When watching NFL pre-season games, this is the rule of thumb we use–
For the first game, only the first quarter matters. For the second game, the first half matters. In the third game, the “dress rehearsal” if you will, the first three quarters matter. And the last game is just to decide who makes the back-end of the roster.
So, what did we learn from last night’s game against the Redskins? Not much.
First, it is tough to judge anything considering the Browns’ two best players, Joe Thomas and Joe Haden, didn’t even play. Nor did Dwayne Bowe, Terrell Pryor, Duke Johnson, and several others who could be key members of Mike Pettine’s squad when the regular season starts on September 14th.
The morning newspaper was filled with praise for new starting QB Josh McCown, which we thought was jumping the gun a little bit.
McCown played just one series, made the throws he needed to make, benefited from a pass interference penalty, and otherwise dinked and dunked the Browns into the end zone.
This is not to say, we don’t think McCown will be better than Brian Hoyer, because we think he will, but we didn’t see anything special about the performance last night. We want to see more.
As for the backup quarterback, Johnny Manziel, he showed improvement from last year, mostly in that he looked like an NFL quarterback.
Gone was the “Johnny Package”, the read option non-sense that is being phased out by most NFL teams because defenses have caught up to it.
And although Manziel scored a touchdown on a run, it was the type of run he should have made. He dropped back, the defense parted like the Red Sea, and he took the opportunity to get his team in the end zone. But, there was a marked difference in the way he approached the offense this year.
Overall, the offense was pretty vanilla with mostly short, safe throws, and perhaps the reason for that was the absence of Bowe, Pryor, and Johnson, who we think will be a big part of the passing game.
It was a little disturbing to see last year’s first round pick, Justin Gilbert, get torched on the opening series of the game, losing Pierre Garcon wide open on a deep pass, which he dropped.
He also whiffed on his next chance, a sideline route. He did recover to defend two passes in the end zone, but he needs to be better in the next couple of contests if he is going to contribute.
The run defense, which was arguably more of a weakness than the quarterback play a year ago, didn’t shine, so that is a bit concerning as well. They still have a hard time keeping backs from getting outside. To be sure, that will be a point of emphasis this week in practice.
Next week, we will get to see the people who are going to play in the regular season a whole lot more, probably through the first half. At that point, we should see more things to start forming opinions.
It was good to see football again, but that’s about all we saw. Nothing to get excited about, nothing to be depressed about.
That’s probably the ideal circumstance if you are Mike Pettine.