Browns vs Packers: Cleveland's Biggest Winners & Losers from Preseason Week 2
It's hard to nitpick and find under-performing players in a blowout win, but bad luck may have struck the Browns once again in at least one area.
Who were Cleveland's biggest winners and losers against the Pack?
Brandon Weeden: Winner
On the first drive, Weeden missed Josh Cribbs on a shallow crossing route and wound up nearly throwing an interception. The next play, he checked it down to Cribbs perhaps after getting an earful from him, and missed Josh Gordon for a big gain on third-and-long.
Other than that, it's difficult to poke holes in Weeden's showing. He was efficient, completing 12 of 20 passes for 119 yards and didn't turn it over.
Weeden was flushed to the outside a couple of times early, and doesn't seem to possess the mobility to make plays outside the pocket.
However, he improved his pocket presence as the game progressed, particularly on a third-down conversion with 6:30 left in the second quarter.
Packers cornerback Brandian Ross broke free and lit up Weeden, who took the blow and rifled it to Jordan Norwood for a first down.
Two nice strikes to Greg Little, including the throw in the middle of zone coverage to set up the Browns' first touchdown, were particularly notable.
Overall, Weeden has a lot of positives to take away from this game. Against a talented, athletic defense with a tricky 3-4 scheme, the rookie quarterback held up extremely well.
Montario Hardesty and Chris Ogbonnaya: Losers
Fumbling on the first play of the game isn't exactly the best way to make your case at nailing down a roster spot.
Trent Richardson is going to be the focal point of this offense, but Hardesty didn't stand out enough from the other options on his squad. His No. 2 spot may be in jeopardy.
Hardesty simply doesn't bring much versatility to the table. A line of 12 carries for 45 yards also doesn't exactly scream, "Wow!"
Brandon Jackson wasn't particularly impressive running the ball either, but at least he showed off his pass-catching ability. He is also better at picking up blitzes than Hardesty is, which will be key for Brandon Weeden this season.
Oh, and Adonis Thomas ran very hard, losing his helmet plowing forward for a first down.
It seems parting ways with Ogbonnaya is inevitable after losing carries to Thomas, and Hardesty didn't make a big impression for a player who should be a starter at this point.
Think about it: The team selects Colt McCoy in the third round, and brings in a late first-rounder to replace him. Hardesty is picked in the second round, and a top-three pick is brought in to replace him.
The Browns should consider letting Hardesty go in favor of developing Thomas, an undrafted rookie out of Toledo. Thomas also had a nice 34-yard kickoff return, and could provide another spark on special teams.
Josh Gordon and Greg Little: Winners
Okay, so Gordon dropped a wide-open pass, but he already looks better than Mohammed Massaquoi.
That is a victory in and of itself for Gordon, because it means he will likely line up opposite Greg Little in the starting lineup during Week 1.
It was vital for Gordon to redeem himself after a poor first outing, and he definitely showed signs of life in this game.
Gordon had two nice 19-yard receptions on the evening, one from Weeden and a contact-absorbing snag from Colt McCoy.
The leading receiver was Little, with four catches for 45 yards on five targets. The only one he didn't come down with was yet another easy grab that turned into a drop.
That said, Little continued to flash the ability the Browns were hoping to see when they took him in the second round of last year's draft.
This duo is expected to be Cleveland's playmaking future in the passing game. They at least gave the impression on Thursday night that they would live up to those expectations someday. Hopefully for the Browns, it's sooner rather than later.
Defensive Line: Losers
Outside of Emmanuel Stephens being in the right place at the right time, it was a pretty abysmal showing from the Browns' front four.
Stephens and the other defensive ends got absolutely zero pressure on Aaron Rodgers. John Hughes and Billy Winn didn't generate any movement from the inside.
It's unclear why Ahtya Rubin didn't suit up for this one, but the Browns could have used him in the short time Green Bay's first-team line was on the field.
Again, this is a bit of a nitpick. Once the second and third units went in, the Browns were able to stuff the run and pressure Graham Harrell better.
Not that it was difficult to contain Harrell, who broke off a couple nice runs but was extremely ineffective passing the ball.
Colt McCoy: Winner
The third-year quarterback out of Texas may not be the quarterback of the future of the Cleveland Browns. Nevertheless, he is playing for his future this preseason.
Scouts from 10 NFL teams were on hand at Lambeau Field, and there are definitely eyes on McCoy for teams with thin quarterback depth.
McCoy looked stellar in his only drive, completing four of six passes for 58 yards, leading to Brandon Jackson's one-yard touchdown run.
The Browns may be wise to keep McCoy, because he looks like a very capable backup.
Considering how he wasn't given a legitimate shot to compete for the starting job, though, McCoy deserves to be shipped out of town if the Browns can manage it.
As ESPNCleveland.com's Tony Grossi originally suggested, the Packers themselves may be among the teams interested in McCoy.
I didn't necessarily agree with this view before Thursday's game, but after watching Graham Harrell sling it around...
Need I say anything more?
Trevin Wade: Loser
Getting his first start and seeing extended action, the rookie seventh-round pick had some nice pass breakups and justified his move to first-team nickleback.
The fact that Wade is losing had nothing to do with how he played. Rather, he was carted off in the fourth quarter with a leg injury, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer's Mary Kay Cabot.
Perhaps the action Wade got extended a touch too far. Depending on the severity of the injury, this could be a huge blow to the secondary.
The Browns will be even more shorthanded on the back end if it's serious, which will force Buster Skrine and James Dockery to step up in a big way.
Injuries to Dimitri Patterson and now Wade, along with a possible four-game suspension for Joe Haden, may ultimately spell doom for the pass defense.
Updates on this situation will follow as it develops.
Sheldon Brown: Winner
When Brown stripped Randall Cobb on a quick hit, Emmanuel Stephens ambled down the field for a huge return. Unfortunately, he stepped out of bounds about five yards into a 30-plus gain.
That was the story of the night for the Browns first-team defense, who didn't have to face Aaron Rodgers but for two series.
The veteran Brown made the biggest impact by far amongst the Browns starters, and showed at age 34 that he has plenty left in the tank.
Cleveland will need Brown to play smart and well, especially in the wake of Trevin Wade's injury and inexperienced Eric Hagg playing free safety.
Phil Dawson: Winner
For my money—and the $3.8 million the Browns are paying him with the franchise tag—Phil was the MVP of the game.
A boneheaded holding penalty by Oniel Cousins backed Dawson up 10 yards, but he managed to cap off the first offensive drive by pounding home a 53-yard field goal. Another booming 47-yard kick followed to move the Browns within 7-6 in the first quarter.
After the Browns' first touchdown, the sabotage from Cousins continued.
Another penalty on the offensive tackle pushed the kicking unit back 10 yards again, but Dawson drilled home the 35-yard extra point.
In the second quarter, Dawson booted a 53-yarder through the uprights into a headwind, and even prevented a kickoff return for a touchdown on the next play.
Dawson showed he was human by missing from 56 at the end of the first half, but the damage had been done.
It is still to be determined whether the Browns will actually be competitive enough for Dawson's kicks to matter.
Regardless, Dawson showed that no matter what hardships the team faces this year, he'll continue to be rock steady.