So now the real football begins. The Cleveland Browns wrapped-up the pre-season with a 3-point loss to the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. One would have thought it would be a total blow out given that the illustrious Peter King picks the Bears to win the NFC North and go to the Super Bowl while the Browns are forecasted to finish in the basement of the NFL with just two wins.
A few things are noteworthy at this stage. First, the QB competition is obviously over or else Quinn and/or Anderson would have had some playing time. Quinn is the starter. Anderson will not be traded unless the Browns pick up a veteran quarterback either as part of the deal or on the side. Ratliff is useless. He was outplayed last night by Bartel. He threw an interception on the very first pass of the game. He spends way too much time stagnant in the pocket. Mangini will not risk going the season with Quinn and another rookie in Ratliff who has done nothing this pre-season.
Second, the running back situation is the best we have had for a long time. Davis is the surprise of the pre-season. His acceleration through the line is awesome. He played another great game against the Bears, averaging about 7 yards per carry. But he will not get the nod over Jamal Lewis. Lewis will remain the number one back, however, Mangini will use Davis in tandem with Jamal, with Harrison and Vickers getting less action but more than they did under Crennel.
Third, the Browns are shaping up to be the stupidest team in the NFL in terms of penalties. There were more dumb penalties against the Bears for things like taunting, unsportsmanlike conduct for throwing the football and hitting a player out of bounds. Those types of infractions are unacceptable.
Fourth, our pass rush and run defense have improved to the point where our weakest link is in the secondary. Ever since the first pre-season game against the Packers, our pressure on opposing QBs has increased significantly. We had hurries and sacks last evening against the Bears. We played well against the run, although Forte did not play for the Chicago. Once Rogers returns (and he will against the Vikings on opening day), he, Wimbley, Jackson, Barton and Mosley are going to give us the best chance we have had in a while to get some respect from opposing runners and quarterbacks. Alex Hall had a sack against the Bears, and he has shown in the past that he has good pass rush skills. Marcus Bernard has had a good pre-season notwithstanding the penalty against the Bears. But our coverage in the secondary seems loose when you watch the games; that needs to be tightened up.
Fifth, the offensive line is now set. The only question going into the last pre-season game was the center position. Mack started there against the Bears, while Fraley started at guard. Alex has secured the starting center role. Fraley has secured a roster spot. The rest of the starting offensive line was outlined in our previous post: http://dawgpounddaily.com/2009/08/20/starting-o-line-almost-set/.
Sixth, the wide receivers are set. Edwards, Cribbs and Furrey will be numbers one through three while Robiskie, Massaquoi (who caught a TD pass against the Bears) and Patten will round out the core.
The Pre-season finishes with Cleveland at 2-2. Bring on the Vikes. Go Browns!