Just because the Browns played their first preseason game of the season last Saturday and I’ve yet to make any sort of comment on it doesn’t mean it’s ok to go ahead and assume that I forgot all about it. Ok, maybe I did forget about it just a tiny bit. I tend not to post on the weekends unless I run into some random free time, AKA the Yankee Loving Fiancée leaves me home alone to get myself in trouble. That didn’t really happen this weekend, so naturally the Browns game went uncommented on… until now.
Let’s just get this out of the way right off the bat.
Colt was incredible on Saturday night. All he did was go 9 of 10 for 135 yards and one hell of a touchdown pass to Josh Cribbs down the right sideline. The end result? A QB rating of 152.1 (take that however you choose since most argue that the QB rating system is a flawed number that hold virtually no significance in terms of actual on field performance. In this instance I suggest the non-believers to suck it…. COLT!). The offense looked like a real NFL offense for the first time in years. Believe me, it’s a welcomed change from the typical run the ball up the middle three times and punt or throw the ball into the ground three times and punt offense we’ve grown accustomed to.
The level of poise McCoy showed was outstanding and shows the level of growth he’s made between now and this time last year. I distinctly remember McCoy running around the pocket like one of those crazy jackasses who jump out on to a baseball field and run circles around the security guards. His main goal last preseason: don’t die. To transform from that into a needle threading passing machine is difficult to comprehend. Imagine if McCoy actually had a full offseason to work with the coaching staff and learn the intricacies of the offense. How much better could he be in the end?
The biggest improvement I saw in McCoy was his ability to get to the line of scrimmage, evaluate the defense, and call out audibles. In fact, the most impressive part of his audible calling was how many times he made the correct decision. Then again maybe this isn’t so much progress as it is his basic understanding of the QB position, but how would we know? By all accounts that have circulated, Mangini didn’t allow McCoy to call audibles last year (not really a shock considering he didn’t give Colt the weekly playbook until 2 hours before kickoff. I know that’s an exaggeration, but as the stories continue to trickle out about the Mangini/McCoy era its a wonder he didn’t completely destroy him and his confidence beyond repair).
With all of that in mind, I understand that this was simply a preseason game in the NFL. It counted about as much as the last 3 seasons I’ve played in Madden. McCoy was also aided by the fact that Green Bay didn’t play their #1 and #3 defensive backs, missed two practices leading up to the game, and spent the day before the game visiting the White House. While it’s easy to get carried away, we all have to remember that this is still a process and for as high as we are now, we’re sure to experience that many lows in the weeks to come.
For now though, it’s nice to feel energized by the play of a Cleveland Browns QB. There have been so many since our return in ’99 that it’s hard to remember the last time we felt like this about the position. Yes, Derek Anderson had an ok year, but we probably didn’t have this much of a sense of hope since Tim Couch. And we wonder why we’ve been so terrible for so long?
Other points of interest from Saturday’s game:
- I really liked how the wide receivers played. It’s hard to expect much coming from such a beleaguered and talent deprived unit, but they made plays when they had to. Brian Robiskie and Josh Cribbs both look as if they’ve improved and Greg Little appears to be everything as advertised. If only they can get Mohamed Massaquoi back on the field.
- Along with that, as mentioned, I loved the play calling. It really goes to show the difference having an offensive minded coach can make over a defensive minded one. What will be interesting is to see how they change things up once teams get film on them.
- Peyton Hillis did what Peyton Hillis does in limited action. I’d like to see the Browns keep his touches to a minimum in the preseason and save his punishing hits for when the games count.
- The defensive line played well for the most part, but they need to get some depth. In the heat it was more than obvious they began to wear down a bit towards the end of their time on the field.
- Sheldon Brown looked old. I’m a little concerned that he could be the weak link in what should be a fairly decent secondary.
- D’Qwell Jackson made it through a game without tearing a pec muscle. That’s huge for both him and the Browns defense.
- Tight end will be a position of strength for this team. They have two good ones in Ben Watson and Evan Moore, both of whom can be critical pieces in the passing attack. I’m also intrigued by Alex Smith and Jordan Cameron.
- Carlton Mitchell was out with an injured hand that he had surgery on last week and now reports are surfacing that he also has some type of knee issue. This guy supposedly has a ton of potential but just can’t seem to get himself on to the field.
- The offensive line will be one of the best in the league, barring injury. Thomas and Mack are both beasts and another year together with the rest of the line should make for a solid unit to protect for McCoy and block for Hillis.
- Brandon Jackson… I need to see more, but as the third down/change of pace kind of back, I like what I see. Could be a decent pick up.
- Bigger issue than what people might think, the Browns need to get a better punter than what they currently have found to replace Reggie Hodges.
- The new kickoff rule… I don’t like it. Personally I’d prefer to see kicks get returned. Then again I can treat it as an add-on to the post TD/after kickoff commercial break. I mean do I really care if I miss a touchback?