There was a high level of intensity in the Browns Lions game right from the start. In the same play, Greg Little threw a great block on defensive end Willie Young who proceeded to bounce off Alex Mack like a truck tire and Ndamukong Suh tracked Trent Richardson down and gave him a big hit near the sideline after Richardson gained a first down. The Browns continued to look competent and effective in all aspects of the game, even if it did not go quite as smoothly as the Rams game opened.
Richardson got the first preseason touches of his career and he looked like Trent Richardson. This is a notable improvement from last year where most of the season, he looked like some fraction of what he could be rather than the player who dominated in Tuscaloosa. He had a couple of extremely productive carries in his short night of work and looked like the franchise back the Browns drafted him to be.
With the quarterback “controversy” that reeks of Rob Chudzinski trolling the media just for grins, Brandon Weeden came out and looked extremely effective, making a statement. After a short drive that resulted in a punt, the Browns and Weeden started rolling down the field. Weeden was decisive and accurate with the football and not afraid to throw to a number of different targets. He looked a little iffy the few times he saw pressure but Weeden really did a nice job when he was able to survey the field and take what the defense gave him. Weeden was not afraid to be aggressive and took some chances down the field. He was able to connect on a few of them and eat up chunks of yards in the process. It took a couple drives, but he went from a punt to a field goal to back to back touchdowns and looked confident and effective.
Josh Gordon is frustrating for the media, clearly, but must also be a pain for coaches. From players and media reports, Gordon is still learning how to be a professional and really working to refine his craft as a wide receiver. Following Little’s lead, Gordon has been staying after practice to work, but instead of getting credit, there were those in the media who said Gordon was guilted into it.
Nevertheless, what makes Gordon frustrating is that when the lights go on, he becomes a completely different player and looks tremendous. Going short and taking a drag route for a big gain after the catch or working down the field on a vertical route, he looks like a legit #1 receiver and a potential nightmare for opposing defenses. Gordon has all of the ability in the world and it is all about getting it out of him and consistently. But when he is right, he is unbelievably talented and he will definitely be missed when he is serving his suspension as he and Weeden have a nice connection going.
Jordan Cameron came out in a big way and was able to make a number of big plays including two receiving touchdowns. For a team desperate for a good tight end, there is a ton of pressure and hope being poured into Cameron and he responded well this game. Cameron was able to gain separation, catch the ball well and run after the catch. The fact the Browns have effective weapons on the outside and in the backfield helps him a great deal, making it easier for him to find openings in the defense.
Greg Little had an up and down game. He had that terrific block and was able to draw penalties on the opponent for holding him which got them a first down, but he and Weeden were ultimately unable to make a connection in this game. Little has been working extremely hard this year and he is putting a ton of pressure on himself to perform, so it would be nice to see him be able to succeed. He was able to get going with Jason Campbell in the game and he showed what he can do with his strength and size on the outside.
The Browns came out with a lot of two tight end looks before Gary Barnidge went out with a shoulder injury. This prompted them to bring in Chris Ogbannaya at fullback and he was almost immediately able to make a big block to open up a big Dion Lewis run. His transition to fullback has been extremely positive thus far and he gives them a nice weapon at that position, because he can carry the ball or catch a pass if needed in addition to blocking.
Speaking of Lewis, much like against the Rams, he was up and down. He is such an all or nothing player that will either get a big play or next to nothing as a player. Lewis certainly brings value to this offense but the presence of Richardson as the main back should make Lewis able to be a more effective player. Unfortunately, Lewis went down with what might have been a significant injury and he was unable to put any weight on his leg before he was carted off of the sideline. The Browns had good running back depth, but Montario Hardesty is on the shelf and this news with Lewis looks like it could be devastating both for him, personally, but also for the Browns as a team. UPDATE: Lewis suffered a fractured fibula.
