Review of Cleveland @ Washington – Preseason Game #2
Well this one ranks up right there with the many poor performances the Browns have put on the field since 1999. Drops, penalties, turnovers, and simply bad football reigned supreme for the visiting team on Monday Night Football. On the positive side, the Browns have two more weeks until they play a regular season contest. However, they have a long (very long, actually) way to go until they resemble a competent NFL roster. Let’s see what went down in Landover, Maryland…
Offense: What a putrid effort by the quarterbacks of the Cleveland Browns. The most memorable part of the game (by the first two stringers) may have been Manziel saying to the opponent that he is “number one”. Brian Hoyer threw for a whopping sixteen yards and completed just two of six passes (his incompletion in the end zone early really hurt). Johnny went seven for sixteen and led a second-half touchdown – but he also consistently threw behind receivers throughout the contest. It’s time for each to dust himself off and get ready for the home opener.
Ben Tate was the only offensive bright spot during the first half. The veteran toted the ball ten times for fifty-one yards, ran hard, and tried to find an open hole on every carry. Terrance West had a decent outing (thirty-one yards on eight carries), and I feel he solidified himself as the top backup on this roster. Both Deion Lewis and Isaiah Crowell didn’t get a ton of opportunities, but the former found the end zone on a short dump off in the third quarter. The battle for the third-string role will intensify next Saturday against the Rams.
I understand that a few passes were thrown off the mark on Monday night, but the number of drops by receivers was frightening. Jordan Cameron, Josh Gordon, and Andrew Hawkins were some of the members who let the football hit the ground after it hit their hands. It’s been a “wing and a prayer” while hoping for production by the wide receivers up to this point; this will continue in the regular season for the Browns. I had high hopes for Charles Johnson but one catch for three yards later, and he’s got to make some strides if he wants to play on Sundays.
The interior of the offensive line had a pretty decent outing for the Browns by not doing two things. These are refraining from infractions and not succumbing to pressure from the defensive front. Mitchell Schwartz got beat on a few occasions by Ryan Kerrigan, unfortunately, and the quarterbacks got sacked as a result. On run plays, I feel the offensive front did a solid job – they ran and kicked out defenders regularly. Hopefully this can continue in September, without a dependable running game this will be an even longer season.
Defense: For the second game in a row, Armonty Bryant was the best defensive lineman for the Browns. The second-year veteran had three tackles, a sack, and a hit on the quarterback. I would be surprised if he didn’t get a huge increase in playing time in 2014. Phil Taylor and Ahtyba Rubin excelled at moving the pile a couple of times, while John Hughes made some great stops during the team’s goal line stand. The defensive front will be the leaders of this unit all season – assuming they consistently play to their capabilities.
I must admit that I was (pleasantly) surprised by the play of Craig Robertson. He finished the game with six tackles, made exceptional pursuits in stopping the run, and covered the opponent reasonably well. Karlos Dansby turned in a fair performance at the other inside linebacker spot – he never got beat but did not make any great plays either. The speed of Barkevious Mingo was a huge detriment to the former LSU star. Several times he got up the field and over pursued the quarterback, making it easier for the signal caller to run or toss the ball to a nearby player.
The injuries to Buster Skrine, Isaiah Trufant, and Pierre Desir were extremely noticeable in the secondary. Jordan Poyer and Leon McFadden were thrust into the lineup in more predominant roles than they are accustomed to. The former was a part of the duo that surrendered Robert Griffin III’s deep completion in the first quarter. Joe Haden gave up a couple of shorter throws but was also on the receiving end of a great interception and return. For his first game, I thought Justin Gilbert played admirably. He was far from perfect, but was able to break up a handful of passes from the opponent.
Special Teams: Both the punting and kicking games dipped in their performance from last week. Billy Cundiff missed a field goal, while Spencer Lanning’s average was below forty yards, mainly due to short touchbacks. Marlon Moore had a nice kickoff return for the Browns, however. He may not be the returner (or even on the roster) in a few weeks, but at least it was pleasant to watch.
Coaching: Pettine and Shanahan really hammered it into Manziel’s head about not running with the football. The end result was a lack of offense; the rookie quarterback stuck to mainly drop backs and rollouts all night long. I enjoyed some of the blitzes sent by Jim O’Neil’s defense; pressure came from all different directions. When this occurs in the regular season, the sacks will come. But for now, it’s time to go home to First Energy Stadium for the team’s first game at home on Saturday.