Saturday, August 23, 2008

Browns Still Looking for Answers

The Cleveland Browns looked horrible against the New York Giants after an 11 day lay-off. They didn’t look much better Saturday versus the Detroit Lions after a short five day break either. The Browns looked putrid on both sides of the ball failing to the Lion at Ford Field, 26-6. The loss dropped the Browns to 0-3 on the pre-season.

Speaking of threes, the Browns first team offense went three and out on its first three series of the game. After the first quarter, the Lions on led 6-0 but you would not have known that from the stat line. The Lions out-gained Cleveland 114 yard to 18 and held the ball for 11:37 compared the Browns’ 3:23.

Brady Quinn was a pedestrian 14-24 for 106 yards on the afternoon. He did not complete a pass over 16 yards and averages a measly 4.4 yards an attempt. Yes, he was without starters Braylon Edwards and Jamal Lewis but he was harassed all day and did not look cool, calm and collected in his first prolonged action against a first team defense.

He wasn’t the only one harassed as the Browns’ offensive line, one of the team’s perceived strengths, looked average for the second consecutive week. They seemed caught off guard with the Lions aggressive, blitzing defense as Quinn had Lions in his face all day and Jason Wright and Jerome Harrison did not find many holes to run through. Wright finished the day with eight carries for 42 yards but overall the running game was non-existent.

The defense looked as disjointed as the offense especially when missing both starting safeties, Sean Jones and Brodney Pool, outside linebacker Willie McGinest and pass rush specialist Antwaan Peek. They got some early pressure on Detroit quarterback Jon Kitna but we unable to close the deal on many occasions. Kamerion Wimbley was unfortunately in 2007 form and he was “close but no cigar” on Kitna three times in the first two series.

Both Kitna and back-up Dan Orlovsky picked apart the Browns linebackers and defensive backs, seeming dropping throws into open spaces all game long. Five different Detroit receivers had long receptions of 29, 21, 20, 20 and 19 yards respectively. The one time the Browns defense did get pressure they forced Orlovsky into a interception to back-up safety Nick Sorensen.

The only good, if you can call of that, for the defense was the return of Shawn Rogers. Big Baby had five tackles and the Lions’ combined total yardage for those plays was one yard. The Browns defensive line seemed to get good pressure early on but the linebackers were unable to clean-up in the backfield as usual.

This was no more apparent then when Detroit rookie running back Kevin Smith was caught in the backfield, stopped, cut back and scampered 35 yards for a touchdown and a 13-0 Lions’ lead. Even worse, Orlavsky, the quarterback, hustled down field and blocked both Sorensen and Brandon McDonald to allow Smith to vault over the goal line.

In what is supposed to be the final tune-up for the regular season the Browns looked awful flat and way too vanilla once again. Yes, the were missing their starting QB, RB and WR on offense and starting LB, FS and SS on defense but they just look like they are lacking the physical toughness they showed on both sides of the ball in 2007.

The excuse of “it’s only pre-season” will not be applicable in 2 weeks. The final week of the pre-season is normally reserved for those players working to earn those final precious roster spots but the fact that the Browns have not had their entire offensive of defensive units on the field together for more than a series or two is scary.

With the tough start to the regular season, the Browns can ill afford to stumble out of the gate in 2008. They have stumbled, mightily, in the exhibition season so far and have turned their fans’ highly and lofty expectations into grief and concern. They have 14 days to turn up the intensity, get everyone healthy and on the same page if they hope to avoid have 2008 live up to those expectations and temper their fans’ concerns.

No comments: