Cleveland Browns: What We've Learned Through Week 2 of the Preseason
Each week of the preseason produces new revelations. For the Cleveland Browns, some of those revelations aren’t what they might have wanted.
By this point in the preseason, the Browns were hoping to have a clear-cut favorite at the quarterback position and hopeful that positions of weakness would begin to strengthen. Neither of those things has happened.
To say the Browns’ quarterbacks flopped on prime-time television against Washington would be an understatement. Both Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel looked like they were nowhere near ready to start Week 1.
Despite all of that, according to Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, head coach Mike Pettine is determined to name a starting quarterback in the next 48 hours.
Before we learn who that is, however, let’s take a look at what we have learned through the second week of the preseason.
Johnny Manziel Is Not Ready
Most people were surprised by how poised Johnny Manziel was in his first preseason game. It was not the same story in the second game.
He was flustered and rushed, and eventually the frustration boiled over with him giving the one-finger salute to Washington’s sideline.
Manziel finished the game 7-of-16 for 65 yards and a touchdown. The touchdown came in the fourth quarter against guys fighting for a roster spot.
He had a golden opportunity to snag the starting job after Brian Hoyer struggled mightily, but he really didn’t look good. Now Mike Pettine will have to decide between two quarterbacks who played very poorly throughout camp and the first two preseason games.
Unfortunately for Manziel, he is light-years behind in the experience department, and that will most likely be the difference.
Hoyer Continues to Underwhelm
Brian Hoyer didn’t do much better than Johnny Manziel on Monday night. In fact, his numbers were even worse than Manziel’s.
Hoyer finished the game 2-of-6 for 16 yards. That is just 2.7 yards per attempt.
Hoyer was better than Manziel in game management and suffered from some drops by his wide receivers. He also was the victim of an abundance of run plays.
The biggest factor leaning in Hoyer’s favor is time. Mike Pettine has said he wants to name a starter this week, and that means the competition is essentially over. Neither quarterback wowed during the preseason, but Hoyer has the NFL experience.
You could make an argument that Pettine should wait another week or two to name the starter. Judging by the lack of chemistry on offense Monday night, however, naming a starter sooner rather than later would be the smart mover.
All signs seem to point to Hoyer, as underwhelming as he has been.
Defense Continues to Impress
The Browns played their first-team defense for the entire first half, and they looked good. Despite an abundance of penalties for the secondary (more on that later), they looked every bit as good as advertised.
Even though they were shorthanded, the defense allowed just seven points through the first half and forced three turnovers, including two interceptions. Joe Haden and Tashaun Gipson both snagged passes from Washington quarterbacks.
The defensive line was the highlight of the game, however. Phil Taylor, Armonty Bryant and Billy Winn all stood out. The line as a whole kept Washington out of the end zone with a goal-line stand early in the second quarter.
Linebackers Paul Kruger, Barkevious Mingo and Jabaal Sheard all spent quite a bit of time in the backfield, which is a really good sign for the defense.
The Browns are still struggling with depth issues at certain positions. Inside linebacker was the one spot that everyone had their eye on heading into camp.
Craig Robertson did nothing to help the situation with his play on Monday night. He missed a tackle, was burned in coverage multiple times and was trucked by Washington running back Evan Royster for a touchdown near the end of the second quarter.
He was an Achilles' heel last season, and it looks like that might continue this year.
At the guard position, injuries are hurting what was supposed to be a strong offensive line. Paul McQuistan did not play on Monday night and has taken most of the snaps with the second-team offensive line throughout camp.
Unfortunately, John Greco, who has been the starter, hasn’t been playing very well. When he plays poorly, it makes right tackle Mitchell Schwartz look worse than he really is. The Browns need to reevaluate the right side of the line quickly, because it did not look good once again against Washington.
Injuries Are a Problem
Like most teams in the dog days of training camp, injuries are starting to pile up for the Browns. They were missing players in multiple key positions on Monday night.
Buster Skrine, who was looking to build on a very solid 2013 campaign, suffered a thumb injury, and it is at least mildly serious. ESPN NFL insider Adam Caplan reported that he did have surgery but expects to be back soon.
Also missing the game were offensive lineman Paul McQuistan, wide receiver Nate Burleson and defensive lineman Desmond Bryant.
Bryant is a guy who is a beast when he is on the field but has had quite a few injures over the past few years. He will need to prove he can stay on the field. Burleson, on the other hand, just needs to get on the field period. More on that in the next slide.
Nate Burleson on the Chopping Block?
Despite the fact that the Browns are in dire straits at the wide receiver position, veteran Nate Burleson could be in danger of not making the team.
He has yet to play in a preseason game and barely practiced with the team. The only thing that could save him is the fact that no one else has stepped up in his absence.
Each practice has been as underwhelming as the previous for the receiver position, and Monday night’s game was no different. Taylor Gabriel and Willie Snead each had three catches, but they were mostly in garbage time.
Andrew Hawkins and Josh Gordon were targeted eight times and caught just two passes. Miles Austin, who will probably start as the primary receiver for the Browns, didn’t even catch a pass.
So despite his terrible preseason, Burleson has a shot by default.
The Team Is Sloppy
Browns practices have been very sloppy, and the referees have certainly been busy, but nothing was as ugly as Monday night. The game was nearly impossible to watch because of how much laundry hit the field.
The Browns had 10 penalties for 54 yards, and most of them were thrown against the starting offense and defense.
Joe Haden had two penalties, Joe Thomas had a penalty, and almost no one looked like they were playing very disciplined football. The secondary were the biggest offenders, and it will certainly take some time to adjust to the NFL’s new rules.
Mike Pettine cannot be happy with the amount of offenses his team had in the second preseason game, and I would imagine he will make some adjustments in practice to try to help alleviate the issue.
Gordon Decision Expected This Week
The Browns may finally be close to a resolution in wide receiver Josh Gordon’s appeal. When the appeal was first reported, his lawyers said they expected a resolution within one to three weeks. That story came out in The Cleveland Plain Dealer on August 4. Three weeks would be next Monday.
Before the Browns took on the Redskins, however, ESPN’s Adam Schefter said on Countdown to Kickoff that he expects a ruling to come down this week. That would be welcome news for Mike Pettine and Browns fans alike.
The team has been begging for clarity on the situation for months, and now they may finally have it.