Greetings and salutations Browns fans! Much has happened in Cleveland since my last blog, but I am back to hash it all out, albeit briefly, in order to talk about the first preseason game of 2012. Basically, Randy Lerner Finally sold the Browns to Jimmy Haslam III, which I believe is good news because yes, he is a part owner of the Steelers, but that gives him unique perspective on how important football is to Cleveland as well as how important the rivalry is to both cities. I do not think he will move the team, nor do I think he will "clean house" in the front office. If he is as smart as I think he is, Haslam will leave everything alone for as least this season, giving everyone a fair shake. The other big story was the naming of Brandon Weeden as the starting QB. This came as no big shocker to anyone (except maybe poor Colt McCoy). With all that said, on to game #1!
The Brownies travelled to Ford Field in Detroit last Friday 10th to face the Lions. The Lions went 10-6 in the regular season last year, making the playoffs for the first time in a hot minute. (You want facts and figures? Do your own research! You'll get whatever I feel like posting. Don't think I'm right? look it up your damn self!) Ahem. I was just as excited to get the first look at Weeden leading the first team as anyone, and boy did I get a jolt when he hooked up with Travis Benjamin on a beautiful fade route on the first posession! I think that play was quickly tucked away and will not come back out until the regular season. Unfortunately, Weeden spent the rest of his time on the field doing his best Colt McCoy impression from 2011, as the O-line had more than it could handle with Ndamuken (sp? like I care) Suh and the Detroit D-line. Weeden got sent scrambling alot, and he looked very out-of-sorts doing so. First game jitters were evident as he went 3-for-9 for 70-some yards and an INT as he tried to force a ball in to Greg Little.
Soon after, Colt McCoy got his chance under center, and went 6-of-8 for 88 yards (I believe). He looked much more mature, and much more prepared for the pocket collapsing around him as it did so much in 2011. He didn't hesitate to take off and run, rushing a few times and picking up good yardage. Seneca Wallace then got some reps, and finished 7-of-13 for 70-some yards and one TD. On the TD play, Wallace showed he's a crafty vet still capable of making plays, as he got the Detroit linebackers to bite on him faking the rush to the endzone, while rookie FB Brad Smelley (showing veteran-like talent) faded towards the pylon and caught the soft floater that Wallace lobbed over the charging linebackers. Even 4th string QB Thaddeus Lewis got a few series in, also showing great mobility outside the pocket, and he also showed he has good eyes and a great arm as he hooked up with Carlton Mitchell on a similar fade route that Weeden and Benjamin connected on in the 1st quarter. Mitchell made a great catch on a well-placed throw, timing his grab just right to take the ball away from the double coverage that was blanketing him.
The WR's had a number of opportunities to show the skills, and I saw a number of great grabs starting with Benjamin in the 1st quarter. Mo Massaquoi had a great catch, only to have his clock cleaned on the tackle, knocking him out of the game. Mo later tweeted that he did NOT have a concussion, and they were just being cautious, but I hereby dub him "Glass Jaw Massaquoi" for being a wuss. If he gets knocked out like that again, I will officially write him off as done. The greatest grab by a WR in game 1 goes to undrafted rookie Josh Cooper from OSU, as he snatched a ball high and behind him with one hand, tucked it in and turn upfield in a split second. If Weeden can count on his WR's making those kinds of plays on a regular basis, we Browns fans are in for a treat this season! Returning WR Greg Little was targeted just twice with no catches, and rookie Josh Gordon was also targeted twice, but could not hook up with Weeden the first time as Weeden threw it at Gordon's feet. The other play, Gordon just looked like the timing was off, but I'm not too suprised as he was last to join the team after being picked up in the second round of the supplemental draft. Jordan Norwood had a catch (I believe) but his highlight reel will be of his suprisingly good punt returns, including a 45 yard return. Carlton Mitchell had as least one catch, as I mentioned above from Thaddeus Lewis in the 4th quarter, and it was a great one. Josh Cribbs was no where to be seen, but I an not bothered at all by his absence; they can keep his plays hush-hush until the regular season, and we all know what he can do as a PR/KR so there's no need to risk injury in the preseason.
The tight ends also showed their skills, especially Evan Moore and 2nd year man Jordan Cameron. Moore made a few nice plays, and Cameron exploded off the bench with some amazing grabs, only to be knocked out on a hard tackle as he soared to catch a hail-mary from Seneca Wallace later in the game. Hopefully he will be OK to play by the regular season. Even Dan Gronkowski (yes, they're related, as well as all the other Gronkowski's playing TE in the NFL) had I believe 3 catches, 2 of them displaying the athleticism that is already a trademark of his famous brother in New England.
The worst marks on offense go to the offensive line. No matter who was in at QB, they all seemed to be running for their lives most plays as the pocket collapsed in less than 3 seconds every time. I hope they all study up real hard and show better form against the Packers in game 2.
I admit, I wasn't watching the defense as much as I watched the offense, but I did see a great pass defend from Joe Haden early in the game, and good pressure on the QB from the d-line. The shakiest part seemed to be the linebackers, as the Lions were able to run the ball very effectively all game long. Later in the game, some of the second and third string LB's were able to make some plays (most noticeable was L.J. Fort, sporting the vacated #40). Special teams coverage was very good, and let me be the first to say it's great to have you back, Reggie Hodges! Thanks to Brad Maynard for filling in last season, you did a great job, but I believe Reggie to be one of the best punters in the league today. Special props to the backup kicker Wolfert for nailing a 45-yd field goal to put the Browns in front and eventually win the game for them, after the browns picked off Detroit's 3rd string QB Moore with less than a minute to go.
For all the good stuff and all the bad, I know it's still just the preseason, and yea there were alot of noobs and 4th stringers out there, but it still feels good to WIN and I hope the players get that taste of winning and I hope it just makes them want it that much more. I believe the Browns were given the 2 greatest things from playing this game: a lot of good things to watch and build on, and a lot of bad things to watch and learn from.
One thing that soured pretty much the entire game was the scabs the NFL brought in to officiate, due to the labor dispute that they are in with the Pro refs. Let me now speak directly to the NFL: PAY THE GODDAMN REFS NOW!!!!!! That was the worst, WORST officiating I have ever seen, hands down, bar none. Those rodeo clowns you dressed in zebra skins looked as clueless as Boris Karloff in a krump-off. If you are THE premier sports league in the world, you MUST have nothing but the best referees to officiate the games in your league, PERIOD. If you even think for a moment that you can get away with using these same scabs for the regular season, prepare to see your revenues tank faster than a flopping Spanish basketball player (no, I'm not racist, you watch the Gold Medal game vs team USA and see for yourself). Don't kid yourselves, people will stop watching if they know the game will not be called properly.
That's all for now Browns fans, tune back in after Thursday's 2nd preseason game vs. the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field!
Now and Forever,