Review of Browns vs. Falcons Contest
Regardless of the final score, the Browns held a halftime lead (when it mattered). The Falcons are not the best team in the league, but the home squad more than held their own against a playoff-hopeful franchise. Let’s look at a couple key highs and lows for this contest.
Quarterback – Good – Well, Robert Griffin definitely stepped his game up significantly from the preseason opener. His touchdown passes to Pryor and Barnidge were excellent; I don’t know how much the team can rely on it during the season – but for now I will take it.
Bad – I suppose what went wrong for the starter is that he took a few sacks. It’s not the end of the world, but this offense is not good enough to overcome these and sustain scoring drives (at least at this point).
Ugly – I hope I continue this trend, but I cannot think of something in this category for Griffin. He threw the ball away when he knew nothing was available. His jump from game one to game two was huge.
Running Back – Good – I think Isaiah Crowell took a step ahead of Duke Johnson for the starting gig. The veteran was crisper in hitting the hole and gained yards at a much better rate than his counter part. Granted most were option (give/pull) reads, but I feel better about him gaining those tough yards.
Bad – Duke Johnson’s output was less than great. The athlete touched the ball on multiple occasions but was only able to garner a few yards here or there. Toss in a key drop on third down, and the feeling is magnified. I know he will improve over time, but this was not an inspiring performance.
Ugly – Nothing too ugly for this group either. I guess you could count Malcolm Johnson’s whiff on a block (leading to a sack) as a horrendous display of keeping away defenders.
Wide Receiver – Good – I liked the tenacity that Terrelle Pryor displayed in this contest. He jostled pretty good with Isaiah Trufant (which was a bad penalty), and he caught a deep touchdown early. This was desperately needed for this position group. I don’t have a tight end group listed in preseason, but Barnidge’s catch warrants a “good” rating as well.
Bad – I guess you could say that outside of Pryor, the wide outs were not explosive. However, this is taken with a grain of salt as the players can only run the routes that were drawn up by the coaches.
Ugly – I can’t even fake an example (like I just did in the “Bad” group) here. This unit pleasantly surprised me; even rookie Rashard Higgins made a nice grab in the first half. I feel this position group will be the biggest surprise of the team in 2016.
Offensive Line – Good – Against the starting defense, the Browns were respectable upfront. It was fairly obvious that Joe Thomas was held out of this game, and the combination of Spencer Drango and Dan France did not surrender pressures and/or sacks. Is depth actually being built for this offensive line?
Bad – Following a touchdown drive and a good stop on defense, the Browns definitely had momentum. However, a silly holding penalty by Joel Bitonio (called on Dan France) ultimately stopped the drive. It’s just the exhibition, but the team cannot afford these types of costly mistakes.
Ugly – That Cameron Erving awful snap in the second quarter (that went over Griffin’s head). The team was fortunate to get a face mask infraction on the play, but that mistake is unacceptable. I wonder if the team will refrain or limit long snaps in the regular season, provided Erving is the center.
Defensive Line – Good – Carl Nassib continues to impress upfront for the orange and brown. The rookie had a tipped pass and a sack (nullified by an unnecessary penalty) in his first series on the field. He definitely is earning more playing time as this season continues.
Bad – Danny Shelton lost at the point of attack again in this game. The only time he got up field was on a screen play, which insists on him being out of position. I want to see him improve and quickly, but am extremely concerned at the first-rounder’s play up to this point.
Ugly – The stretch or off-tackle running plays against the Browns were highly successful in this contest. The front seven desperately needs to work on their pursuit angles and close in on the ball carrier a few seconds earlier. If this trend continues, it will be a long year for this run defense.
Linebackers – Good – I’ll be nice and fill this category. Chris Kirksey made a few solid stops early on in this contest – one of them being on special teams. He was ok in his play, but the best of this underperforming bunch.
Bad – Pretty much all other starting linebackers for the Cleveland Browns in the game; were they even playing? The unit could not cover, tackle, or get to the quarterback – especially against the starters.
Ugly – Just hammering home the point that the group as a whole could not hold up their end of the bargain. Perhaps the best play made by a linebacker in the first half was the stop by Tank Carder on a toss sweep.
Secondary – Good – No one really stood out (positively) in this position group, but Jamar Taylor was decent in coverage. The nickel back made a key pass breakup early in the contest; and while not spectacular in coverage – he was always surrounding the ball.
Bad – The second string cornerbacks made Matt Schaub look like a decent NFL player. I will get over this, but this cannot happen. The secondary must step up; especially against subpar signal callers in this league.
Ugly – Justin Gilbert just does not get it. The veteran was out of position and committed a dumb penalty in the second quarter. The Browns have little to no use for the guy and are giving him every opportunity. I don’t think he has what it takes to make this final roster.
Conclusion: I thought the Browns had their up and downs in this contest. The defense still needs a great deal of work, but the coverage was a bit better. If they cannot stop the run – their chances to win games remains extremely low. The offense improved greatly; perhaps they will actually resemble an actual professional unit this season.