Eagles vs. Browns: Cleveland's Biggest Winners and Losers from Preseason Week 3
Me during the first five minutes of the game: "Man! How am I going to pick any 'losers'?!"
Me during the rest of the game: "Man! How am I going to pick any 'winners'?!"
It's true, we had a rough night tonight. But it is preseason, and all successes and failures must be taken with a grain of salt. Preferably, that grain of salt is around the rim of a stiff margarita.
There were some bright spots, and we'll get another crack at the Eagles in a little over two weeks. In the meantime, I humbly suggest we look at tonight as the architect of a valuable to-do list. I don't think I need to remind my fellow Cleveland fans of what happens when you coast along with a fragile sense of euphoria. Losing games can be a good thing, especially when those games don't count toward your regular season record.
Not to sound like your Aunt Millie, but there really are no "losers" based on one game. However, here is a list of those who swam and those who sank in tonight's matchup.
Winner: Josh Gordon
We didn't see a lot of him, but the small dose of Josh Gordon was a good one.
Gordon had just three receptions for 50 yards, and better yet, they were very pretty to watch. Tonight was a snapshot of what a Gordon/Weeden connection can do for an offense coming off a season with the most dropped passes in the league. It showed that Gordon may have been worth his fairly high price. At the very least, he's improving.
That's in addition to the whispers that he's been gaining confidence in practice.
To quote from Legally Blonde (shut up), "[He's] got all the equipment, [he] just needs to read the manual." Gordon's capable of being a major playmaker; we saw that (briefly) at Baylor. He's becoming more comfortable with himself before our eyes.
And although we can tend to be a bit impatient in win-starved Cleveland, he's actually doing it pretty quickly.
Loser: Greg Little
Again, I'm not saying the guy's a "loser", per se. He had a very quiet night, and the most memorable moment was a missed connection with Weeden. It happens.
However, those missed connections simply cannot continue to happen in the regular season. It's like burning your last piece of bread in the toaster: heartbreaking, and you curse yourself and swear you'll never do it again. Okay, but you've still ruined breakfast.
Greg Little is, in a strange turn of events, the veteran on this receiving squad. As such, he doesn't necessarily need to be flashy, but he does need to be consistent and level-headed. We've got enough wild cards in our many offensive rookies.
Again, he had an off night. But let's hope he gets it out of his system before September 9.
Winner(s): Joe Haden and David Sims
The bright spots on the Browns' dim-ish defense, these two gave us some pretty encouraging highlights. Haden came up with a gorgeous interception, and Sims showed impressive field vision and, at times, just seemed to be everywhere.
After an obnoxiously overblown episode this week, Haden and Shurmur both proved that hiccups in practice don't have to effect the game. Haden must have been pretty rough on Benjamin to be thrown out of practice. Honestly, I'd rather see that than laziness and despondence.
Unfortunately, the defensive line put a frustratingly small amount of pressure on Foles. However, there are two sides to the ball, and Philly's defense and pass protection looked fantastic nearly the entire game. It's something to work on, but Haden and Sims showed us that we do have a couple passionate difference makers to watch regardless.
Loser: Jason Pinkston
Oh Jason, why? Why two penalties in the first quarter?
Pinkston showed an alarming amount of carelessness during his limited time on the field. While I don't put a great deal of emphasis on stats in the preseason, I think it's entirely warranted to regard penalties the same way we do in the regular season. Sloppiness is sloppiness, and it's a hard habit to break. Preseason is the perfect time to tighten things up so those things don't happen when it really counts.
But I digress. Pinkston also had a couple of missteps in pass protection—one of which may well have led to a fumble. He can't be doing that with a rookie quarterback behind him.
Winner: Evan Moore
Evan Moore played like a guy fighting for his spot. That's good, because he's a guy fighting for his spot.
The tight end spot is very much up in the air, particularly since Benjamin Watson has yet to play. Evan Moore wasn't the flashiest guy on the field today, but he did provide a consistent offensive threat that was eventually cashed in.
And while I am hesitant to place a great deal of emphasis on any one play, can we please talk about that touchdown reception? He's a big dude, but he stutter stepped like a nimble 180-pound veteran receiver. It showed a great deal of poise, especially for a third or fourth string tight end on an as-yet mediocre offense.
If Evan keeps up the good work, he might just see some serious minutes this season.
Loser: Special Teams
Josh Cribbs had a couple of nice receptions, but that's where the romance ended for Cleveland's special teams. There was a silent but deadly killer this game, and it wasn't what you might think.
Field position consistently doomed our offensive drives from the very beginning. It was largely the result of fantastic kicking on Philly's part, but a couple of fair catches and mediocre returns didn't help our case.
Combined with the blocked punt, it was an ugly day for everyone. Punt and kick returns are major wild cards when you factor in the defensive prowess of the opposing squad, but this game certainly gave us some issues to address in practice.
Winner: Cleveland Backup QBs
Once again, Colt McCoy made a major case on his own behalf.
He looked calm, experienced and, perhaps most importantly, mobile. Running for his own fourth down conversion, McCoy proved again that he is capable of keeping a drive alive under pressure. At the very least, this is going to keep the quarterback position interesting.
McCoy was also responsible for the Browns' only TD, with a nicely thrown ball into tight coverage to Evan Moore.
I'm not going to write a letter to my mom about Seneca Wallace, but he certainly didn't look bad. The Browns' offense is a lot of things, but a one-man show is not one of them. And it's nice to know that one broken thumb or torn rotator cuff wouldn't be enough to completely obliterate our season.
Loser: Brandon Weeden/Offensive Line
Don't get me wrong, I am a major proponent of cutting Weeden as much slack as possible until his mistakes actually count for something.
But there were mistakes. There were a lot of them. After an opening drive that had me "WOO!"ing so loud that the cat freaked out and scratched me, Weeden fumbled under pressure, and the rest was history.
Let's be honest, though. The offensive line didn't do Weeden any favors, and there comes a time when they must be regarded as a unit. Many of his mistakes happened under immense pressure. That should bear perhaps more heavily on the line than on the guy who was stripped.
Plus, there were some positives. He made a couple risky passes in the beginning that wound up looking both poetic and entirely intentional. Admittedly, he's got to hold onto the football. But Weeden showed us tonight that he can thread the needle, and that makes this Browns fan pretty hopeful.
BONUS Loser: The pizza I made at halftime.
Seriously, broccoli on a pizza? Whole grain crust? It's like I don't even know myself anymore.
Until next time, Browns fans!
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