To celebrate the arrival of a new season, DBN is unveiling a new feature: 7 Talking Points for the Watercooler, a post-game analysis with everything you need to know about the game.
After reading this article, you'll be ready to talk Browns with your coworkers in the morning. Let's get you up to speed:
1. Strong start: Josh McCown played for only a quarter, but he performed well in his limited playing time. McCown showcased the skills that make him the undisputed starter, completing all five of his passes for 33 yards and a touchdown. McCown stuck to the short pass, tossing mostly underneath routes, with the lone exception being a deep toss to Travis Benjamin that did not count due to a pass interference call. The coaching staff understandably limited the veteran’s workload, but McCown’s accuracy was impressive during his time on the field.
2. Impossible to block: Danny Shelton could not be stopped in his preseason debut. The rookie out of the University of Washington showed a nose for the football, particularly in the first two drives of the game. Shelton flowed to the point of attack on run plays, repeatedly finishing off plays. On passing downs, the nose tackle fought off doubleteams to force RGIII out of the pocket on several occasions. Shelton’s motor did not stall as the game progressed, as the 6’2, 339 pound monster forced the Redskins to assign two, sometimes even three, blockers to him all times. Shelton even looked natural dropping back into zone coverage on one play in the second quarter.
3. Failure to contain: The Browns’ first team defense showed a lack of contain in the first half. Outside linebackers Scott Solomon and Paul Kruger were sucked inside on a number of run plays, giving Alfred Morris room to run. The most notable example came on 4th and 1 with 2:06 left in the first. Kruger did not control the edge, opening a hole that Morris exploited for an 18 yard run. Even as the first half continued, the team’s defense failed to set the edge. Nate Orchard also fell victim to several fakes inside, through the rookie did make a few solid open field tackles in pass coverage.
4. Johnny Rollout: Johnny Manziel played with composure, looking like a new player. Along with several other second teamers, Manziel entered the game early in the first quarter. Despite a lack of reliable pass protection, Manziel played well, scrambling often to allow himself extra time. Unlike last year, Manziel kept his eyes downfield. He completed a few short, rollout passes and avoided throwing into coverage when tempted. Few fans likely took notice, but Manziel’s decision to take a sack at the end of the second quarter instead of lofting up a prayer shows improved decision making. Manziel’s signature play of the night was a run, however. The second-year signalcaller burst through the middle for a 12-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter. Manziel still has a long way to go, but he appears to be headed in the right direction.
5. Truly special: The special teams unit excelled in all aspects. Special teams coordinator Chris Tabor’s men played well, particularly in the first half. Justin Gilbert and Shane Wynn showed speed returning kickoffs, while Travis Benjamin proved serviceable on punt returns. Early in the second quarter, Marlon Moore made a nice hit on an Andre Roberts punt return to force a fumble, which Johnson Bademosi pounced on immediately. Carey Spear drilled a 47-yard field goal to cap off the Browns’ second drive of the third quarter. Andy Lee twice pinned the Redskins inside their 20 yard line, showing off his big leg in the second half. Following a subpar season in 2014, the Browns’ special teams unit appears poised to rebound in 2015.
6. Mixed results: Connor Shaw didn’t show anything special, but avoided the big mistake. Shaw posted an average performance in the third quarter. To Shaw’s credit, the second-team offensive line often failed to provide Shaw with a lot of time in the pocket. Backup Jalen Parmalee had to make a few heroic cutblocks to save Shaw from big sacks. Shaw’s best play of the night came halfway through the fourth quarter on fourth down, when Shaw fired in a nice slant pass to Wynn for a first down. With the rise of Terrelle Pryor, Shaw is fighting for a roster spot. Shaw didn’t lose his roster spot tonight, but he still has something to prove.
7. "Bell cow" still missing: The Browns’ running backs did not impress. Terrance West gained 10 yards on four carries, while Isaiah Crowell only picked up six yards on four rushes. The offensive line did not create big holes for the backs, but West and Crowell failed to break any tackles on the ground. Crowell did make a nice move following a first quarter reception, but did not show that elusiveness during his four carries. It’s still doubtful that the Browns will sign Ray Rice, but West, Crowell, and company need to start showing the coaches some fire.
Unsung heroes: E.J. Bibbs, Hayes Pullard, Timothy Flanders.
Agree? Disagree? Let your opinion be heard below in the comments section.