It’s important to not get too high or too low with preseason football. Still, for the most part I was pretty satisfied with what I saw during Saturday’s 27-24 victory over the Green Bay Packers.
So here’s some highs - sprinkled objectively with some lows:
Two thumbs up for two new quarterbacks…
At least in the first preseason game, both Quarterbacks Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace were impressive in their debuts under center for the Browns.
Delhomme appeared in command of the offense as he engineered an 11 play, 80 yard drive that culminated with a 3 yard rushing touchdown – yes, TOUCHDOWN - by Jerome Harrison.
In this his lone series, Delhomme went through his progressions well and found three different targets as he connected on 6-7 throws for 66 yards. A highlight of this promising showing by the former Carolina Panther came on his 4th and 2 hookup with WR Mohamed Massaquoi on a slant. The ball may have been thrown slightly behind Massaquoi, but it was an important conversion for Delhomme that kept the chains moving.
I would have liked to have saw another drive out of Delhomme, but I’m all for him entering the second preseason game with positive vibes and no turnovers just the same. Confidence can do wonders for a QB, especially one that’s looking to prove that he can still play in this league.
I was equally impressed with the play of Wallace, who threw two touchdown passes in three series of play. The first came on third and 10 from Green Bay’s 13 yard line and illustrated the playmaking skills Wallace can bring to the Browns offense. On this play, Wallace faced pressure from the right side (Guess whose man?) and bought some time with his legs, escaping the pocket and rolling to his left before delivering a strike to WR Brian Robiskie in the back of the end zone.
It was a great, great play out of Wallace, and it was so very refreshing to see a Browns quarterback capitalize off of a turnover and short field for once.
The second touchdown pass by Wallace was just as pretty as the first, as he gave a nice shoulder fake before hitting tight end Ben Watson over the middle for a 20 yard strike.
All in all, I’m cautiously optimistic about the position of quarterback for the Browns, but it’s way too early to really tell anything at this point. All I do know is that both Delhomme and Wallace played exceptionally well in 4 series between them as the pair directed 3 scoring drives and combined to go 10-15 for 138 yards, two passing touchdowns, and no turnovers.
One broken thumb down for the rook.
On the other hand, rookie Colt McCoy did not have a very good start to his Browns career. With the exception of a nice scramble on third and 9 for a sliding first down, McCoy’s first taste of the NFL was plenty bitter as he went 5-10 for 25 yards with two interceptions and an injury to his throwing hand.
Obviously, noone wants to see their potential QB of the future get off to a start like this, but it’s important to view McCoy’s debut with some perspective. After all, the Walrus drafted him as a developmental, project type QB with the hopes of gradually molding him into the future QB of this organization. Nobody expected McCoy to be Joe Montana from Day 1, so it’s really unfair to get too down on the rookie from Texas after what was admittedly a very bad start to a career. And it’s also unfair to suggest that he’s soft, like some people are ridiculously saying. Helmets do have a history of hurting QB’s hands.
T.J. Ward belongs.
McCoy certainly did little to impress, but his fellow 2010 draft classmate T.J. Ward of Oregon turned in quite a promising first showing for the Browns defense (and special teams).
Ward was everything I hoped for (and then some) in his first preseason game as he finished with six tackles and showed signs of becoming the impact safety our defense has long been missing.
You can just tell that he has a knack for reading offenses and getting to the ball. Ward also seems to play much faster than I anticipated, and he did a very nice job of filling the lane as the eighth man in the box and closing in coverage.
In particular, Ward had a great sequence of plays that really got me excited during the fourth defensive series. On a second down rush attempt by the Packers, he came up from his safety spot to bring down down the ball carrier near (or behind?) the line of scrimmage. He then followed that big play up by making a key stop on 3rd and 6 in which he demonstrated great closing speed to bring down Packers WR Donald Driver (?) just short of the first down.
I was really pleased with what I saw from Ward. Even when he got beat for a touchdown by Packers WR Greg Jennings off of a corner blitz by fellow rookie, cornerback Joe Haden, he still had pretty good coverage and was perhaps just experience away from making a play on the ball. Even so, it would be very premature to call Ward a star in the making, but I do think he clearly proved that he belongs in the NFL.
As long he’s able to stay healthy, I really believe that Ward can become a weapon for our defense this season and down the road.
Abe Elam: a day late and a dollar short.
Ward better be the answer to our impact safety dilemma, because fellow safety Abe Elam’s performance was reminiscent of his play last season. This is not a good thing. Quite simply, Elam has to get to plays sooner and perform better in coverage.
A thumb teetering sideways for the seventh overall pick, cornerback Joe Haden.
As for the other rookie in the secondary, first round draft pick Joe Haden didn’t have near the positive debut that Ward had, but he showed just enough potential to give me hope.
Sure, he gave up several completions to Packers WR’s, but he had fairly good coverage for what seemed like at least a couple of these completions. At the very least, nothing he did led me to believe that he’s too slow to play cornerback in the NFL, like many critics have suggested. If anything, I think those completions on Haden were more a result of Aaron Rodger’s All Pro talents and the rookie’s uncertainty, NOT Haden’s skill set.
In time, I think he’ll be alright and make those plays that he failed to make against Green Bay, but it is going to be a process and we can expect Haden to have a rookie season filled with up and down moments like his first preseason game. Making the transition from college to the NFL is no easy process for a rookie cornerback. It takes time. So be patient, and be kind.
Shawn Lauvao gets a B -/ C + (which makes him Valedictorian of the right side of the offensive line).
Another rookie that I was paying close attention to was Shawn Lauvao of Arizona State, who got the start at right guard. I came away quite pleased with what I saw out of Lauvao, who did a pretty sound job of run blocking and demonstrated his ability to pull and get out on the edge. He did get beat one time by Packers linebacker A.J Hawk on a blitz through the A gap, but that was really the only glaring negative I saw out of the rookie. He gives me some hope about the Browns beleaguered right side of the offensive line.
Two former Birds make their mark in Browns run defense (and leave a mark on Ryan Grant, too).
I thought that former Eagles Chris Gocong and Sheldon Brown both had solid debuts for the Browns defense, at least in terms of run support.
Gocong seemed to do a fairly good job of finding the ball carrier in the middle, which was something I was skeptical of when I initially learned that was starting the year on the inside.
Meanwhile, Brown came off the edge like a bat out of hell a couple of times, which is a vast improvement over the Brandon McDonald tackling experiment that has taken place in year’s past. Brown seems to be every bit the physical player he was proclaimed to be in Philadelphia, which is a very good thing.
Both of these guys should help the Browns in their defense of the run this season, at least if the Packers game was any indication of things to come.
- We need D’Qwell Jackson healthy and back in the middle as soon as possible. I worry about the effectiveness of Eric Barton at this point in his very solid career.
- Is it just me, or does second year WR Brian Robiskie’s routes seem to be a bit sloppy?
- Start Marcus Benarard. The dude makes plays.
That’s all I got for now. For the most part, I like what I saw from the Brown and Orange their first time out.
But like I said earlier, you gotta take anything positive or negative from the preseason with a grain of salt.