On the defensive side of the ball, the investments in the front seven really showed their value early. The defensive line really dominated up front and stuffed the run as well as getting pressure on the quarterback. Lions runners kept running into a wall with nowhere to go resulting in minimal gains and setting up obvious passing situations, which make a huge difference on the options the defense has. And the defensive line just keeps coming as there are so many bodies to throw in there.
Phil Taylor, Athyba Rubin and Desmond Bryant were able to assert themselves effectively. Ray Horton had them work out of a number of different fronts including odd fronts as well as even fronts with a pair of defensive tackles lining up over the guards. They were able to keep opponents off balance and keep attacking downhill.
In no small part because of the play of the defensive line, Jabaal Sheard and Paul Kruger were able to attack off of the edge with success. While they were not able to get to the quarterback for sacks, they were able to generate pressure, make plays against the run, and Kruger almost intercepted a screen pass in the backfield.
The secondary is missing players due to injury, but they were out of position at times and were bailed out at times by the play of the front seven. This is why the moves they made to upgrade that area of the defense were so important. The Browns have some young guys willing to hit in the secondary but they really could have been picked apart if Matthew Stafford had the time to attack them. Stafford was also missing Calvin Johnson who did not suit up for the game, which would have made a big difference in terms of matchups.
Jason Pinkston was rolled up and sustained an ankle injury that ended his night and immediately had him going in for X-rays. His reaction and the nature of the injury are certainly concerning and the Browns obviously cannot afford to lose another guard after Shawn Lauvao had an ankle injury of his own and is expected to be out into about week three of the season.
This forced rookie Garrett Gilkey to step in and line up across from Suh. Gilkey’s head is already spinning from making the move up from Chadron State and playing in the NFL, but going against a premier talent like Suh is the ultimate trial by fire. Not surprisingly, this proved to be a struggle. As with last week, when Gilkey is right, he is not only good but can be dominant. When he is wrong, he is way wrong and there were some problems as a result. UPDATE: Pinkston’s X-Rays were negative but he left building in a walking boot and on crutches. This could mean Pinkston suffered the dreaded high ankle sprain.
The Browns had a decent amount of depth along the offensive line but all of a sudden, their best option might be Gilkey if Pinkston is out for any length of time. While extremely talented, a trial by fire could be extremely problematic heading into the regular season. Gilkey could blossom as a result and he looks like is the heir apparent for one of those guard spots in the long term, but the short term could be ugly, especially when the Browns play within the division. Geno Atkins is the best in the business and the Browns play against him twice with the Bengals early in the season, and he will line up right across from Gilkey.
A couple Lions that stood out included Nick Fairley and Reggie Bush. Fairley is simply enormous with a big ole gut but moves extremely well and a ton of power. For the second week in a row, Joe Thomas gave up a pressure, this time to Fairley, who was able to get in on Weeden and cause a bad throw. Bush looked extremely effective as a player who is sort of an “oh, by the way” type player. He struggled as a runner as the Browns really took away running lanes but he is such a natural receiver and can really bring an added element to the Lions and especially Stafford.
In what was hopefully a precautionary move, the Browns lost Barkevious Mingo to an undisclosed rib injury. Hopefully, only bruised, losing Mingo would not be catastrophic considering what they have, but would be extremely disappointing considering what he was able to do in his first game against the Rams. The fact his return was mentioned as questionable certain makes it seem like it was a precautionary move. UPDATE: Mingo is in the hospital overnight with a bruised lung.
Brandon Bogotay made his one field goal attempted from 43 yards and bombed kickoffs out of the end zone including putting one through the uprights after bouncing off of the crossbar into the stands. In a game where he was the only one kicking in a competition against Shayne Graham, this was a positive move for him and could ultimately contribute to Bogotay landing the job.
Overall, the Browns looked extremely competent and confident in their second preseason game with the starters. They went into the half leading 17-3 and were again effective in all three phases of the game. One of the goals that teams come into every preseason game with is staying healthy and the Browns were unable to do that and the injury to Pinkston looked serious with hopefully minor issues for Mingo and Barnidge. Brandon Weeden and the front seven were extremely effective and really made the most of their opportunities.