After two convincing performances in front of hearty crowds at FirstEnergy Stadium, the Browns will now head out on the road for the remaining two games of the preseason. The first stop is Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis this Saturday evening. The Indianapolis Colts are coming off a nice rebound effort against the New York Giants, a week removed from a puzzling thrashing at the hands of the Buffalo Bills the last time they were home. The starting units figure to see much more of the field this time around, as is customary in the second to last preseason game.
While there is certainly a buzz of excitement going around this Browns team in the early goings of the preseason, a lingering question remains in the back of the collective minds of Cleveland fans; Have the first two games of the preseason been too easy? The St. Louis Rams’ effort seemed listless at times and was compounded with some sloppy play. It was Bernie Kosar who first pointed out that St. Louis receivers dropped a lot of catchable balls at critical junctures. Well, maybe not in those exact words. Following that, the Detroit Lions may have seemed even more lackluster. Not to be overlooked was how out of sorts the Detroit offense looked without their star receiver Calvin Johnson, who’s easily among the elite talents in the NFL. The Lions defense blew some coverages pretty convincingly, to the extent of letting a huge athlete like Jordan Cameron go completely unnoticed at times. Despite the strong showings, the Browns did not really face much resistance from St. Louis or Detroit. The starters jumped out to big leads and the reserves held serve.
The reason for such cautious optimism is that this is a talented but inexperienced Cleveland Browns team and every NFL team is certain to face ample adversity over the course of a long season. How a team responds to early setbacks will go a long way in determining how the rest of the season ultimately plays out and the success or failure of that season. How will the young players on this team respond to their first taste of adversity and when might that be? The answer to the latter is likely to be sooner rather than later. The Colts finished last season 11-5 and budding quarterback Andrew Luck figures to see the most snaps of his second NFL preseason in this, the third preseason game on Saturday. Shortly thereafter, the Browns will wrap up the preseason against a solid Chicago Bears team in the windy city on August 29th. The opportunity to play against a higher caliber of opposition on the road, twice in five short days, should serve to up the ante for every player who suits up for the Browns this week, regardless of experience or perceived job security.
Coach Chudzinski plans to play Brandon Weeden, along with the rest of the Browns starters, into the third quarter of Saturday’s game. This will be an opportunity for the team to build sustained success over a larger body of work. Particularly for the young first team offense, which has produced five scores in just six drives this preseason. As great as the first two wins of the preseason have been for the Browns and the Cleveland fan base, it will ultimately be more beneficial to the team in the long run to meet some adversity here in the final two games of the preseason. Better now than in the regular season when the stakes will be drastically higher.