Cleveland Browns: Winners and Losers from Preseason Week 1
It's early and the Browns weren't perfect, but the infinite improvement to the team over last season is showing already.
Following are the top 10 winners and losers for the Browns' opening effort of 2011. Please be sure to share your own winners and losers in the comments below!
1. Winner: Colt Mccoy
In just over a quarter of play, QB Colt McCoy posted some very pretty numbers: 9/10, 135 yards, a TD, and a 152.1 QB rating.
Obviously, we're all happy to see our QB of the future put up such impressive stats, but that really wasn't the best part. What was most impressive about McCoy was the way he drove the ball down the field with authority, accuracy and grace.
There are about a million adjectives I'd like to attach to my descriptions of Colt's effort Saturday night, but the word at the forefront of my mind is definitely "decisive."
McCoy looked commanding on nearly every play, like a guy who was born to do this and who could lead a team with poise and confidence. McCoy has been the subject of so much talk since he was drafted that it's easy to forget that he's only 24 years old.
To be able to display such an aura of command at that age is truly an impressive feat.
2. Loser: Colt McCoy Haters
After last night's performance, I was stunned how many Browns "fans" were still criticizing McCoy and asserting that he wasn't a viable option as an NFL QB.
Obviously, nobody is naming him as a potential MVP candidate right now, but at this point all evidence indicates that he's a great leader, an accurate passer, and an excellent fit for the Browns' new West Coast offense. Those who say otherwise just come off as attempting to save face on criticisms of McCoy dating back to last season.
Is McCoy perfect? Of course not. Will be ever be a Hall of Fame QB? I highly doubt it. But the more important question is, will he need to be? Again, of course not.
The Browns have built an offensive system which caters to a QB with intelligence, field vision and accuracy, not a bomb thrower. Everybody wants to find another Johnny Unitas, but some folks tend to forget that many, many QBs who don't have that kind of launch power have been very successful and have won Super Bowls.
So let's just let Colt actually fail before we all start condemning him to that, shall we? Support your quarterback until he gives you a reason not to.
3. Winner: Pat Shurmur
Unlike in the case of Colt McCoy, I completely understand the skepticism that has followed new head coach Pat Shurmur leading up to the start of the 2011 season.
He has very little experience in a big time NFL coaching role, and none as a head coach until now. He tapped himself to be his own offensive coordinator back in the spring, a bold (and seemingly foolish) move for a rookie head coach.
And yet, he's delivered thus far exactly as advertised. Obviously, you don't get much credit as a head coach for coming out on top of one preseason game, but Shurmur still definitely deserves some credit for his work last night.
The playcalling looked so superior to what we saw last year that you could barely tell it was the same team. And in a way, it isn't, thanks to the excellent work by the new coaching regime.
Shurmur made no playcalling errors in the game and won his first challenge as an NFL head coach with an astute observation of Green Bay's faux catch in the fourth.
It will take at least a few regular season games before we can say for certain, but it sure seems like the right move for all of us to throw our lots in with Shurmur. A tip of the helmet to you, Pat. I was impressed.
4. Loser: Backup Quarterbacks
With the exception of Green Bay second-stringer Matt Flynn (who may be the NFL's best backup) , all of the backup QBs for both teams in Saturday night's game looked, well, kind of awful.
At the very bottom of the heap was Green Bay's Graham Harrell, who just looked like he couldn't do anything right. Jarrett Brown followed him pretty closely, though to be fair, he didn't get many opportunities. We'll just have to hope the interception he threw on his first play in the game was an anomaly.
What may be more concerning was the performance turned in by Browns' second-stringer Seneca Wallace.
Wallace started out alright, but things went downhill in his second quarter of play (the third). Way downhill. While his numbers were more lackluster than they were truly awful, he just looked out of sorts and like he lacked the type of confidence and command needed to be a successful NFL quarterback.
Generally speaking, I like Wallace and feel that he's among the better backup NFL QBs, but last night left Wallace looking a little lost. Hopefully, he'll be able to right the ship next week against Detroit.
5. Winner: Browns Receiving Corps
Some of the credit for the effectiveness of the receiving corps on Saturday night has to go to Colt McCoy for effectively spreading the ball around and to Pat Shurmur for great playcalling, but the receivers themselves did a great job in their own right of silencing a good portion of the chatter that the Browns needed to sign a marquee free agent WR.
There wasn't really a standout receiver last night, strictly speaking, but that may be a good thing for the type of offense the Browns are trying to run. A traditional WCO relies heavily on the ability to spread the ball around to a number of receivers, and that's exactly what happened last night.
One guy who really does deserve a specific nod, however, is Josh Cribbs. He didn't log a lot of playing time, but he was productive while he was out on the field. More and more, Cribbs looks like he might be the guy who winds up being the Browns No. 1 receiver in 2011.
It's early to make that sort of claim, granted, but Cribbs did an excellent job of making a case for himself to own that role going forward with his performance last night.
6. Loser: Sheldon Brown
Let me begin by saying that for the most part, I really like CB Sheldon Brown and think he's a reliable and valuable veteran presence in the Browns secondary.
Last night he had a rough game, though, getting burned for a touchdown, called for a penalty, and generally looking a bit out of sorts throughout the time he spent on the field.
When it comes down to it, I'm mostly of the opinion that Brown just had a bad game and that overall, it wasn't indicative of what his performance will be going forward this season.
That said, though, with so many standout youngsters fighting for jobs in the secondary, Brown had best step up his game or he could lose his starting job.
Brown would have to make a lot of mistakes beyond what happened in this game through the rest of the preseason for that to happen, but if I were him, I'd be looking for some serious redemption next week against the Lions.
7. Winner: Surprise Standouts
As is always the case in a successful preseason effort, the Browns had a couple of surprise standout players in Saturday night's game.
WR Jordan Norwood proved he is a legitimate threat to snag one of the open WR spots on the team and log some serious playing time both on offense and on special teams.
CB James Dockery was outstanding, LB Bryan Smith got his name out there with a key sack that led to a fumble by Green Bay QB Graham Harrell, and Titus Brown made an excellent case for himself to get off the roster bubble when he picked up that fumble and ran it back for a touchdown.
And, of course, at the top of the list for surprise standouts was rookie CB Buster Skrine, who stood out on special teams and on defense and showed why he's a threat to grab a starting secondary job this season.
8. Loser: The New Kickoff Rule
Across the league and in Cleveland in particular, nobody was too happy to hear about the new kickoff rules when they were announced during this offseason.
On Saturday night we got our first glimpse of how the new rules will look in real game action, and it wasn't anything that should make any football fan (except maybe a kicker's mom) happy.
The deflated sense of excitement on kick return plays was palpable already, and it's only the first week of the preseason. The rule looked like a mistake right off the bat, and that will likely become even more glaring as the first season where the rule is in effect rolls on.
9. Winner: Browns Fans
It's been a rough couple of years (er, decades) for the Cleveland faithful, but at long last it appears there may be reason for hope in Browns Town.
Cleveland fans have a reputation for sticking it out with their team through good times and bad, but it sure looks like we may finally have reached the point where we don't have to keep enduring the latter to keep the hope alive of the former.
Yes, it's early. Yes, these games don't count. But anyone who saw Saturday night's game should be very, very proud to be a Browns fan going into the 2011 season. All the loyalty through the lean years may finally be paying off. Dawg Pounders, your efforts may at long last be about to be rewarded.
So here's to 2011, Browns fans! It could yet be the year of the Dawg.