If you look at the final score of Saturday night’s pre-season tilt between the Browns and Rams on Saturday night, you will be disappointed if you are a Browns’ fan. A 33-14 defeat at home cannot be considered encouraging.
While nothing happened in that game to make a supporter of the brown and orange say the Browns should make the playoffs this season, a couple of things jumped out at us during the contest that gives us reason to shrug our shoulders and say that it is not the end of the world.
On defense, based on everything we have heard from Mike Pettine and defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil, the Browns’ defense will be an attacking unit. Without Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden and last year’s starter Buster Skrine, the defense was anything but aggressive against St. Louis.
It appeared to us the Browns played a lot of zone coverage and the Rams’ quarterbacks drilled them for playing passive. Would it have been a different story with Haden and Skrine? We think so. It would have also put first round draft choice Justin Gilbert on St. Louis’ secondary receiver, which would have also helped the schemes.
It was a good learning experience for Gilbert, and he will get better for going through that on Saturday.
Being able to find receivers quickly because of the zone coverage also meant it was more difficult to mount an effective pass rush. That said, Armonty Bryant still was able to make an impact, harassing Rams’ passers while he was in the game and his hit on Sam Bradford caused a season ending ACL tear for the former first overall pick.
When the Steelers have the football on September 7th, our guess is the Browns will play press coverage on both wide receivers and will get after Ben Roethlisberger in passing situations.
Yes, there was poor tackling up front on a few runs which led to nice gains, but we trust that for the most part, the Cleveland defense will be one of the better units in the NFL with two solid cornerbacks and the ability to rush the passer.
On offense, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan ran the football just 15 times for the game. If the Browns only run the ball that few times on a regular basis, they will be in for a long season. We believe the coaching staff would agree with that.
Shanahan is trying to get his quarterbacks, both Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel ready to go, and he’s also figuring out which wide receivers will make the final roster. So, he is passing the ball, probably more than he would like to.
The offensive coach has a history of running the football in his other stops around the league, and quite frankly, there is no reason to beat up Ben Tate during meaningless contests. He is trying to get rookie Terrence West some reps, but when the whistle blows for real, we can see Cleveland running the ball 25-35 times per game, unless they fall way behind.
We envision the offense being a ground oriented attack with the quarterback using play action to move the ball down the field. This style will also shorten the game, and keep the defense fresh. And when Tate has been given the ball thus far, he has run it effectively.
There is no question Saturday’s game wasn’t enjoyable to watch, but it doesn’t mean that’s what the regular season will look like.
Until they lay an egg in a game that counts, just relax and keep repeating “the game doesn’t count, the game doesn’t count”.