It had to be very scary to watch last night’s Browns’ pre-season game against the Washington Redskins.
After all of the positive feeling after free agency and the draft, and fans being optimistic that the Browns have finally turned the corner and are headed in the right direction on the road to respectability, the offense lays a complete egg.
They looked like the Pat Shurmur edition of the Browns, the Rob Chudzinski version, and the Eric Mangini version. That is to say, it didn’t look good on the field last night.
Both quarterbacks, Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel looked terrible. They both had problems completing passes and for both, there were plays available. The Washington defense put more pressure on Manziel than they did on Hoyer, but even with time, the veteran missed open targets too.
The one thing we will say about the offense is they haven’t yet made much of a commitment to the running game, and that figures to be a staple of offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan’s attack once the regular season starts.
We would expect a strong running game and a short passing attack, at least to start the season, because the players are still learning the new offense. Because if Cleveland wants to put the game on either passer, the way they looked last night, it could be a long season for the Browns.
Going into the camp, we rated Hoyer as having the slight edge over Manziel, mostly due to experience, even as little as he has. After two pre-season games, neither has taken the bull by the horns and won the job. Therefore, if Mike Pettine feels the need to make a decision in the next day or two, Hoyer should get the nod.
We would wait until after this Saturday’s game against the Rams. Let both players play, but don’t do it the same way as they did vs. Washington. Let Hoyer play the first quarter and bring Manziel off the bench for the second. Or let Hoyer play the first quarter and a half. It is likely the starters will play around three quarters in what is the “dress rehearsal” for the opener against the Steelers.
Although Pettine would like to name a starter sooner than later, there is no rule that says he has to.
The receivers haven’t been stellar either, although most of the incompletions last night were passes that were either thrown in the ground or way behind the targets. One that wasn’t was a throw by Hoyer into the end zone to Andrew Hawkins. It wasn’t a good pass, as it was behind Hawkins, but he got his hands on it, and it should have been caught.
On the defensive side, you have to be impressed with DE Armonty Bryant who seems to line up in the opponents backfield, and a stout defense against the run, led by Phil Taylor and John Hughes. If the Browns can get opponents into second and third downs with long distance yardage, Pettine will turn loose the blitz hoping to force turnovers.
Remember, that Pettine has talked about the “Seattle model”, meaning a team that wins on defense and with its running game. Based on the play of the quarterbacks, the head coach has no choice but to use that style.
There isn’t anything wrong with that. It is doubtful the front office and the coach want to hear about another rebuilding season. They want to win and win this season. Until either Hoyer or Manziel steps up and takes the challenge, the Cleveland Browns will have no choice but to win with the ground game and defense.
After all these years, fans shouldn’t care about style points, just victories.