Browns: What We've Learned About Each Positional Unit so Far

Amy DittoeContributor IIIAugust 17, 2012

Browns: What We've Learned About Each Positional Unit so Far

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    Oh, preseason, you remind me of the interactions that happen right after last call. There's a fair amount of effort being put forth, but it's mostly just a bunch of people seeing what they can get away with. 

    Week 2 has come and gone, leaving Browns fans feeling both good and neurotically insecure about feeling good. It was a decisive victory, but we know more than ever that there's a lot of work to be done. 

    I could dissect every play and try to draw conclusions and make predictions, but I won't. It's preseason. The chips aren't down; we're barely past the slot machines. These games are mostly about experimentation, making adjustments and praying to Zeus that no one gets hurt. We've already had some issues with the latter. 

    While we can't be too liberal with our analysis, there are some lessons to be gleaned from certain preseason trends. Each positional unit has alternately shown flashes of brilliance and lapses in judgment. It's premature for cries of boom or bust, but we can make a few observations.

    In lieu of my own conclusions, I'll be following up my musings with the appropriate George Carlin quote. Because for Browns fans, having a sense of humor is just as important as owning a poncho. 

Quarterbacks

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    I'm not focusing on Seneca Wallace, but I thought it might be nice to display his picture for a change. He's basically the Maggie Simpson of the depth chart. 

    Brandon Weeden performed indisputably better against the Packers than against the Lions. Was it encouraging? Sure. Should we start picking out the script for my "BW" tattoo? Not quite yet. 

    If the Packers game has taught us anything, it's that Cleveland quarterbacks might just make up in depth what we lack in flash. Colt McCoy and Seneca Wallace both put up respectable performances, albeit against a second- and third-string Packers defense.

    A major takeaway from Thursday's matchup is that McCoy is still hungry to compete. I like that. There's nothing like a little nip at your heels to keep those feet moving, and Weeden might just be the better for it. 

    Weeden had a few nice completions, and he also made some questionable decisions. Welcome to a rookie season in the NFL. It's incredibly premature to draw conclusions from his first two performances, but we can be confident in Weeden's potential. He's got a great arm, and that's enough for now.

    As the fourth-ranked team in a division with three playoff-potential adversaries, we should be more than happy to embrace the learning curve. 

    He had a good game; let's pull back the pressure and continue to enjoy the show.

    Lesson according to George: "Just cause you got the monkeys off your back doesn't mean the circus has left town." Weeden's going to have good games. He will also have bad games, and he might also have a game that is nondescript. And it's fine. 

Running Backs

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    Yes, the fumble led to a hand-shaped imprint on my face for the remainder of the first quarter. But a couple of "atta boy"s definitely escaped my throat concerning Montario Hardesty. He ran hard and picked up some solid yardage in an effort that more than made up for a shaky start. I liked what I saw, but you could argue that I'm an easy sell.

    He's not the most explosive player on the field, but Hardesty is almost always good for a few hard-fought yards. It's worth noting that this isn't the scene we should expect for the season.

    Paired with the versatility and creative running that RIchardson will (hopefully) bring to the table, Montario could prove to be anything from a worthy backup to a solid threat at the line of scrimmage, particularly inside the five-yard line. 

    He's also running like he's got a chip on his shoulder, which makes him a bit of a wild card for opposing defenses. It's extremely difficult to predict where he'll go from here, but the effort is promising.

    Lesson according to George: "The status quo sucks." Buck it, Montario.

Wide Receivers

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    There were a couple moments tonight when Josh Gordon looked like me when my brother used to yell "Think fast!" and throw wet paper towels at my head. He was obviously nervous and a little too eager to prove himself. It's the kind of thing that's great in small doses and disastrous when it takes over. 

    Again, most of the analysis I've read is jumping to mega-quick conclusions about Gordon's viability in the NFL. Let's get some perspective. This kid hasn't played competitively in two years, and he's been hyped by a receiver-starved team and a scandal-loving media. He's a kid under pressure, and he's also a physical freak with untold potential. Maybe we should give him some time to realize it. 

