After two very positive preseason outings, the Cleveland Browns found themselves up against a Philadelphia Eagles team with superior talent Thursday evening. While the 24-14 result in Philadelphia’s favor was not entirely unexpected, there were noticeable ups and downs for Pat Shurmur’s young squad.
For the first time this preseason the Browns first-team offense was unable to find a good rhythm and failed to reach the end zone throughout the first half. Philadelphia’s embarrassment of riches in the defensive backfield was key to the Eagles’ success in bottling up the previously potent Colt McCoy. Nnamdi Asomugha, Asante Samuel and the rest of the Eagles defensive backs regularly blanketed all of McCoy’s receiving options leading to coverage sacks, scrambles and low percentage attempts for Cleveland’s young quarterback.
The long-awaited 2011 debut of running back Montario Hardesty resulted in five carries for a modest 15 yards. Hardesty looked healthy and for the most part made the most of his limited opportunities. Peyton Hillis also ran the ball well, and looked as good as ever catching passes out of the backfield, including a spectacular one-handed grab of a McCoy shovel pass that went for 13 yards.
The Browns receivers turned in a night of mixed performances. After vanishing against the Detroit Lions last week, Brian Robiskie came back with a three-catch first half. Robiskie’s most memorable play of the night though, was a 40-yard completion negated by an offensive pass interference call on a bit of a push-off.
Greg Little continued to impress with three of his own catches for 23 yards. Notable for Little was a nice catch-and-run of a quick bubble screen to move the Browns out of the shadow of their own goal posts, and a well-run crossing route that drew a pass interference call. Evan Moore was noticeably absent from the stat sheet with only one target that ended with an uncharacteristic drop on the right sideline.
Colt McCoy fought through a tough night, completing only 50% of his passes and tossing his first interception of the preseason on a veteran play by Asante Samuel. McCoy found himself alternately battling against tough coverage and good pressure from the Eagles, as well as a couple of key drops.
While McCoy’s ability to throw the deep ball is often maligned, he fired two perfect deep balls on the night – unfortunately, one was negated by the Robiskie interference call, the other by the Moore drop. While not Colt McCoy’s best performance, he maintained his growing trademark composure and continuously made good decisions to take care of the football.
Faced with very likely the most dangerous offensive arsenal in the league, the Browns defense acquitted themselves relatively well. Top pick Phil Taylor showed exactly why Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert selected him to anchor their new four-man line. Taylor repeatedly devastated the interior of the Eagles offensive line, collapsing the pocket and causing a Michael Vick fumble on the first possession of the game. Unfortunately for the Browns defenders, the pressure applied by Taylor and the rest of the defensive line was often for naught as Michael Vick repeatedly showcased his uncanny ability to escape and make athletic plays.
Perhaps feeling some pressure after their tough loss last week, the Eagles demonstrated more game-planning and adjustments than one usually sees in a preseason match-up. There was a concerted effort to run at rookie defensive end Jabaal Sheard, known more for his pass rush skills. Sheard responded as most rookies do – with mixed results. More than once he found himself too far upfield to affect the play but did make a couple good stops. As the Browns front four continued to apply good pressure, Vick checked down to a number of screens and flares to the lightning-fast LeSean McCoy, who caught seven balls for 69 yards in the first half.
Linebacker Scott Fujita was a welcome sight back in the lineup, though the absence of linebacker Chris Gocong and safeties Usama Young and T.J. Ward was noticeable. Kaluka Maiava, filling in for Gocong, failed to stay home on a key fourth down end-around play, thus surrendering the first down. Missing both starting safeties, Ray Ventrone had an embarrassing whiff of LeSean McCoy near the right sideline.
Perhaps the most pivotal play of the game occurred when linebacker D’Qwell Jackson blitzed unblocked and cleanly leveled Michael Vick as he attempted to deliver a deep ball. While the pass was intercepted by safety Mike Adams, the play was reversed on a very questionable roughing the passer call. Instead of the Browns taking possession in Eagles territory, Philadelphia continued the drive and capitalized seven plays later for a touchdown.
- The Browns defensive line generated good pressure for the second straight game.
- Joe Haden is simply rock-solid, covering his own man and cleaning up his teammates’ misses.
- Right tackle Tony Pashos had a tough game and looked outmatched in pass protection.
- After a nice performance versus the Lions, linebacker Brian Smith exhibited poor tackling this week.
- Undrafted free agent cornerback James Dockery seems to have made the roster with his continued strong play on the corner.
- Defensive end Derreck Robinson failed to contain the quarterback multiple times and was always behind the play.
- Running back Quinn Porter has likely passed Armond Smith (who fumbled again this week) on the depth chart by taking care of the football and running with a shifty, elusive style.
- Rookie tight end Jordan Cameron got only one look and made a highlight catch in the seam.