Review of Cleveland Browns @ Detroit Lions – Preseason Game #1
It was not the most exciting preseason game ever, but (truth be told) most of them are not. Six field goals, a few turnovers, several missed passes, and even defensive penalties highlighted the Browns-Lions contest. In the end, it was a 13-12 loss to the Lions by the third-stringers. Let’s review what occurred…
Offense: Well, neither Brian Hoyer nor Johnny Manziel stepped up tonight (combining for thirteen of twenty-five passes and 155 yards). Granted, both guys made a nice play or two; but they could not find the end zone. On the other hand, Hoyer and Manziel also refrained from turning the ball over. It’s frustrating seeing the coaching staff keep the reigns on the signal callers, but I understand (it being a preseason contest).
Both top runners looked good toting the football, and I expect this to continue in the regular season. Ben Tate only carried it six times, but he averaged 4.2 yards and carried the pile on multiple occasions. Terrance West displayed both running and receiving ability; the rookie did not underwhelm in his first contest. I was a bit disappointed by the play of Deion Lewis – the veteran didn’t do much do move the football (three carries for six yards) and also fumbled in an early carry. Hopefully Isaiah Crowell can see some carries next Monday night, the rookie has great potential.
Well, not a whole lot of output occurred by the Browns’ wide receivers. Josh Gordon made a nice grab, but I’m deleting that from my memory (until his suspension is known and ends). Miles Austin dropped a nice Hoyer pass near the five yard line early (that cannot happen in the regular season) and caught another. Anthony Armstrong and Charles Johnson snared a combined four grabs – but it appeared that the Browns chose quick outs or comebacks (a.k.a. high school routes) for this team. I hope it’s because it’s a preseason game, but the light has got to come on soon for this unit.
The offensive line did a solid job, as I never noticed any being manhandled once. Until late in the contest, they did not commit any holding infractions either. Joel Bitonio drove his man off the ball on multiple occasions. The zone-blocking scheme seems to fit the Browns, as both the line and the backs appear to be in synch. Without Jordan Cameron, someone had to step up and catch the ball that wasn’t a wide receiver. Marqueis Gray was that guy; the veteran hauled in several passes in the flats – he took an early lead (over Ray Agnew) in the fullback/H-back role.
Defense: The front three flooded the Detroit Lions running attack, but it was mainly the men on the outside. Desmond Bryant and Armonty Bryant each were able to force the point of attack, while John Hughes had four tackles in a reserve role. Armonty’s sack was tremendous to watch, as he viscously took down Dan Orlovsky in the second quarter. The depth of this part of the team should keep the Browns in games during the regular season, especially when they need to slow down opposing rushers.
A couple of flashes occurred by the linebackers of the Cleveland Browns. Karlos Dansby was in position and would have had an interception (and maybe a touchdown), if he was not held on a third down pass in the first quarter. Barkevious Mingo, Chris Kirksey, and Craig Robertson each displayed excellent coverage ability. The unit still has room to grow, but I thought it was a good starting point for them. Paul Kruger, surprisingly, took reps with the second team – I’m sure there’s not much to read into it but it was interesting nonetheless.
The new rules against the secondary make it nearly impossible to play defense against the pass anymore. Joe Haden, Buster Skrine, and the starters did their part against a gang without Calvin Johnson. However, Leon McFadden was called for three infractions on one drive – I’m not sure of his future with this team, but this game did not help his case. I loved to see the physicality of Donte Whitner with this defense (he reminded me of his predecessor T.J. Ward). However, Whitner’s coverage ability should also not be an issue, and I look for hits on receivers and interceptions consistently in 2014.
Special Teams: It’s hard to evaluate the special teams’ outcome overall with Travis Benjamin sitting this contest out. Taylor Gabriel did an admirable job of filling in, but could not break a big one. Spencer Lanning and Billy Cundiff each did their part exceptionally, the latter going a perfect four of four from field goals.
Coaching: Again, I was not surprised to see coach Pettine and his staff refrain from “high risk” plays. These include deep passes, scripted quarterback runs, and all-out blitzes from the defense. Not only can there be possible injuries, but the Browns do not want to provide opponents their tendencies on game film. After a day off, and some practices, the Browns head to face Washington next Monday night on national television!