Review of Chicago @ Cleveland Preseason Game #4 (and Final Roster Cuts)
Well thankfully the preseason is finally over. It was an overall pretty pathetic game by the Browns on Friday, but once again it does not count. I hope the team took the same attitude from Pat Shurmur that the last game ithat it’s s not important (as evidenced many starters not playing) and just went through the motions. Nonetheless, let’s take a look at what happened – as well as the cuts that followed.
Offense: Well, Colt McCoy definitely underperformed – he went against second team players and did not look well. The dump off on third down (leading to fourth down) and interception were very familiar to what we saw during the 2011 season. Seneca Wallace had an adequate game and played better than I had anticipated. I liked both of his throws to Cribbs, his scrambling ability, and the touchdown play. It’s believed that his larger salary was part of the reason why the Browns did not keep Wallace over McCoy. Thaddeus Lewis did not inspire any confidence by fans – a couple misfires and an interception off a deflected pass. It seemed like Wallace played with more purpose than the other two quarterbacks; it was a touch shocking that he did not make the final roster.
Finishing off the preseason, Montario Hardesty has been very consistent in his play over the previous four weeks and that’s average. He did have his longest run of the preseason in this game, for fourteen yards. On another positive note for the previous second round pick, was that he did not get hurt or have any fumbles against the Bears. Brandon Jackson ran pretty well against the reserves, and I hope the team can continue to find ways to use him in the regular season. Depending on what happens with Trent Richardson, Jackson may end up being the “bell cow” for the first couple weeks. Adonis Thomas had some nice runs later on in the game – but he did not win a roster spot with his performance. Chris Ogbonnaya has been hurt, but will enter the season as the fourth running back for the team.
A few of the bright spots for the Browns’ were receivers Josh Cribbs (who likely will only be in on a several offensive plays during the regular season) and Rod Windsor (who was released). Josh Gordon had one nice catch, but also had a lapse of concentration in the second half which lead to the interception. I liked the fact the team left him in to get more reps, but I envisioned a little more production against non-starters. It will likely be a few more weeks until Gordon begins to pick up the speed of the NFL. I was disappointed in Jordan Norwood for not going up for the ball from McCoy, which resulted in the team’s first interception. Josh Cooper had a drop and no catches – the undrafted rookie is now a part of the Browns’ practice squad. As far as the tight ends go, the releases of Dan Gronkowski and Evan Moore were not complete surprises, but somewhat intriguing since the team gave Moore a new contract last year.
The offensive line was hard to gauge considering the entire starters did not play. They gave up two sacks but did open up a few holes for Brandon Jackson and Adonis Thomas. I cannot believe the team kept Oniel Cousins, who has had a less than stellar preseason. I hope he improves and shows the last few weeks by him were an aberration.
Defense: Brian Schaefering and Emmanuel Stephens both had pretty solid games for the Browns (Stephens was kept on the final roster while Schaefering was not). The team’s pass rush and ability to stop the run not great, but most did not expect the defensive line to shut down the Bears’ running game as many carries were expected (and occurred). I hope Stephens rotates in (for a couple of plays) at defensive end throughout the regular season when the starters need rest. Also, Ishmaa’ily Kitchen is a defensive tackle the team claimed after final cuts. I’m not sure of the team’s plans are, but he could see some unexpected playing time this year.
James Michael-Johnson made some good stops against the run at the linebacker position before he left the game with an oblique injury. His status is uncertain, and I hope he comes back quickly as the unit needs as many players healthy as possible. The pickup of Tank Carder by the team may be a sign that Michael-Johnson may not be fully healed for a little while, however. L.J. Fort continues to be in the right place at the right time – he may be thrust into action early depending on the Michael-Johnson and Fujita situations. I have high hopes for the rookie but know it will be very difficult for him, especially early on. Finally, Craig Robertson continued to show he made the team with a couple nice plays and pass deflected.
The spotlight, in the early part of preseason game number four, was shown on the Browns’ secondary. James Dockery and Trevin Wade had a few battles with wide receivers with mixed results. Dockery made a nice deflection on a pass early on but was penalized for a pass interference when out of position and gave up another reception or two. The undrafted second year player was unfortunate not to make the Browns squad. Wade also had a solid defense of a pass near the end zone, but gave up a touchdown in the first quarter on an incredible catch and throw. I did like the physicality of Wade (who missed the final cut) and love the way he comes up on run support – this is good to see from a cornerback. David Sims had an up and down game as well, he made a couple tackles but gave up a short touchdown. He was traded to the Eagles in somewhat of an unexpected move – he will return to Cleveland Browns stadium on September 9th. I liked the Tashaun Gipson interception – perhaps it was the reason the Browns kept him on their roster. Undrafted rookie Johnson Bademosi has gone completely under the radar but still earned a roster spot.
Special Teams: The good news is that Phil Dawson is still reliable – he made a few nice field goals. The coverage on punts and kickoff continues to be solid, no matter who has been in there for the team. Punting continues to be difficult for some reason – Reggie Hodges had a very short punt (less than thirty yards) which was a bit concerning. Also, another blocked punt continues to be the story of the preseason; the only solace should be that player who was the main cause of this, was cut.
Coaching: Not much to report here – the fourth game is run-heavy and teams cannot wait to get end the preseason. I hope some great play calling comes next week for both sides of the ball – the coaching may have to adjust what they do depending on personnel, (i.e. running back, linebacker, etc.) but at least it will be more exciting.