Optimism In Defeat: Cleveland at Green Bay
How quick the optimism has come and gone for Cleveland fans after the 17-0 shut out at Lambeau Field Saturday night. While to the untrained eye it may look like the Browns are doomed for another poor season, I beg to differ. Now that the dust has settled, for as many negatives that came out of the game against the Packers, there were quite a few positives to look at.
Assuming most people want the bad news first, here's the negatives:
1. Derek Anderson: In a pathetic display of any lack of NFL ability, Derek went 0-2 with an interception, and was a miracle the other one wasn't picked. Anderson looked flustered, shaky, and downright ridiculous trying to lead the offense down the field.
2. Braylon Edwards: I don't feel I even need to explain this one. Edwards had two big time errors, both at the expense of QB Brady Quinn in the end-zone. In the story of his career, Edwards dropped a touchdown pass that was right in his hands. On the very next play, Braylon ran a lackluster route and made no attempt to breakup the interception in front of him, or attempt a tackle after the fact.
3. Jamal Lewis: The 29 year old legs of Jamal Lewis, again, just weren't cutting it. After blaming last season on the injuries, it may be time to retire Lewis as the starting back. The role of a Jerome Bettis style back still finds him useful, but after witnessing the stutter-steps and hesitancy, it appears the days of starting are dwindling.
4. Offensive Line: The line continues to plague Cleveland. While the left side held strong, the play of the right side and center was largely ineffective. The official sack number was 3, but the hurries, knockdowns, and pressure allowed was atrocious. There was no push given to allow for adequate time for the quarterbacks or for space for the running backs to move.
5. Starting Secondary: With the exception of Eric Wright, who's coverage was spot-on all day, the starting secondary was awful. Abe Elam got beat a handful of times and got caught playing up too far while surrendering a touchdown by Rodgers over his head. Corey Ivy was inconsistent and cost them a penalty on a big 4th and 6 play, resulting in a first down. Lastly, Brodney Pool and Brandon McDonald both gave up steady receptions.
It definitely looked bad on paper, there's no positive way to say the score Packers 17, Browns 0. But there was a lot of potential displayed on the field, mostly in the youth and inexperienced players admittedly. As far as the positives go, here's a quick rundown.
1. Mike Furrey: After missing last season with an injury looked to have solid route running and steady hands. The comparisons to Joe Jurevicious have already been made, and by no means should that be taken negatively. He has experienced 1,000 yard seasons before in his career, and if he stays healthy this year, should put up good numbers in a slot position.
2. Josh Cribbs: On a quest to prove to the critics that he can indeed become a go-to receiver, Cribbs put together a solid preseason game and has looked sharp in practices. After being counted out as the #2 receiver this year opposite of Edwards, he looks to be ahead of the young receivers for the open slot.
3, Brady Quinn: Quinn showed poise and confidence and marched the offense down the field in both series, while going 7-11 with 68 yards. He did however fall short of scoring on both drives, due to a penalty on Hank Fraley and a dropped ball by Braylon Edwards.
4. Rookie Progress: Three players stepped up huge for the defense against Green Bay.
CB Coye Francies, LB David Veikune, and LB Marcus Benard.
-Francies had a brutal hit on a running back breaking for a hole in the line, showed great pass coverage, speed, and also came up with an interception.
-Veikune was always in the right place, and always around the ball. Mangini was right when he said he always has his motor running, wrapped up his tackles, and also came up with a pick.
-Benard is a surprise player all the way. Taking advantage of his opportunities, he came up with 5 solo tackles, and assisted on another. He very well may be on the 53 man roster if he keeps it up.
5. Surprise Standouts:
-Jerome Harrison is really turning into an all around player. In addition to his quickness and speed, he showed toughness and solid quarterback protection, picking up oncoming blitzes against Green Bay to give our passers the extra needed time.
-Aaron Walker has never been one to be a scoring threat, neither with the Rams or Browns. In practices and preseason however, he showed good skills, catching 3 balls for 48 yards Saturday and breaking up a would be interception from Brett Ratliff.
-Alex Hall is the likely candidate to take the outside line backer position from veteran David Bowens. While he may not start, he continues to put up impressive games and shows quickness off the edge and great pressure on the quarterbacks.
As you can see, it hasn't been all bad. Yes, we are without an offensive touchdown in seven games. But the improvement is on its way, the penalties are down, and there's no quit on this team. Call it optimism if you must, but I fully expect it to all come together by the beginning of the season. Next up, Detroit.
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