The Cleveland Browns continued their winning off of their four game winning streak to close out the 2009 season, with a victory against the Packers 27-24 albeit it was just the first preseason game of the year.
After being at over a half dozen training camp practices, I was very interested to see how the rebuilt defense played against a high-powered and potent offensive attack of the Packers' first team offense.
Here are some observations I had mainly of the first teamers on defense and some of the younger players on that side of the ball too.
When the Browns traded for Brown with the Eagles they needed to bring on not only a starter, but they also needed a veteran who could come in and help mentor the younger defensive backs.
Plus, he presence alone creates competition on the field which is always a good thing.
Last night, Brown played good defense with tight coverage and he played the run well too darting in on a Ryan Grant run and hitting the running back hard for a minimal gain.
Brown was also the player who recovered Grant's fumble on the Packers's first offensive possession.
I have been a big supporter of Elam's since last year was his first as a full-time starter as a strong safety despite all the other fans' claims that his terrible pass coverage will continue to hurt the Browns this season.
Well, I saw it first hand on two consecutive passes that Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw to tight end Jermichael Finley.
As a strong safety, Elam is supposed to be over the tight end and Finley is his responsibility when there is a pass.
Finley was wide open on both those passes from Rodgers with Elam finally coming onto the TV screen after the damage was done and Finley gained bug chunks of yards.
Elam must improve this part of his game, but it could have also been the fact that it was indeed the first preseason game of the year season.
When defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin was inserted into the starting lineup as the centerpiece of the defensive line last year due to Shaun Rogers' injury, the run defense cut its rush yards given up per game by nearly 50 yards per game.
Against a good runner in Packers' running back Ryan Grant, the Browns held up well and got good gap penetration to keep Grant in check along with causing an early fumble.
Rookie first round cornerback Joe Haden got the starting nod over Eric Wright, who was recovering from a hamstring injury.
Haden got to go up against two Packers wide receivers, who each had over 1,000 yards in 2009.
A big first challenge for the rookie.
Haden had his good and bad moments in coverage and even though he was blanketing receiver Greg Jennings on several plays.
Jennings showed why he is one of the top young players in the NFL and was able to fight through Haden's tight coverage and catch the ball anyway.
Good first outing though for Haden and if he can cover the AFC North receivers like he did Saturday night, then he should have a good first year in the NFL.
Haden wound up with three total tackles and one pass defended.
Benard was an undrafted rookie last season, who caught defensive coordinator Rob Ryan's eye and last November, Benard broke out with a two sack performance against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
During training camp, I have not seen Benard make much of an impact in practices, but he is obviously the type of player that saves his best for game day.
Benard was second on the Browns in total tackles with eight, one tackle for a loss, one sack, and one quarterback hit.
With depth at linebacker, Benard is standing out as one of the players who will get more reps the more he plays like that this preseason.
I will be honest in saying that I was on the fence about Ward until I went to my third or fourth Browns camp practice, when he started making plays and being disruptive on the defense and since then I counted the days until he could get into a real game and hit people.
And boy did he hit against the Packers to the tune of nine total tackles that led the Browns and many of those tackles were big hits too.
Whether he was in the defensive backfield, or rushing the passer, Ward was everywhere and around the ball consistently which are all great signs that he was the right pick for the Browns who need their own version of Bob Sanders or Troy Polamalu on defense.
Ward may be several years off to becoming the caliber of safety those two are, but he is already on his way because he delivered and all the reports from the offseason program and training camp are all as advertised.
Not to knock Ward down from his great first game, but he was beaten by Jennings on his touchdown catch in the first quarter, when Ward had to shift over in coverage and go man-to-man when Haden blitzed the quarterback.
Also, Ward was over powered by Packers full back John Kuhn on the goalline in the second quarter but Kuhn does have about 35 pounds on Ward too.
Great game overall for the rookie, who had many questions coming in to Cleveland.
The Browns surprisingly had 40 sacks on defense last year and they look to improve on that with linebacker Matt Roth being on board for a full season and the additions of linebackers Scott Fujita and Chris Gocong.
Defensive coordinator Ryan seemed to be holding back because there were no exotic formations and crazy blitzes that he is known for and Browns fans will see all of that in the regular season.
The Browns did register one sack by Benard and four quarterback hits, but they need more pressure than that.
Once Shaun Rogers returns to the defense that will help too since Rogers is one of the most disruptive lineman in the NFL and he alone can change the pass rush especially if he does start playing as a defensive end this season.
Moving over to Special Teams and the coverage teams, which held the Packers' returners in check.
The Browns had one of the best Special Teams units in 2009 and they have a good combination of gunners which include both Josh Cribbs and Blake Costanzo.
Surprisingly, Ward was on the coverage unit as a gunner for a couple of kicks and he also made a nice ankle tackle to stop a returner right when he caught the ball.
Special Teams looks to be strong once again for this upcoming season.
A 58-yarder and a game winning 46-yarder, 'nuf said.
The final Browns player who has seen it all on this team since its rebirth in 1999 kicked the ball as if he was a younger version of himself.
The 11 year veteran and 35 year old Dawson really wants a new contract from the Browns and he is in the last year of his current deal.
Setting aside his differences with the team, Dawson is set to prove to Mike Holmgren and the new front office that he is worthy of a new deal, and if he continues to kick like this then he will be able to retire as a Cleveland Brown after getting his new deal.
Just wait until Holmgren and the others see how good Dawson can kick in the crazy weather on the shores of Lake Erie.
Dawson was easily the Player of the Game.
The defense looked good for being the first real game time experience as a unit and they will only get better when starting cornerback Eric Wright and defensive lineman Rogers come back in to play.
Ward was surprisingly awesome, Haden looked good against Pro Bowl-caliber receivers, and the run defense was solid.
Once all the starters are in and healthy that should help the pass defense more once the regular season begins too.
In the end, it was only the first preseason game, but leaps and bounds were made already and while I was watching with a friend of mine, we both commented on how it was like we were watching a Browns team that we had never sen before....and that's a good thing!