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Depth on Defense Proves Weak in 24-20 Loss to Jets

24 20

After the craziness of a one-hour lightning / heavy thunderstorm delay in the first quarter, the Browns lost their first preseason game to the New York Jets by a final score of 24-20 Thursday night. I always like to look at what happened when the starters were in the game though, and from that perspective, the Browns won with a 7-0 advantage.

It didn't take long on Friday for the Pittsburgh Steelers, a hated rival that we'll be playing in a little over a month, to make a statement of their own. It took the Steelers eight plays to travel 80 yards down the field for a touchdown, as QB Ben Roethlisberger connected with Ohio State product Santonio Holmes. I think Roethlisberger still has his flaws as a top-level quarterback in the league, but he can make defensive backs pay on the deep ball by buying just a little bit of time.

Why did I bring up the Steelers in this review of the Browns / Jets contest? Because I'm stressing that if anything happens to our starting cornerbacks, it won't matter how improved our defensive line is: we're going to be ripped apart. Here are my bullet points from the first preseason game...


  1. Defensive Lackfield: Here is the line for second-year wide receiver David Clowney against the likes of A.J. Davis, Mil'von James, Steve Cargile, and Nick Sorenson: 4 catches for 163 yards and 2 touchdowns. On both of Clowney's touchdowns, all it took was a simple playaction fake for him to be as open as you can get on a deep pattern.
  2. Preweek1goats_medium Jets WR David Clowney kept getting past the Browns' safeties on playaction fakes. Credit: Associated Press

