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Browns at a Glance

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Mike Holmgren must have enjoyed what he saw from the Browns Saturday night.

Since the night the Cavaliers were eliminated from the NBA playoffs, most fans in Cleveland, aside from a few diehard Indians fans, were anxiously awaiting the start of football season. The anticipation is higher than ever this season because Mike Holmgren, the guru of quarterbacks and the man who took two teams from the bottom of the NFL to Super Bowls, is the Browns’ new president.

Once the “Big Show” hit town, he promised Browns fans a turnaround. Of course, fans have heard these lines whenever a new regime was hired. But this one is different. The team has a front office in place with an impressive background. Holmgren and general manager Tom Heckert immediately went out and formed a new quarterback contingent and signed some veterans to beef up the defense. Add in a solid draft class and this upcoming season does look very promising.

I attended the Browns’ scrimmage at the stadium and, truth be told, it was not very pretty. It looked like a typical Cleveland Browns game. Incomplete passes, penalties, interceptions, and punting plagued the scrimmage game. Aside from a few solid plays, neither offense could get in sync. The Brown team won 14-6 when new quarterback Jake Delhomme finally threw a touchdown pass to new tight end Ben Watson in the late fourth quarter. One could look at the game from a different viewpoint, thinking it was a good defensive game rather than sloppy offensively. However, what happened a week later suggests otherwise.

This past Saturday the Browns opened the preseason against the Green Bay Packers, expected to be a Super Bowl contender this year. The Browns received the opening kickoff and immediately shocked the viewing audience. Jake Delhomme threw sharp, accurate passes and the receiving corps ran crisp routes as the offense marched down the field to score a touchdown on the opening drive.

Mangini decided that was all he needed to see of Jake Delhomme for the game. Nobody expected Delhomme to play much in the first game, but being yanked after one series was interesting. In this case, though, due to his injury history and how impressive he looked on that first drive, letting Delhomme sit the rest of the game was the right thing to do. In addition, this move gave backup Seneca Wallace time to work with the first team. And Wallace did not disappoint either. After the defense recovered a fumble on the Packers’ first play from scrimmage, Wallace took the Browns down a short field for another touchdown, a nice pass in the back corner of the end zone to second-year receiver Brian Robiskie.

Then Aaron Rodgers went to work. Coming off a Pro Bowl season, Rodgers picked apart the Browns defense and immediately got Green Bay back in the game. Pulled after three series, Rodgers completed 12 of 13 passes for 159 yards, a touchdown, and an amazing 143.3 rating.

Wallace led the Browns to another touchdown to give them a 21-14 lead. Then both teams’ starters were pulled and the game turned ugly. Neither team’s backup quarterback could muster any sustained offense until midway through the third quarter when the Packers found the end zone to tie the game again on a short run. The rest of the game looked like of the Browns’ first 14 games last season.

Then Phil Dawson showed why he should be the next Browns player to be paid. Down by three with 90 seconds to go, Dawson launched a 58-yard field goal to tie the game. He had hit long field goals in the past, but this was his career long and it is always impressive when any kicker nails a field goal of such length.

After a quick three-and-out, the Browns got the ball back with plenty of time to win the game. After fourth-stringer Brett Ratliff showed his inner Pro Bowler and got them back into field goal position, Dawson booted another three-pointer, this time from an easier 46-yard distance to seal a Browns victory.

Obviously with the game being just a preseason opener, this victory does not mean a thing. Keep in mind the Browns won two games in solid fashion during the preseason last year only to lose the first seven games of the regular season. However, Browns fans cannot help but feel a small glimmer of hope from watching the beginning, then the outcome of this game.

Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace both looked very good in their first outings with their new team. Second-year players Mohammed Massaquoi (before leaving with an injury) and Brian Robiskie appeared to be much improved from less than spectacular rookie seasons. Ben Watson and Evan Moore totaled three catches for 44 yards and a touchdown, causing Jim Donovan to exclaim “the tight end is back in Cleveland!” Colt McCoy left the game with a thumb injury reminiscent of Tim Couch and Brady Quinn, but that was just a small downside since he will likely not see the field at all this season.

What could use some help after first glance is the defense, which was torched by Aaron Rodgers. Perhaps this was just a case of Rodgers coming into his own as an NFL star or a defense with new parts, players, and roles needing plenty of game time to adjust and jell. Whatever the case, outside of some flashes of excellence by rookie safety T.J. Ward, the defense was not very sharp until the Packers’ first-team offense left the field.

Despite solid play leading to much excitement early on, I am in no way chanting “Super Bowl” as I am fully aware this was only the first game of preseason. However, as one Browns player said after the game “this is what happens when we execute.” So long as each player keeps this quote in mind, knows his role, and does his best to avoid injury, this game could be viewed as a good start.

Credit for photo: www.sbnation.com

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Written by apokorny

August 17, 2010 at 9:27 pm

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