Browns Rebuild Looking Good

The Cleveland Browns lost their first exhibition game of the year last night, and the reaction here is the same as their win last week against Green Bay.  Ho-hum.

The Browns took on the Lions with conservatively eight starters out of the lineup, including Peyton Hillis, Ben Watson, Eric Steinbach, T.J. Ward, and Scott Fujita and still they outplayed Detroit in the first half, leading 21-13 at the intermission.

To be fair, Detroit was missing WR Calvin Johnson and OT Jeff Backus.

Without a real running game, as both Hillis and Montario Hardesty did not play, Colt McCoy didn’t look as impressive as he did in the lidlifter vs. the Packers.  However, he still wound up throwing three TD passes, two to TE Evan Moore, in hitting 10 of 18 throws for 96 yards in the win.

And when the orange and brown got in the red zone, they scored touchdowns, another by-product of the west coast offense. 

It is refreshing to watch a legitimate professional offensive scheme after looking at two years of ultra-conservative stone age football.  Remember last year’s loss to Jacksonville when the Jags turned it over six times, and the Browns ran the ball after each one?  That won’t happen with Pat Shurmur handling the attack.

Besides the TD catches by Moore, another player under utilized last season, rookie WR Greg Little scored on a 13 yard pass from McCoy, and made another nice catch along the sideline.

Unfortunately, after the scoring reception, Little punted the ball in the seats, which drew a rebuke from the head coach, telling the rookie not to do that again.

McCoy was under a lot of pressure from the Lions’ front seven, but stood in and moved the football.  He never seemed to force the ball, and set up the second TD drive with a long pass to Josh Cribbs that was an obvious pass interference call.  Without the penalty, it would have been a 30-yard TD throw.

The defense played better as well.  Rookie DT Phil Taylor and Ahtyba Rubin clogged up the middle, giving the Lions no running room there.  Another rookie Jabaal Sheard forced a fumble, and then recovered it, setting up the first Cleveland score.

And MLB D’Qwell Jackson looked good as well, making a couple of stops in the backfield, which as analyst Bernie Kosar pointed out, is a criticism of the veteran, that he makes a lot of tackles, but they are all four or five yards past the line of scrimmage.

Dick Jauron’s unit also put some pressure on Matthew Stafford, forcing him out of the pocket three straight plays on one drive, making him throw the ball out-of-bounds. 

CB Joe Haden struggled a little bit, allowing two long passes, but after his very good rookie year in 2010, he deserves the benefit of the doubt.

Remember, the defense was missing three starters too, including two linebackers in Fujita and Chris Gocong.  And they still did a good job.

You have to be a little impressed that there is progress with this football team.  It appears three rookies will start this season, just like a year ago, as Taylor, Sheard, and FB Owen Marecic will be in there on the first snaps of the regular season.

That’s after three rookies (Haden, Ward, and McCoy) started last year.  And don’t forget G Shaun Lauvao, who will start in his second year.

That’s seven starters from GM Tom Heckert’s first two drafts.  That’s exciting after years of young players coming in and not being able to contribute.

The next step for the front office will be to build depth.  That’s why the current front office makes it a point to accumulate draft picks. 

Detroit writers commented after the game that the Cleveland Browns are building. 

Maybe that’s the best thing to be taken away from last night’s game.

JD

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