Cleveland Browns: 3 offensive takeaways vs. the Bears
By Thomas Moore
The Cleveland Browns closed out a disappointing preseason on Thursday night. Here are three takeaways on the offense’s performance against the Bears.
Where once there was excitement over the prospect of a high-flying offense to rival anything previously seen from the Cleveland Browns, there is now the growing realization that nothing is ever as simple as it seems.
That is the biggest takeaway from the just-concluded preseason, which mercifully came to a close Thursday night against the Chicago Bears at FirstEnergy Stadium.
This time a week ago, fans were salivating at the prospect of seeing quarterback Robert Griffin III firing passes to Josh Gordon, Corey Coleman and Terrelle Pryor as hapless defenders looked on in awe.
“The grind starts now. We are going to Philadelphia and we expect to win a game.” – Head coach Hue Jackson
Reality has interjected, as it often does with the Browns, over the past seven days in the struggles against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Bears. Outside of a few big pass plays, the offense has looked sluggish and inconsistent during the preseason, averaging just 214 yards and 11 points per game.
Turns out, going up against the Browns defense in practice is one thing; playing against another team is something else entirely.
The good news? Next week each team resets to the same record as the games begin for real.
“Now it is about every week getting ready to play the game for wins and losses. It is not anything else,” head coach Hue Jackson said after Thursday’s game. “It is not evaluation period. It is gameplan. It is making sure we cross the T’s, dot the I’s and get ready to play.
“A lot of (the preseason) for us has been about evaluation of our team. Now that changes. The focus of everything changes. Now, it is about finding a way to win by any means necessary, and I think our players understand that.”
The Browns, the offense and the fans are ready to move on to the regular season, but before we do that let’s take a quick look at three takeaways from the game against the Bears.
Running on empty
The running game has been less than ideal throughout the preseason, especially give the expectation that Jackson would duplicate the success he had with the Cincinnati Bengals
Despite facing Chicago’s second-string defense, Isaiah Crowell only managed 11 yards on six carries – a 1.8 yards per carry average for those of you scoring at home – while Duke Johnson rushed twice for eight yards.
Both Crowell (22 total carries in the preseason) and Johnson (nine carries) should both be rested for the regular season and Jackson should be working on a deeper game plan to feature the run.
If not, then Griffin is going to be in for some long afternoons.
Passing game far from a finished product
First-round draft selection Corey Coleman finally notched a catch, pulling in a 10-yard pass against the Bears. He also has at least one drop and looked like a player that missed a large portion of training camp with a hamstring injury.
Terrelle Pryor did not have a catch – he was only targeted once – and for all the excitement about his big-play ability there is more to playing wide receiver than just going deep.
Josh Gordon led the team in receiving with three catches for 29 yards, but seemed a bit disinterested at times in what was his final appearance prior to the start of his four-game suspension.
Add it all up and, while there is still reason to remain optimistic about what the passing game can become, it is still based around potential rather than production.
“We just have to be more consistent and sustain drives,” Griffin said. “I think all the guys know when the real bullets are flying in the regular season and that is when it counts. We have taken this approach in the preseason to try and work out some of the kinks and do some different things. Now, we will be able to focus on all we do best.”
Griffin is still in one piece
A week after being sacked five times, Griffin made it through the Chicago game in one piece.
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Granted, the first-team offensive line should be able to take care of another team’s second-line defense, but one of the goals was keeping Griffin healthy throughout the preseason, so mission accomplished.
Of course, staying healthy and playing well are two different things.
Griffin played one quarter against the Bears covering three offensive drives. During that time he only passed for 31 yards and led one scoring drive, which took six plays to cover all of 18 yards. All told, the first-team offense had four first downs and 50 yards of total offense.
The preseason ended up being an all-or-nothing experience for Griffin. According to Pro Football Focus, Griffin was five-for-six with 215 yards and three touchdowns when throwing a pass 10 or more yards downfield and to the right side. But when he tried the same thing to the middle or left, he was zero-for-eight with an interception.
The offense’s woes are not all on Griffin, but the Browns are only going to go as far their quarterback can take them this season.
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“Obviously, we have to continue to work through practice and get ready. Now, it is about gameplan and getting ready to defeat the teams you play,” Jackson said. “Now, we will get into the things we do and the things we do well, and we will put our guys out there and give them a chance to have success.”