Cleveland Browns Vs. St Louis Rams: Browns Thoughts While in The Rain
The Cleveland Browns tried to fight off both rain and the St. Louis Rams last night in Cleveland, but managed to lose both battles.
I was lucky (or unlucky depending on how you look at it) to be in attendance at Cleveland Browns Stadium for the game and I wanted to really focus on the defensive secondary, but the downpour and wet conditions prohibited me from any focus on one position group.
Instead, I had to make mental notes on the entire game while sitting 10 rows back by the Browns' tunnel opposite of the Dawg Pound.
Here are those mental notes.
Peyton Hillis Is What Cleveland Football Is About
So Josh Cribbs may be the poster boy of the Browns and Cleveland sports right now, but Hillis is old school Browns and AFC North smash-mouth football.
If you were to look up smash-mouth football, his picture would be next to the phrase in the dictionary.
The guy just knows how to run with power, and that is something Browns fans have not seen since the days of Kevin Mack.
The added bonus is that Hillis has the hands of a receiver, and he can catch passes as if he were a tight end from either out of the backfield or from the slot too.
Hillis has easily given the Browns the edge in the Brady Quinn trade this past off-season.
Even in the pouring rain and slippery conditions, Hillis handled the ball well and did not put it on the ground, allowing the Browns to score on both of their touchdown drives by totaling 47 yards rushing and 12 receiving yards on both drives combined.
He also made both me and the crowd go absolutely crazy when he was flexing and stomping on the ground after dragging six Rams defenders behind him for a 9-yard gain in the second quarter.
Too Many Fumbles Due To The Rain
The rain caused many issues beside soaking me right to my bones.
The football was slippery and kept popping out from the Browns' grasp a total of three times in the first half alone.
This comes from a team that plays outside in these types of conditions all the time whereas the Rams, who are a dome and turf team, did not fumble or even turn the ball over once in the rain.
Head coach Eric Mangini told Cleveland.com that he will be "turning on the sprinklers" at practices this week to prevent any future fumbles in rainy games.
Chris Gocong Shows Why He Was Acquired
Back when Mangini was with the New York Jets in 2006, he scouted and wanted Cal Poly's Chris Gocong as an inside linebacker for his 3-4 defense, but the Philadelphia Eagles (who then had current Browns General Manager Tom Heckert as their GM) took Gocong five spots sooner than Mangini could in the third round.
Fast-forward to now, and both Mangini and Heckert are together in Cleveland and Heckert managed to trade with his old team to attain Gocong.
Starting at inside linebacker, Gocong only had one tackle versus the Packers in his first game wearing the orange and brown, but against the Rams Gocong definitely shined as he was near the ball for much of the time his was in the game and making plays as an inside linebacker should.
He led the Browns with six tackles (all solo) along with defending a pass and getting a good shot on the quarterback too.
This is the type of playmaker the Browns have needed inside to spark the defensive unit.
Cribbs Shows Vast Improvement As a Receiver
Cribbs is in year two of playing as a true wide receiver in my opinion, so he too should show vast improvement just as both second year receivers Mohamed Massaquoi and Brian Robiskie should show, too.
He has improved, and one can see this improvement with both his route running and his ability to catch the football away from his body and with his hands more.
With all the focus on him and back quarterback Seneca Wallace in the new Cyclone formation, defenses may forget that Cribbs can play receiver much better than he did just one year ago and he proved that with his fantastic 15-yard touchdown grab from Wallace in the third quarter.
Not only was the pass nearly perfect coming from Wallace's cannon of an arm where gunning it through the rain drops did not matter, but Cribbs made that catch look easy.
Jake Delhomme Continues Great Quarterback Play
So there were a few issues with the wet football on some snaps in the first half, but Delhomme was able to regain composure and play an efficient and accurate game once again continuing his quest to prove that the Panthers were wrong for cutting him and to quiet all his critics.
After posting a 106 quarterback rating by throwing six of seven passes and no interceptions against the Packers, Delhomme followed up that performance with an even better one against the Rams in the rain.
He bested his Packers outing with a 118.5 rating by going 12 of 16 with one touchdown, and once again no picks thrown.
Yes I will acknowledge that this is in two preseason games, but he has also been going up against opposing teams' first string defenses.
Regardless, I have not seen quarterback play this good between both Delhomme and Wallace since...well...way before the team rose from the ashes in 1999.
This good quarterback play must have the current crop of teenage and early 20's Browns fans scratching their head because they have NEVER seen quarterback play this good due to their young age.
Chansi Stuckey Stands Out
When Stuckey was acquired early on in the 2009 season for Braylon Edwards, he did not manage to make much of an impact as a slot receiver and he appeared to be playing catch-up adapting to the new offensive system, too.
Now that he has had a chance to be a part of the full off-season program and training camp, Stuckey has looked much more relaxed in the slot and in training camp practices I even saw a burst of speed off the line to break free from coverage over the middle many times.
Stuckey showed why he is a reliable receiver with good hands against the Rams, breaking into the open field and getting targeted by Browns quarterbacks three times.
He managed to catch each of those three passes that were thrown his was for a team-leading total of 51 yards.
Ben Watson Is The Real Deal at Tight End
A tight end who can both catch passes and block?
What a crazy thought to have on the Browns' roster.
Indeed they do have a tight end who can do both in Watson.
With an amazing one-handed catch in the back of the end zone (that I was sitting at) the soaked crowd stood up and cheered for their new tight end, who only caught one touchdown in 2009 with the New England Patriots, and has now caught two touchdowns in as many preseason games for the Browns.
A much needed addition this off-season, the Browns have shown opposing teams that Watson will be a featured part of the offense this upcoming season.
Brian Schaefering Puts His Name In The Forefront Once Again
Schaefering was beginning to make a name for himself toward the end of 2009 and after Shaun Rogers went down with a season-ending injury, but he has not managed to continue that trend during training camp practices either.
That is until now.
Schaefering had a solid game for the Browns' defensive line versus the Rams, registering four total tackles—with three being solo tackles.
The Browns need depth on an aging defensive line and Schaefering's play Saturday night is very promising from the undrafted second-year player out of Lindenwood college.
Rookies in The Secondary
Both rookie safety T.J. Ward and rookie cornerback Joe Haden had another good outing as they continue their development in the secondary.
Even though Ward may not have had the jaw-dropping impact he had last week against the Packers, he still was near the ball and made a few plays to the tune of three solo tackles and one pass defended.
It is a bit harder to have a similar impact as he did in the first preseason game when it is rainy and wet out, but these are the elements that Ward needs to learn to play in here in Cleveland and they really are not too far off from the conditions he played while at Oregon.
Haden also continues his progression and he plays very physical in his coverages on opposing receivers.
With two total tackles, and two passes defended, Haden looked much more comfortable on the field, but he was also not facing two Pro Bowl-caliber receivers as he did against the Packers.
This About Sums Up How Wet It Really Was
Understand that this really was not my actual money, but this really sums up how wet it was at the game, and how wet my cash really was.
But also understand that this is football and it is a game that is played in all conditions and reminds me of the United States Postal Service's motto of, "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night..."
This was my first monsoon-like football game to attend and now I just have to see a game in a blizzard and I will have covered all my weather conditions when watching football live and in person.
Putting aside all the fumbles, the Browns offense looked good on their two scoring drives.
The defense on the other hand, looks like it is still trying to gel and get more comfortable and both first team offense and defense will get one or two more series to come together in the third preseason game next Saturday against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field.
Whether they win or lose the last two preseason games, I would rather see the mental mistakes and turnovers now rather than seeing any of that in the regular season.
That's what the preseason is for anyways.