Well, after the Browns ended the 2009 season on the strength of a stifling defense and power running game it only makes sense that they would open the 2010 exhibition season throwing the ball all over the place in a 27-24 win over the Green Bay Packers. The only thing that makes sense for the Browns since their reincarnation in 1999 is that they never make sense.
Taking the opening kick-off and never looking back, Jake Delhomme temporarily tabled talks of his sub-par Training Camp with a 6 for 7 effort that spread the ball around to Mohammed Massaquoi, Brian Robiskie and Evan Moore. Delhomme look sharp, decisive and in control, qualities that have rarely been associated with a Browns quarterback in the past few years. It was Delhomme’s only series on the night but it was a refreshing sight to see the Browns offense come out strong from the beginning for once.
Delhomme looked good but Seneca Wallace may have looked even better. Undersized but athletic, Wallace kept the Green Bay defense off balance by rolling out of the pocket and keeping plays alive with his legs. He hit Robiskie in the back corner of the endzone for one touchdown and then threw a perfect pass down the seam to Tight End Ben Watson for another. If Delhomme does falter at some point it appears the Browns do have a viable option in their back pocket.
Colt McCoy did a good job of putting the minority calling for him to get more snaps to bed as he looked awful in almost two quarters of work. Five for ten for only 25 yards and two awful, awful interceptions showed why he needs to “redshirt” in 2010 and learn from the veterans. Some of the pundits thought he might be he top QB prospect in this year’s draft but he does need to sit and learn for at least a year. Tim Couch and Charlie Frye would agree with that sentiment wholeheartedly.
Other than that it was good to see the Browns pick up some short yardage with Jerome Harrison running behind Lawrence Vickers and the offensive line. They may have thrown it around the field yesterday but the Browns are still going to want to stuff it down the opposition’s throat during the regular season.
Peyton Hillis also flashed his patented hands on a few screens and may be a nice third down option out of the back field. Moore lined up in the slot a lot which is a nice option in two tight ends sets with Watson. I have a hunch these guys are going to catch a ton of balls this year. The best sign was that despite the presence of any big names at the skill positions the Browns spread the ball around and kept the defense off balance… without any Wildcat or Cyclone packages. That is a very good thing.
The defense however did not fair as well on the day. Aaron Rodgers, and Matt Flynn after him, and his receiving core picked apart the Browns defense for their entire stay. Rodgers was 10 for 10 with a TD in the first two Green Bay drives on the night. Greg Jennings burnt rookie T. J. Ward on the first score and fullback Jon Kuhn bulled over Ward from 2 yards out for the second. Ward wasn’t the only offender on the tackling front and the Browns seemed to have trouble wrapping up and taking down the Packers all night.
The only good things that stood out were the fact the Browns were stout against the run all night across the board. Ahtyba Rubin forced a fumble on Green Bay’s first play from scrimmage and makes the whispers of Shaun Rogers moving to end make sense. Ward was everywhere despite being picked on at times a delivered big hit from the safety position that the Browns have not seen since 1995. Marcus Bernard or Jason Trusnik may not make the team due to the linebacking depth the Browns have, but both guys are high motor guys that are all over the place that will find a place elsewhere if not here.
Kudos to Phil Dawson for drilling field goals of 58 and 46 yards to win the game (and prevent the dreaded pre-season overtime). Joe Thomas and Josh Cribbs are special players, but after them Dawson may be the third best player on the team since their rebirth. He’s clutch, has made ridiculous kicks in adverse conditions and gets better as the years go on.
With Dave Zastudil out Reggie Hodges was hit and miss with punting duties and it wouldn’t surprise me if Zastudil is not ready that the Browns scour the waiver wire after cut to find a more reliable option. Zastudil, like Dawson, quietly spoils us with his consistency at an often ignored position. Dropping over HALF his kicks inside the twenty before getting hurt last year is a sick statistic, especially when you consider how much the Browns punted last year.
Its back home for #1 pick Sam Bradford and the St. Louis Rams next Saturday night. Hopefully we’ll get to see a little more of Delhomme and the first team O and the defense can step it up. It was a very impressive debut and let’s hope things get even better. A brutal regular season schedule awaits in 3 weeks and the Browns need all the confidence going into 2010 that they can generate.