  3. To be Fair: On both of Clowney's touchdowns, it seemed like it was the safeties that dropped the ball by not staying home on the playaction fake. Sorenson isn't going to make this team as safety depth, so he'll have to rely on his special teams abilities again. As far as Cargile goes, he'll probably be an early roster casualty.
  4. Back to the Beginning: I liked what I saw on our first defensive series. The run defense was getting an excellent push against the Jets' much-improved offensive line. Shaun Rogers was just fun to watch, and I can't wait to see the unit at full strength when Corey Williams receives his regular reps. We saw how much Kamerion Wimbley will be a beneficiary from the defensive line this year when he chase down Thomas Jones across the field after the line had clogged things up.
  5. Wright and McDonald: I think the biggest difference between Wright and McDonald and the undrafted free agents is clear: Wright and McDonald understand our bend-but-don't break philosophy. Everything was kept in front of them, and although it allowed the Jets to pick up a good amount of yardage, when they needed to come up with a big play, McDonald made an outstanding man-to-man tackle to stop a receiver just shy of a first down.
  6. Fullback Handoff? C'mon: What's why all of the complaining about the Browns not stopping the Jets' first-drive handoff to FB Tony Richardson? You can't expect the defensive line to crush everything; sometimes you give the opposing teams their props for executing.
  7. Working in Stallworth: I was correct in my training camp battles preview that Derek Anderson would focus exclusively on throwing the ball to Braylon Edwards and Donte Stallworth on the first drive. I definitely liked what I saw early on from Stallworth, but the plays designed for him aren't the ones I was envisioning -- ones with a defender right on top of him.
  8. Getting Cleveland Excited: If you weren't excited about this team's potential heading into the game, or were keeping a reserved attitude, then I don't see how you could've kept calm after seeing Braylon Edwards one-hand a two-yard touchdown pass from Anderson. The throw, the catch, the celebration, the fans...all of that combined resembles what Cleveland fans hope this season is all about.
  9. Wilson Locking Up: I think Travis Wilson has pretty much taken the key for the third receiver role and thrown it away to a place where no one else can get to it. He looked very smooth on the three passes he caught, most of which were in tight coverage.
  10. Mixed on Rucker: I was a little surprised at how well-received Martin Rucker's performance came off on message boards and such, because I thought he showed that he still needs to be a little more polished. Yes, I'm excited about the plays he made. However, I'm not excited about him letting a ball go through his hands in the end zone -- a play that most times would end up in an interception. He also dropped a fairly open pass earlier in the game with Ken Dorsey in at quarterback. Not a bad game overall for Rucker -- who had 5 catches for 70 yards -- but I think we need to watch his progression over the next three weeks before deciding on whether or not he can be a reliable gameday contributor by Week 1.
  11. Negative on Hubbard: Mixed on Rucker, but negative on rookie receiver Paul Hubbard. I did mark out on his awesome-looking 44-yard reception in the fourth quarter, but I was very frustrated by his inability to haul in two would-be touchdowns on the last drive. He doesn't seem to know how to use his size to his advantage at all yet, though maybe I'm just too spoiled with what Edwards can do.
  12. Screens From Hell: Another year, a lot of practice, and yet the same failure rate when it comes to screen plays still exist. On the first series, I'm not in favor of running a screen play to Jamal Lewis often. When Ken Dorsey was in the game, the offensive line didn't hold their own too well, but Dorsey didn't help matters by telegraphing the throws from a mile away.
  13. Preweek1stars_mediumQB Derek Anderson and WR Braylon Edwards celebrate after their two-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter. Credit: Associated Press
  14. Bernie Rules: All hail Bernie Kosar again for his beautiful work in the announcer's booth Thursday night. His constant bashing of the Jets' plays, intelligence on plays that were/should be run, and all-around wit made the game worth watching until the final seconds. One thing though: his man-crush on Ken Dorsey remains, even though the guy went 0-for-12 in his last 12 attempts and was sacked numerous times in between.
  15. Wright / Harrison: Another thing I was surprised with was people on other message boards saying they thought Jason Wright did better than Jerome Harrison did. I don't think either players did anything worthy of mentioning, but I'm still a fan of Harrison's ability to run to the outside. Travis Thomas didn't look very impressive to me though -- not enough burst on his touches, and he really blew a blocking assignment once that resulted in a sack I believe.
  16. Ali a Keeper: With how much the Browns utilized Charles Ali in the first preseason game without putting another player (like Kolo Kapuni) back there, I think his roster odds just improved dramatically. We're not going to allow an in-season injury to Lawrence Vickers to deter a gameplan: having Ali available is a must.
  17. Cousin Check: Early on in the game, Terry Cousin did a nice job breaking up a third-down pass to force a punt. If that's what he can do consistently for us, then I'll be a happy camper.
  18. Leonard Making Bid: After having a relatively quiet camp thus far, Louis Leonard was in on a team-leading four tackles. Four defensive linemen already have roster spots locked up, and Leonard may have the early lead on being the fifth.
  19. Quinn's Day: Overall, I thought it was an average day for Brady Quinn. He still shows a lot of timidness when it comes to throwing deep; I'd love for a reporter to get his reasoning for that. Some people are blaming Syndric Steptoe for his interception, but I place the bulk of the blame on Quinn. Rocketing a short pass right where it's crowded and ahead of the receiver is not ideal.
  20. Dorsey was Dorsey: I wasn't surprised with what I saw from Ken Dorsey's play: he's not mobile and therefore gets brought down often with third stringers in front of him. However, I loved the fact that he was really trying to win the game. Sure, a lot of that had to do with the plays that Rob Chudzinski was calling in, but Dorsey did seem to have a reserved fire in his eyes as he led the team to two decent drives, one of which ended in an interception and the other being the incompletion that ended the game.
  21. Favre on the Sidelines: I think this will be a much better Jets team with Brett Favre as their news starting quarterback. I initially stated that it would've been nice for our defensive backs to face Favre in the first preseason game, but I take that back now. I liked that the starters weren't forced with the burden of being almost in awe of the whole Favre situation.
  22. Bad Containment: What happens on a punt return when the coverage gets down their in time, only to stop, believing that the runner will have no where to go? Well, the returner just runs right by all of those stationary players. I'm sure Ted Dashier has something to work on during the week now.

Now, bring on the New York Giants. The Browns don't play for awhile again -- until next Monday to be specific. Against the defending Super Bowl champions, it'll be a better test to see our starters get a quarter and a half to a full half of action.

In the coming days, I'm going to compile my first "projected 53-man roster" list, based partially on what I saw in the first preseason game. Of course, that list will go under weekly revisions if necessary, as I've done in the past.