Cleveland Browns Preseason: Week 3 Stock Report
This is the time of the preseason when the team should look like it is ready to complete with regular-season opponents. That certainly doesn’t look to be the case with the Cleveland Browns just yet.
This seems like an unfortunate time for a preseason stock report. For that reason, it is tough to imagine there will be too many stocks on the rise. Sometimes, timing can kill you.
Luckily, my stock reports will not count for any losses during the regular season. However, the Browns' preseason woes could quickly turn into regular-season losses if they are not careful.
Here is the Browns' stock report after Week 3 of the preseason.
Stock Up: Ben Tate
There were certainly some doubters when it came to running back Ben Tate in the offseason. He had never carried the full load of a running game and also had a history of injuries. So how would he perform as the full-time running back of the Browns?
So far, so good.
Tate has rushed 19 times for 81 yards through three games. He has yet to get into the end zone but has also been the lone bright spot on the Browns offense.
His average of 4.3 yards per carry is exactly where it has been for the last two years. That is a good sign.
The guy who was supposed to challenge for his job, Terrance West, has averaged just 2.8 yards per carry this preseason and has not looked ready to carry any kind of heavy workload.
As such, it is a good thing that Tate looks like the guy the Browns went heavily after this offseason. This offense is going to need him.
Stock Down: Brian Hoyer
How can you be named the starting quarterback of a team and still have your stock fall in the same week? Easy, just play as poorly as Brian Hoyer has in the last two games.
Throughout the preseason, Hoyer has completed just 50 percent of his passes, averaged just 5.3 yards per attempt, thrown an interception and fumbled once as well. That is not the start he was looking for.
One has to wonder if Hoyer’s season-ending injury last year has anything to do with his early struggles this year.
The one thing people seem to overlook on Brian Hoyer -- He's coming off the ACL. QBs are usually affected significantly in first year back.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) August 24, 2014
Even if that is the case, recovering from an injury is not a good enough excuse to hold the job. He will need to play significantly better to start the year if he doesn’t want to lose his spot to Johnny Manziel.
Stock Up: Joe Haden
Cornerback Joe Haden did not play in the team’s third preseason game and, boy, was his absence felt. With both he and Buster Skrine sitting on the sidelines, the Browns defense gave up 472 yards of total offense to the St. Louis Rams.
That wouldn’t be half as bad if it were against Sam Bradford. Unfortunately for the Browns—and obviouslty the Rams—Bradford suffered a season-ending knee injury in the first quarter and accounted for just 77 yards.
The rest of the damage was done by the Rams’ three backup quarterbacks.
The backups lit up the Browns' secondary to the tune of 330 yards and a whopping 8.3 yards per attempt.
Mary Kay Cabot of the Plain Dealer reports Haden will sit out the rest of the preseason so he is ready to go for the opener:
#Browns CB Joe Haden (sore foot) will sit out Thursday preseason finale, back for opener. CB Buster Skrine (thumb surgery) aiming for opener— Mary Kay Cabot (@MaryKayCabot) August 24, 2014
Stock Down: Johnny Manziel
If you are the first freshman to ever win the Heisman trophy, you lit college football on fire with your extraordinary playmaking ability and you were drafted into the NFL with the most hype in well over a decade, then not being named the starting quarterback is a disappointment.
Johnny Manziel failed to snag the starting quarterback job out of the gate. While that is fine in both his mind and the organization's, it is a cause for his stock to fall.
On the bright side, every time Manziel takes the field, you can see him settle a little more into the offense. You can also always see a play or two which will make you say, “Wow!”
If Hoyer continues to struggle into the regular season, then Browns fans may be seeing Manziel start sooner rather than later. It won’t matter if he is ready or not.
Stock Up: Chris Kirksey
According to the predraft scouting report by NFL.com's Nolan Nawrocki, Iowa's Chris Kirksey was considered a cover linebacker who is slightly undersized. That doesn’t sound like a guy who can play every down in the NFL and be effective.
So far through training camp and preseason, the scouting report looks inaccurate.
Sure, Kirksey can cover. He has blanketed tight ends, running backs and even some receivers so far this offseason. However, the guy is not afraid to get into the fray and make some hits either.
In fact, Tom Withers of The Associated Press reports he was voted as the winner of the Maurice Bassett Award by his fellow players:
#Browns reporters voted LB Chris Kirksey as Maurice Bassett Award winner, given to top rookie in training camp.— Tom Withers (@twithersAP) August 26, 2014
Kirksey made his presence felt in the goal-line drills during camp and has continued that momentum into the preseason games. His talents will be needed, as the Browns are very thin at inside linebacker.
Stock Down: Justin Gilbert
At some point, every rookie is thrown into the fire. For rookie cornerback Justin Gilbert, that time was Saturday night against St. Louis. He gave up a 75-yard touchdown pass to Chris Givens and was repeatedly picked on throughout his time in the game.
It was not a night Gilbert will remember fondly.
After the game, he spoke with reporters but was very angry and offered very little explanation for his play.
"It wasn't my best game," Gilbert said. ”I didn't make plays when I needed to, that's pretty much it."
It is hard to blame him for not wanting to speak with the media. His poor play said everything that needed to be said. I asked Gilbert after the game if having to play without Joe Haden and Buster Skrine could help him in the long run. He looked at me like I was crazy.
In due time, he will see that being thrown into the fire is exactly what he needed. It will make him a better corner.
Stock Up: Taylor Gabriel
Of all the receivers the team was hoping would step up, only Taylor Gabriel has made any headway toward making the squad.
The undrafted free agent from Abilene Christian has not only made a name for himself in the receiving game, but also in the return game. Gabriel leads the team with eight receptions for 90 yards. He has consistently been open and has become one of Johnny Manziel's favorite targets.
He also has four kickoff returns for 127 yards, including a long return of 68 yards on Saturday night.
#Browns undrafted rookie WR Taylor Gabriel making push to make team. 68 yards on KO return— Scott Petrak ct (@ScottPetrak) August 24, 2014
The coaches have noticed his play, and there is certainly a good chance Gabriel will make the team. If he finishes the preseason strongly, he should find himself active for Week 1 in Pittsburgh.
Stock Down: Kyle Shanahan
So this stock report is supposed to be for players only, but it has been such a poor preseason for the offense that I had to add in offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan.
The Browns have the third-worst offense in the NFL through three preseason games and have completed just two passes of more than 20 yards. The quarterback competition has looked dismal at best and the scheme, which emphasizes short passing routes, looks antiquated.
Most of that has to do with the fact that it is a brand-new system and has only really been installed for the last four weeks. A lot of that should look better the further into the season we get.
Unfortunately, for now, Shanahan and his system are not impressing many people. For that, his stock is most certainly down. Or maybe, as suggested by Scott Petrak of the Chronicle-Telegram, he is just trying to set up the Steelers in Week 1:
Another thought from #Browns tape. Where's the deep ball? Maybe Kyle Shanahan's setting up the Steelers.— Scott Petrak ct (@ScottPetrak) August 24, 2014