Browns Show Good Signs vs. Pack

Every year, people who are not Cleveland Brown zealots have to go through the same thing during the NFL’s exhibition games (sorry, Roger Goodell, we’re not calling them pre-season games).  The games do not mean anything, so it’s crazy to get excited by a victory, and equally silly to get depressed by a loss.

One reason for this is you never know how the opposition is going to treat the games.  For example, last night, Green Bay defensive coordinator Dom Capers didn’t show any blitzes or exotic looks.  He played it vanilla, and the Browns’ first team offense looked good against the Pack.

Still, there were some good signs for Pat Shurmur’s crew.

First, they won the games, which is always better than losing.  Second, they weren’t dominated by the Packers as they were two years ago in exhibition play.  You don’t want to watch your team getting out played from a physical standpoint in the first practice game.  That’s disheartening.

Many so-called experts have spent the summer criticizing QB Colt McCoy, but the one things you can say about him is he is extremely accurate, and last night was no exception. 

McCoy hit on 9 of 10 passes in the first quarter (yes, he also played the first two minutes of the 2nd quarter) for 135 yards and a touchdown throw of 27 yards to Joshua Cribbs.  No, McCoy doesn’t have a big arm.  But, it says here that accuracy, toughness, and ability to read defenses are more important attributes for a pro quarterback than a big arm.

We can all name guys who could throw the ball 60 yards in the air, and didn’t become great QB’s.  In fact, one of them was a starter here just four years ago in Derek Anderson.  Once teams took away the deep ball, he ceased being an effective NFL player.

Another good early sign is that maybe, just maybe Shurmur’s version of the west coast offense knows what to do with Josh Cribbs playing wide receiver.  Other regimes have struggled to use Cribbs as a receiver, but last night, McCoy hit the elite return man on a crossing route (yes, this might be a part of the offense!) for a first down. 

Getting Cribbs the ball in space always seemed like a good idea, but other offensive schemes just lined him up in the wildcat formation and ran sweeps.  It will be interesting to see if Shurmur uses him in sort of  a Wes Welker type of role, getting him the ball in space on third down situations.

That might be the former Kent State star’s only impact with the ball this year, because the NFL’s new kickoff rule had every ball kicked seven to ten yards deep in the end zone.  Please rule makers, change that one back please.

It was difficult to see any impact from first round pick Phil Taylor because Green Bay didn’t really run the ball in the first quarter.  And although it was against the second teamers, LB Marcus Benard continued to show he can put pressure on the passer with a sack of Packers’ QB Matt Flynn.

Friday night is the next dress rehearsal for the Browns, with the starters probably staying on the field for the entire first half.  Then, you can look at the halftime score and get a sort of realistic measurement of the team.  However, watch the games more on individual assessments than the score.  That will tell you who is progressing, and who will be looking for employment come early September.

JD

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