As with the regular season and postseason, Pro Football Focus evaluates all preseason games and analyzes team and player performances. I recap what they had to say in their review of the Browns vs. Lions game and also add my take.
- Who has a leg up in the quarterback competition? According to PFF, it is too close to call due in part to Manziel playing behind a second team offensive line that was "getting completely manhandled". They also mention that Hoyer was the victim of drops on two of his best passes (and I'd like to add that Johnny also got a taste of that when WR Willie Snead failed to stay in bounds on one of his best passes of the game). The guys at PFF are looking forward to seeing Johnny get a chance to play behind a line that gives him consistent protection. I suspect that you would join me in echoing that sentiment.
- So what about the running backs? PFF is in firm support of RB Ben Tate and points to his body of work and track record in the league, noting that he has received positive grades from them each season of his career. They were impressed with RB Terrance West's athletic potential, but felt that he was too indecisive and spent too much time moving east and west when he should have focused on getting downhill as soon as possible. I agree with these assessments with a couple caveats: 1. Tate has a rock-solid performance record, but has not demonstrated the ability to either handle a full workload or to stay healthy over the course of a season. Therefore, I don't see this as an either/or competition but as a committee. 2. PFF noted how poor offensive line performance limited what QB Johnny Manziel could demonstrate in this game -- the same could be said for Terrance West, to some extent.
- LG Joel Bitonio received a positive grade for his performance:
Bitonio, the second round pick from Nevada, was easily the most impressive [of the Browns 2014 draft picks]. The guard sealed out linebackers multiple times at the second level and had just one downgraded play on the day...
- CB Pierre Desir received a negative evaluation, but PFF attributed this to the gigantic step up in the level of competition from NCAA Division II football to the NFL and not to a lack of talent or potential.
- To the majority of fans (including yours truly), ILB Chris Kirksey received rave reviews for his play. The guys at PFF agree...in the passing game. In the running game he did not fare nearly as well, was labeled a "complete nonfactor", and received a negative grade. In the end, they called it a mixed review.
- In their analysis of the Lions' battle at right tackle, Paul Kruger was described as a "tougher assignment" and RT Corey Hilliard was "beaten quickly twice" when facing him in pass protection. My attention was primarily on the inside linebackers when the first team defense was on the field, so I'll have to hesitatingly take PFF's word for it when it comes to how Kruger looked vs. the Lions.
- The backup and third-string offensive lines struggled mightily. In related news, human beings can't breathe underwater and microwaving your cell phone is not recommended (to really lock in the flavor, char broiling is preferred).
- PFF once again had high praise for DT John Hughes:
John Hughes is starting to develop into one of the league’s premier run defenders. He was unmovable 1-on-1 and had three run stops to go along with a [positive] overall grade.