Last night, the Browns closed out the preseason with a 13-10 victory over the Chicago Bears. True to form, this was a pretty dull game as the majority of the starters from both teams rested. Still, there were some positive things to take away from this victory, but there was also something really deflating that happened as well.
Starting with the good, rookie quarterback Colt McCoy showed signs of improvement as he completed all 13 of his passes for 131 yards and a 108.1 QB rating. Granted, the majority of McCoy’s completions were of the dink and dunk variety and checkdowns to backs, but he displayed pretty impressive accuracy on his throws and demonstrated a willingness to take what the Bears defense was giving him.
McCoy also displayed his athleticism and ability to throw on the move, which I think are two things that have the potential to set McCoy apart eventually if he’s ever able to develop into the franchise type QB we all hope he can become. A couple of plays that stood out were a third down scramble for a first down and a completion to tight end Alex Smith, in which McCoy did a nice job of stepping up in the pocket and firing a strong, accurate throw while on the move. I really think it’s these kinds of plays that can be McCoy’s calling card in the NFL as a quarterback, because lets face it, he’s not getting any taller and he’s never going be your classic dropback passer. Instead, he’s got to use his athleticism and his accuracy to his advantage, and he did this for the most part in what will hopefully be the last time we see Holmgren’s project play this season.
It was nice to see progress from McCoy, but keep in mind that Rome wasn’t built in a day, and Steve Young didn’t become a franchise quarterback overnight. McCoy is going to be a project and he’s going to experience some growing pains, but I think he certainly made strides this preseason and got better each time out. Now it’s time for him to put on the ball cap and continue to absorb everything he can during his first NFL regular season.
In addition to McCoy’s “perfect” game, another good sign came from the Browns young linebackers. Outside linebacker Marcus Bernard continued to make his case for legitimate playing time come the regular season, as he finished with 8 tackles and did an excellent job of getting off blocks and finding the ball carrier. It just seems like you always know when Bernard is out there, and that’s a good thing.
Other linebackers that may have played there way onto the 53-man roster against the Bears were Ohio Northern alum Jason Trusnik, who made a couple of tackles and recovered a fumble, and second year player David Veikune, who recorded 4 tackles (3 solo) from his inside spot. I think Trusnik is all but a lock to make the team given his versatility and contributions on special teams. And Veikune, while I’ve never been enamored with him, I think he may have showed just enough from his transition to the inside that he merits another shot at becoming a legitimate NFL linebacker (just not on the outside).
This is all good, unless of course your veteran David Bowens, who I feel is in serious jeopardy of making the team. It just makes more sense for the Browns to go with the younger guys at the position this year, especially since Bowens is coming off an injury plagued preseason. Either way, I wish Bowens the best and respect everything he has given to the organization since he came over last year from the New York Jets with head coach Eric Mangini. He’s been a warrior and a professional, but I just can’t envision him making the cut.
So it will be unfortunate if Bowens doesn’t make the team, but what really felt like a sucker punch last night was seeing rookie running back Montario Hardesty leave with an injury to his left knee. Hardesty’s much anticipated debut got off to a promising start as he exhibited his tough, north/south running style, carrying the ball times 7 times for 24 yards and a touchdown. That’s why it was pretty deflating to see Hardesty exit the game with yet another injury to his beleagured knees after getting a glimpse of just what he could do for the power running game that the Browns hope to establish this season. Hopefully, it’s nothing serious, but given his injury history, I’m a little sketchy on his future with the Browns.
Still, it was nice to see second year running back James Davis of Clemson capitalize on the opportunity he was given following the exit of Hardesty. Davis turned in a strong game, carrying the ball 15 times for 66 yards and catching 5 passes for 53 yards. His performance, coupled with the loss of Hardesty, seems to all but lock up a roster spot for Davis, who managed to once again show flashes of his potential and versatility during the preseason. Davis just has to be consistently more decisive as a runner and cut back on some of his dancing. If he’s able to do that and stay healthy, we should be able to get by if Hardesty misses any significant time. At this point, I’m certainly planning on that being the case.
Here’s some other thoughts that I failed to fit in:
- I was impressed again with what I saw out of the starting right side of the offensive line. Right Tackle Tony Pashos once again looked like a dominant run blocker and rookie right guard Shawn Lauvao alleviated some concerns about a backup for starting center, Alex Mack.
- I think Brandon McDonald secured his spot on the 53-man roster against the Bears. He played well and made a couple of nice plays in coverage. Not to mention he has a lot of game experience.
- Congrats to Ben Roethlisberger for not getting in any recent trouble and having his suspension reduced by Commissioner Roger Goodell from six games to four, which of course makes him eligible to return against us on Oct. 17. Hopefully, we can make his return as miserable as possible.
Anyway, thank God that the preseason is finally over. Time to get ready for some real football and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.