Review of Browns @ Bears– Preseason Game #4
The exhibition season came to a close with the Browns pulling out an 18-16 victory over the Bears. In a less-than-great contest, there were drops, turnovers, and missed assignments. But that is to be expected when reserves play a majority of the contest. Outside of a Bears’ offensive lineman, there were no major injuries during the contest – and after cuts tomorrow, both teams can finally gear up for the regular season. But for now, let’s take a look back at what occurred at Solider Field.
Offense: With Brandon Weeden and Jason Campbell both sitting this one out, it was the Brian Hoyer show for the Cleveland Browns’ offense. The veteran did an adequate job against backups, going twenty-four of thirty-five for 307 yards, a touchdown, and two interceptions. He definitely did not unseat Campbell as the second-string signal caller though. I hope this game proves that he can fling it downfield, but he just has to do a better job at picking his spots. He’s still got a good deal of work ahead of him – but maybe he can be a starter one day. Fortunately the regular season is now quickly approaching and Weeden will have a chance to vastly improve upon his 2012 campaign.
I have no doubt the Browns will seek out a viable backup running back to Trent Richardson this weekend. Outside of a serviceable Chris Ogbonnaya (who is the starting fullback), Jamaine Cooke and Brandon Jackson did very little to impress in Chicago. The duo had just thirty-three yards on a combined seventeen carries. I would be surprised if both made the roster, and there’s a solid chance that both will not be with the Browns soon. With all the injuries, I am not shocked that running plays were few and far between, but if you want to remain on the roster you have got to get it done when your number is called.
Josh Gordon and Travis Benjamin were the only two first-teamers to play; both performed well with Hoyer at quarterback. The former Baylor wide out lead the team with seventy-seven yards, including a forty-five yard catch and run. With his two-week suspension beginning on Monday, I hope he stays focused on playing his best football. David Nelson had a team-high four grabs, but was targeted ten times. He limped off the field at one point and appeared to be slow at times. I have been pulling for this guy all camp long, but I feel he is not over his ACL injury and his days with the Browns are close to ending. Tori Gurley had three grabs for fifty-six yards, he is big and fast but he will likely be caught up in the numbers game.
The trio of tight ends (Brad Smelley, Kellen Davis, and Dan Gronkowski) each contributed in this contest. None were dominant – all catching one or two passes – but Gronkowski was able to find the end zone. Only one will likely remain with the roster; the veteran Davis is the likely option but Smelley’s versatility (lining up at fullback from time to time) could make the final cut a difficult process. The offensive line had a pretty solid outing for the Browns; Hoyer was only sacked once in his thirty-five drop backs. The starting five (or six, with the rotation at right guard) is pretty much settled at this point, hopefully a few of these backups can make the team and provide depth.
Defense: Three of the four defensive lineman will make this roster – Billy Winn, John Hughes, Brian Sanford, and Ishmaa’ily Kitchen. After Sanford was unsuccessfully traded, it would appear that he has the longest shot of being a member of the Cleveland Browns. To his credit, he had the best stats on Thursday night; collecting three stops and slowing down the Bears. I can still see a trade in the works with one of these guys for either a running back or maybe a guard. Overall, the Browns surrendered 118 yards on the ground. This is rather disappointing but will be dismissed quickly if they shut down the Dolphins’ running backs beginning September 8th.
The only linebacker, who will see significant action this season, and played on Thursday, was veteran Quentin Groves. The former Arizona Cardinal had a solid game (which was to be expected) – tallying two tackles, a sack, and a hit on the quarterback. If Mingo misses time this season, Groves is the next man up on the outside. Early on, the drop-off between the two may be negligible – that could change if the former LSU star plays up to his #6 overall draft status. All three inside linebackers played well for the Browns; L.J. Fort lead the team with seven tackles, a half of a sack, and a quarterback hit. Tank Carder had three stops and defended two passes, while James Michael-Johnson had five tackles and returned an interception for a touchdown. I believe two of these three will make the final cut – initially I thought Fort and Carder were shoo-ins but maybe Johnson’s play might put him ahead of Carder.
Leon McFadden continued to look like a rookie inside Soldier Field. The cornerback gave too much ground and allowed Jordan Palmer and Trent Edwards to look like viable NFL quarterbacks. I know he will have his growing pains (and fortunately it was only preseason), but I hope he gets better this season – and quickly. Johnson Bademosi was active in the safety spot; the former Stanford athlete had five stops and was around the football frequently. I do not know whether Akeem Auguste will survive cuts, but the rookie had six tackles on Thursday. He’s fighting an uphill battle, but it’s comforting to see him out there making an impact.
Special Teams: The back injury to Shayne Graham gave way to Spencer Lanning pulling double duties at punter and kicker. He missed an early field goal but ended up kicking the game winner late in the contest – I am confident he will hold off Colton Schmidt to be the starting punter. At kicker, both Brandon Bogotay and Graham have sustained injuries. I am uncertain of who they will keep, but I have a feeling they will go with Graham (provided they do not sign a free agent). Jamaine Cook did not return kickoffs well; I would have like to have seen someone else battle with Johnson Bademosi for that spot in the regular season. Hopefully he or Buster Skrine can be consistent in returning kickoffs far.
Coaching: The offense was pass-heavy and comprised of mostly shorter tosses by Hoyer. Chud and the coaching staff did what was expected – see who can play and get out of the game without major injuries. Horton’s vanilla defense produced three sacks, and now the time has finally come to see the unit attack from all angles regularly to disrupt signal callers.