The Cleveland Browns had their worst effort of the preseason this past Friday against the Philadelphia Eagles, falling by a final score of 27-10. My review will not be as detailed as the first two games since some cuts have already been made, and because a few people really overreacted to a preseason game. Sure, you don't want to ignore the negatives and only get excited when there are good games (i.e. last week against the Packers), but until you see the issues for four quarters in the regular season game, some judgment needs to be reserved. My complete game review of the Eagles vs. Browns game is after the jump.
|PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (3-0)||GAME #3||CLEVELAND BROWNS (2-1)|
PRESEASON GAME 3 - PHILADELPHIA EAGLES VS. CLEVELAND BROWNS (COMPLETE GAME REVIEW)
- Goat of the Games: The Offensive Line - Our front five really struggled against the speed and quickness of the Eagles. It started with Jason Pinkston and Shawn Lauvao, and the infection was so bad that it even spread to Alex Mack and...Joe Thomas. In a sinister sort of way, there is actually a benefit to having your offensive linemen get their asses handed to them in a preseason game. It allows the coaching staff to evaluate what went wrong when the games don't count. If the right adjustments are made, the offensive line should be better on opening day against the Eagles.
- Awarding the Game Ball: WR Josh Gordon - I wanted to see something positive from Gordon, and he delivered against the Eagles. The first offensive play of the game was a nice 28-yard pass to Gordon up the left sideline. In the second quarter, he had a pair of plays that went over ten yards, finishing the game with 3 catches for 50 yards. This doesn't solve everything for Gordon, but even if it takes baby steps, it is good that he faced a game without ridicule. The coaching staff continues to line him up as if he'll be one of the primary targets on gameday.
- Settling Down With Hardesty: One of the turnoffs to Peyton Hillis was that he could not hold on to the rock. Over the past two games, we have seen fumbles become an issue for Montario Hardesty. Here are a few things to look at: Hardesty was praised from Day 1 of training camp up until his game against the Eagles. Then, after an 8-carry, 12-yard performance (including a fumble), a lot of fans are putting his head right back on the chopping block. I am still not a huge fan of Hardesty's, but you don't throw all of that hype away in one game that the offensive line played poorly in. On opening day, we'll have Trent Richardson back in the lineup, which should take any pressure off Hardesty that he might be feeling.
- Weeden's Day: Despite Brandon Weeden's final stat line, one that read 9-of-20 for 117 yards, 3 sacks, and 2 fumbles, he stood in the pocket and made some throws that were right on target, with a velocity and precision that exceeds what Colt McCoy can do. McCoy can evade pressure much better than Weeden can, but the end goal is that our quarterback can do his damage in the pocket. Weeden is going through a learning curve right now in terms of ball security. Remember, he is still a rookie quarterback, and we have to give any rookie quarterback the benefit of the doubt and hope to see them grow as the season progresses. Again, many of Weeden's issues will be solved by two things: a more consistent performance from the offensive line, and the presence of Trent Richardson.
- Defensive Spark: The first-team defense did not get demolished by the Eagles' offense. On Philadelphia's first play, Frostee Rucker, Ahtyba Rubin, and D'Qwell Jackson were all in the lineup for the first time this preseason. On the first play, Philadelphia executed a screen pass. Billy Winn took the bait on the screen initially and was a hair behind in recognizing it, but he still pursued the play from behind. On the next play, there was good coverage, and Jabaal Sheard forced QB Nick Foles out of the pocket. CB Joe Haden made the interception after having no picks a season ago. On the next series, Winn penetrated and hit RB LeSean McCoy for a loss of four yards. On third down, the whole defensive line got pressure and forced an incomplete pass.
In their third defensive series, the defense had to defend a very short field after Hardesty's fumble. They forced a third down and got some nice pressure, but Foles was able to scramble and find his tight end open late after James-Michael Johnson abandoned him. On their next series, the Eagles took over three yards away from the end zone after blocking a punt. This is where the second-string defense took over. For the day, the Eagles only averaged 2.1 yards per carry on 26 attempts.
- Terrible Officiating Continues: Two big calls stood out against the Browns. First, on Haden's interception, based on the replay, he should not have been down by contact. Instead of Cleveland starting that drive backed up in their own territory, they probably should've at least been beyond the 20-yard line. In the second half, safety David Sims' pick six should have counted -- James-Michael Johnson did not rough the quarterback.
- Other Wide Receivers: On four targets, Greg Little only had one reception for three yards. Two of the passes seemed to be Brandon Weeden's fault. The other one was a decent looking pass to the end zone that I'd like to see Little be able to come down with. If he had made the tough catch, it would've been Weeden's first touchdown pass of the preseason. Mohamed Massaquoi still looks nice and polished. Jordan Norwood and Joshua Cribbs should have active roles in the offense. Weeden misfired on a couple of attempts to Travis Benjamin, but it's good to see the Browns are looking to go downfield and that Benjamin has the speed to get past these corners.
- Special Teams Notes: There were eight special teams tackles, led by LB L.J. Fort with three. The other players with tackles included S David Sims, CB Jonathan Bademosi, CB James Dockery, P Reggie Hodges, and TE Alex Smith. Bademosi has been making a push by playing well on special teams. I don't think he'll make the final roster, but the practice squad is a possibility. As for the punt block, I don't know how things are supposed to work, but three players could potentially take the blame: S David Sims, LB James-Michael Johnson, or LB Kaluka Maiava.
- Tight End Reps: Based on the reps the tight ends are getting, I'm leaning more toward thinking the Browns will cut Brad Smelley. With Benjamin Watson still out, Alex Smith and Jordan Cameron were seeing action with the first-team offense. I know that might signal something negative for Evan Moore, but I say that the coaching staff keeps him and utilizes him in the same fashion as a year ago: a red zone threat. The Browns' only touchdown on Friday? A red zone touchdown to Moore.
- Brownies: Even though Chris Ogbonnaya has been hurt, if the Browns keep four running backs, he should still make the roster over Adonis Thomas. ... WR Rod Windsor has really delivered this camp, making another 24 yard catch from Colt McCoy. ... FB Owen Marecic just cannot hang onto passes, and his "drop" was borderline on being a fumble. ... CB Tashaun Gipson led the team with 5 combined tackles. ... DT Brian Schaefering continues to get pressure this preseason, generating two quarterback hurries against the Eagles. ... LB James-Michael Johnson had two passes defended. ... The Browns were 5-of-13 on third down. ... LB L.J. Fort forced a fumble during the game, but Cleveland was unable to recover.
To end the preseason, the Browns will take on the Chicago Bears at home.