But there’s no denying that the Browns looked much-improved in their second preseason game, with the first-team offense and defense playing well on the road against the Green Bay Packers. The backups kept their feet on the gas and the Browns left Green Bay with a 35-10 victory on Thursday night.
Perhaps the most encouraging about this game was the improvement along the offensive and defensive lines. Both were manhandled against the Detroit Lions, but they showed up against the Packers, which made all the difference. The offensive line picked up the blitz well, opened up holes for running back Montario Hardesty and gave quarterback Brandon Weeden enough time to make some high-quality throws.
The defensive line was much more effective against the run than it was in Detroit, though the Packers were without James Starks and newly-signed Cedric Benson. No matter – the coaching staff will take it.
Again, this is just the preseason, but a lot can be taken from this game. The general improvement across the board points to a movement in the right direction, which is certainly better than another week of panic.
Here are some more observations from the Browns’ much more satisfying second preseason game:
- Hardesty fumbled on the first play from scrimmage, garnering a collective “here we go again” in Cleveland, but he redeemed himself with a very effective game, rushing 12 times for 45 yards and – get this – a touchdown. He finally looks healthy and comfortable in the offense and should be a solid complement to Trent Richardson.
- Cornerback Sheldon Brown ripped the ball out of receiver Randall Cobb’s hands, which should be praised, though he still gives far too much room between him and the guy he covers. He doesn’t have the speed to quickly close that gap and it’s leaving receivers open for big gains. He was lucky to strip the ball from Cobb, opting for the vogue way of tackling (which is more a desperate stab at the ball instead of a tackle), but it would have been another first down if he failed.
- When Brandon Weeden really lets a ball loose downfield, you can see exactly why he’s an upgrade over Colt McCoy. He simply has a much stronger arm and once he catches up to the pro game, that should shine even more. Weeden finished the night completing 12 of 20 passes for 118 yards.
- As for McCoy – who completed four of six passes for 58 yards – his “Green Bay audition” went well, mostly due to Graham Harrell’s especially poor performance. The rumors about McCoy’s departure to the Packers will be heating up, but he has been playing well since training camp started. The Browns won’t get much better than a fourth- or fifth-round pick for McCoy, and obviously they need a backup too. The team would still be better served keeping him as its own backup.
- Wide receivers Greg Little and Josh Gordon both looked good at times but were plagued by, you guessed it, drops. It might be another maddening season in that department.
- There is no way that Brad Smelley doesn’t make this team. The fullback is just too versatile to be denied a spot on the roster. I don’t know what this does for Owen Marecic, but Smelley is certainly more fun to watch.
- Is it time to start wondering if Phil Dawson is just a robot? He made kicks from 53, 47, and 52 yards, while narrowly missing a 56-yard field goal at the end of the first half.
- This wouldn’t be a Cleveland Browns preseason game without someone getting injured, though. This time it was cornerback Trevin Wade, who started as the nickelback.