Tonight the Browns take on the Eagles in what will be their third preseason game of the year. Normally this is the game that serves as the dress rehearsal for the regular season, but thanks to a strange scheduling quirk that won’t be the case tonight. You see, as many of you are already aware, the Browns and Eagles will face off again two weeks from Sunday in the 2012 season opener. Needless to say, you aren’t going to see a whole hell of a lot from either team tonight.
And that’s fine. I understand the Eagles not wanting to risk having Michael Vick injure himself in the third straight preseason game. They need to make sure he survives because they’re going to need him if they want to make a run at the NFC East title. As for the Browns, I admire Pat Shurmur for not wanting to give away any of the Browns precious offensive secrets, but in all honesty, most of the league is pretty comfortable with our three and out offense. They have been for quite some time.
I don’t think the Browns can afford to be keeping any secrets at the expense of the development of Brandon Weeden. He needs to play as much as he can and he needs to get comfortable with the offense if the Browns have any hope of being successful in 2012. Why try to keep secrets? It’s not going to do anyone any good if the receivers aren’t in sync with the quarterback and the quarterback is running around like a chicken with its head cut off because he isn’t used to NFL game speed. For that reason alone, Weeden and the rest of the starters need to play at least two quarters of tonight’s game.
As for Weeden, he’s now had two games worth of tape to fall back on. He should have a much better understanding of what it is the defense is trying to do against the Browns and him in particular. He showed tremendous growth from the first game against the Lions to the second game against the Packers. If he continues on that track, there’s no reason why we can’t expect Weeden to play a solid half of football, but will he?
He’s yet to get the Browns into the end zone via the pass attack so that should be the next task on the to-do list. Of course first and foremost he needs to show once again that he can lead the Browns down the field and not stall once they enter the red zone. He wasn’t able to do that in game one and he was better in game two. Tonight I’ll be looking for him to finally move the ball end to end and put together two quality scoring drives.
The Browns as a whole also have to do a better job of not turning the ball over. The Eagles have a very fast and pressure oriented defense that likes to make life a living hell in the back field. Weeden will need to be able to navigate the pressure, by himself some time and deliver strikes down the field. Montario Hardesty also has to keep the ball off the turf and explode his way through the holes.
Defensively, the Browns are catching a huge break. Thanks to the Patriots and a pair of bruised ribs, Michael Vick will be nothing more than a spectator tonight. That means the Browns won’t spend half of their night chasing him all over the field. Instead, they get to deal with the poo-poo platter of backup quarterbacks the Eagles currently employ. With that said, should they look amazing tonight, generate turnovers and keep the Eagles offensive output to a minimum… pump the breaks. Remember, these games don’t count for anything and the Eagles aren’t utilizing nearly as many weapons as they have at their disposal.
Now if they get lit up… then it might be time to panic a bit.
Lastly, tonight’s game might help solve the mystery of the Browns backup QB saga. Who exactly is the backup? We have no idea. The Browns have yet to announce who will take the field after Weeden, but have reported they would like to get an extend look at Thaddeus Lewis. So who draws the short end of the stick and either plays limited minutes or maybe even not at all, McCoy or Wallace? At this point I have to believe that McCoy is penciled into the backup position and will play tonight. It makes no sense to keep Seneca Wallace on this roster any longer. What purpose does he really serve?
However, if I’m wrong and Wallace sees playing time while McCoy sits, it may be an indication that the Browns are close to dealing McCoy to another team and don;t want to risk him being injured. After the performance of Graham Harrell for the Packers last week, it’s more than obvious the Packers need a decent backup. Is McCoy destined to be wearing green and gold come september 9th? It’s definitely a possibility.
Oh, and one last bonus about tonight’s game. The Browns will be wearing their brown jerseys for the first time in a year. Let’s just hope that it’s not the last.