearance-wise, the brown pants only looked "ok" in my opinion. Then why use them? They already have bad voodoo on them after this loss, and I've already heard fans and media from across the country question why in the world we would choose such an ugly uniform color. Let's not add fashion to the list of areas our rivals can mock us with.
- You Let Droughns Do It: I didn't want Reuben Droughns making some sort of impact against us (it's that former Browns rivalry thing), but he did. Travis Thomas was manhandled by a running back, and he blocked Dave Zastudil's punt in the end zone. Speaking of which, didn't Zastudil appear to take a little too much time before booting that one? Backed up, it has to be catch and hit; not catch, set, and hit.
- No Screen Team: We finally started trying screen plays when Ken Dorsey came in, and our execution was even worst than last week on three attempts. Pitifully run.
For the positives, now, I'm going to start off by handing out a few game balls. Game balls always cheer people up, right?
WHAT WENT RIGHT - THE GOOD
Game Ball - Syndric Steptoe: I am literally in awe at how quickly Steptoe has improved from a year ago. He was the heart and soul of the final score looking respectable. Or, if you want to put it another way, he was our Domenik Hixon of the second-unit. He pulled in two touchdown grabs -- one of which had him saving Brady Quinn by not giving up on the football and not only wrestling it out of the defender's hands, but tipping it to himself and heading in for a touchdown.
He was also outstanding on kickoff returns again, including one that went 90 yards. I'm convinced that Steptoe needs to be on our final roster now, because someone else will pick him up otherwise. We may need him right away if Joshua Cribbs' MRI comes back with bad news.
- Game Ball - Charles Ali: I think I read somewhere on the OBR that Ali is by far the best second-string fullback in all of football, and I'd have to agree with that. Getting reps again with Lawrence Vickers out, Ali opened some nice holes for Lewis and Jerome Harrison. He also caught several passes in the flat and took them upfield for nice little gains.
- Game Ball - Phil Dawson: Dawson's leg strength reached new highs against the Giants. His opening kickoff was deep enough to warrant a touchback, and on our first offensive drive, he connected on what would've been a career-high 56-yard field goal, had it been the regular season. He not only hit the kick straight down the middle, but he had several yards to spare. Those kicks will be critical against tough opponents like Dallas come Week 1.
- Defensive Shoutouts: Nice job by Andra Davis on the first series, reading Eli Manning perfectly and batting his pass down at the line. If Shaun Rogers was available to get a greater push, Davis could do that type of thing more often. Also, D'Qwell Jackson had a beautiful helmet hit to jar the football loose from Brandon Jacobs. Unfortunately, the Giants recovered the fumble.
- Corner Blitzes: Not sure why we waited for the second stringers to come in to start them, but our corner blitzes looked sharp when Anthony Wright and David Carr came in. In particular, Eric Wright and Mike Adams did a fine job. Adams' first blitz allowed Wright to return a pick for a touchdown. Wright later had the team's only sack of the game on a blitz.
- Brady Quinn: Literally, Quinn had several seconds longer to throw than Anderson did when he got in. Still, it was good to see Quinn run the offense effectively in the off-chance that Anderson will be out Week 1. We even got to see Quinn fire a deep ball downfield to Steptoe for a touchdown. I won't praise Quinn's throw because it should've been picked -- but surely it's something he will hopefully start working on more during practice.
- Darnell Dinkins: I still don't want him catching footballs often, but credit to him for making several nifty catches late in the game. He finished with 3 grabs for 50 yards.
- Ken Dorsey: Who woke him up? This was the best I've ever seen Dorsey play at the NFL level, as he was rocketing balls down the field to open receivers. He single-handedly made Paul Hubbard, Lance Leggett, Steve Sanders, and Efrem Hill look good late in the game (not taking credit away from the wideouts, but Dorsey threw some perfect balls).
- Harrison's Toughness: More than the speed, I liked the toughness and moves I saw from Harrison on his 23-yard gain. We need to get Harrison about 3-4 touches per game on gameday, in the right situations.
- Key and Hall: Late in the game, Giants RB Danny Ware broke free from an Alex Hall tackle attempt. Shortly thereafter though, when Ware tried to break free again, Travis Key charged at him and gave a nice hit. I didn't see much more of him besides that, but it's better than seeing Steve Cargile get burned in his only play against the Jets.
- Players Out: I missed two leaders: WR Braylon Edwards on offense and DT Shaun Rogers on defense. I know this probably sounds crazy, but if Edwards was healthy, maybe the Browns get him the football on our first drive, and we eventually go in for a touchdown rather than a field goal. Maybe Anderson knows to get him the football right away on the play he gets the concussion, therefore avoiding the hit altogether. Crazy talk, maybe. Reality, possibly.
- I'm Not Depressed: Now, if this were a regular season game, I'd be depressed. We still have several weeks to collect our thoughts and correct the issues we had though.
- I'm Upset: I'm upset at all of the injuries we suffered after staying relatively healthy in camp. We can't afford to lose those guys if we want to make a run at the division.
- Bring Back Bernie: I hate prime time games during the preseason. When the second and third units are in, I care about what the hell is going on still. I don't want to hear announcers speculating "surely if you're Cleveland fans, you're thinking 'this, that, and this'". Can't wait to hear Donovan and Kosar next game again.
The game was one to forget...and now, the book on it is closed. Still feel free to post comments here though, of course.