    On a lighter note, Greg Little had some really nice moments tonight. He showed a talent for both finding space and creating it, showing off the scrappy adaptability that made him an attractive pick in the first place. 

    What have we learned from our receiving corps? Well, we actually have one, and that's pretty cool. Sure, there were a few dropped passes (the insufferable Kimmy Gibler that continually thwarted us last season), and that will have to be addressed. But it's already clear that our offense will have a few tricks up its sleeve this season, and that's good enough for me. 

    Lesson according to George: "The future will soon be a thing of the past." So if you drop a pass, just catch the next one, k?

Tight End(s)

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    With Ben Watson and Jordan Cameron out, Cleveland's tight ends have been fairly quiet as of late. 

    We have learned, however, that Evan Moore and Dan Gronkowski can occasionally catch the football. There was also a fair amount of assistance in run blocking, which will be even more important once Richardson returns. 

    To be honest, I like my tight ends like I like my coffee: modestly facilitating the rest of the day's events. I like it, I couldn't get through the day without it, but it doesn't necessarily play a starring role. 

    I've learned that the Browns tight ends are at least capable of that and perhaps more.

    Lesson from George: "May the forces of evil become confused on the way to your house." Hopefully our TEs are that layer of confusion. 

Offensive Line

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    This might be one of the most difficult units to assess in the preseason. There are just so many factors. 

    The line often acts and is judged as a whole, but the preseason is loaded with adjustments and substitutions on both sides of the ball. Regardless, this was a solid performance by what might turn out to be a surprisingly deep offensive line.

    Weeden took a few licks (see above), but all three QBs were ultimately able to take a little time in the pocket and line up some good-looking connections. The credit, in large part, goes to the guys who gave them time to do it.

    So what have we learned? Not only are a few of my offseason worries subsided, but it's also possible that we've tripped and fallen into a pretty reliable offensive line. Time will tell.

    Lesson from George: "Don't sweat the petty things, and don't pet the sweaty things." That's just good sense. 

Defense

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    The defensive line had a rough start. On a couple occasions, I wasn't sure if Rodgers was preparing to throw or looking for the Big Dipper. He certainly seemed to have the time to do both.

    Enter: Harrell. Exit: Doubts. Admittedly, Graham Harrell is largely responsible for making defenses look like impenetrable walls of awesomeness, but it was still nice to see so many three and outs. They need to watch their penalties, but otherwise it was a decent start. 

    The corps of defensive backs also stifled the Packers passing game. I particularly liked the effort from Buster Skrine and Trevin Wade, keeping the pressure on an already shaky Harrell.

    We certainly won't be given the gift of such an unsteady QB from now on, so it's not time to be predicting shutouts. However, the pass D showed their depth, gave a good show and reassured fans that our defense is still capable of keeping us in the tough games.

    Lesson from George: "Hooray for most things!" It won't always go well, but that's okay. Relative consistency is to be celebrated. 

Special Teams

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    Oh, Phil Dawson, you're the Danny to my Sandy. Only you don't smoke as much and you've never seen me in a pleather bodysuit.

    Dawson made a big impression tonight and furthered  his case to be considered one of the most solid kickers in the league. He kept his cool after a costly penalty and hit a 53-yarder without breaking a sweat.

    A kicker in the NFL is like a catalytic converter; the less you notice it, the better it's probably working. A couple years ago I dressed up as Graham Gano for Halloween to torture a good friend and diehard Redskins fan. I ran around with a Nerf football missing field goals all night. 

    If Dawson continues to perform like he did tonight, that friend will not be able to turn the tables. Don't let me down, Phil. 

    As icing on the cake, Josh Cribbs and Adonis Thomas had a couple nice returns. There's no greater gift than field position, particularly with an offense of potentially four starting rookies. Getting off to a good start is huge, and a couple big runs on special teams can make the difference. 

    Lesson from George: "No one knows what's next, but everybody does it." Keep pulling out those pretty runs, Cribbs.