We’re finally about to see some “football”. And, while it’s not quite time to get into my “Browns Will Win If…” starting blocks for the year, it’s still a good chance to think about what we’d like to see from the Browns this weekend in their first live action of any kind against another team.
Where to set our expectations? First and foremost, we shouldn’t expect to see many of the “starters” much past the first few series, if even that long. So, other than reading into who’s getting action with the 1’s tomorrow night, there won’t be a ton of evaluation for the starters. That said, we do get our first look at Jake Delhomme as our starting quarterback, and our first look at the new-look (minus Eric Wright and D’Qwell Jackson) defense. So, what are we at WFNY looking for tomorrow night?
What We’re Watching For:
Scott: I’ll be watching the defensive backfield. The Browns opened up last preseason against the Packers and the DBs were torn apart – the Pack put up 14 points in the first quarter alone. I don’t think Donald Driver will be there to haul in a 53-yard TD pass, but Greg Jennings is definitely more talented at this stage. Can the new starting cornerbacks keep these guys contained? Can TJ Ward or the OLBs keep an eye on Jermichael Finley? Will Abe Elam transltate well to his new role as free safety? How will Mangini opt to rotate in guys like Mike Adams and Brandon McDonald? All in all, it is the defensive backs that received the biggest upgrade this offseason. I want to see if it has been just that.
Rick: The obvious answer is progress. Specifically though, I want to see Massaquoi and Robiskie get open. I want to see our new and improved pass defense go up against one of the best QBs in the league. Will the pass rush and coverage work in tandem to limit Rodgers’ opportunities? I am also very interested in the right side of the line. St. Clair and Womack will likely start, but I want to see the rookie Lauvao at guard. Can he be a viable option this season? How about the LB rotation? Who will work effectively together? And that’s not saying anything about Delhomme and Wallace avoiding turnovers.
Andrew: On offense, of course I want to see how Delhomme looks throwing the ball, but I also am eager to see if all the hype about Brian Robiskie’s offseason progression translates to on field success in a live game. In fact, I’m eager to see all the WRs. What has Massoquai done to advance his game as the team’s #1 WR? Has Cribbs improved his route running abilities? Is Carlton Mitchell going to be a viable option? We can’t get answers to all of these questions in one or two series of the first preseason game, but I’m just looking for the little things. The signs of development and improvement. I also am looking to see if Eric Mangini and Brian Daboll tip their hand at all and let us see any glimpses of how Cribbs and Seneca Wallace can be used together.
DP: I want to see if the Browns’ new-look secondary—despite the loss of Eric Wright with the hamstring—can slow down Aaron Rodgers and company, who finished 7th in the league in passing in 2009. Joe Haden is going to start because of Wright’s injury, so it will be interesting to see how he does matched up against either Donald Driver or Greg Jennings. Also, with a seemingly more motivated Brandon McDonald back as the nickel back instead of the heap of flaming garbage that was the combination of Terry Cousins, Hank Poteat, Travis Daniels, et al. I also want to see if there is enough new blood combined with experience in Rob Ryan’s system at linebacker to make a difference in both the running game and in terms of getting pressure on Rodgers.
Craig: Defense defense defense… I want to see the new look defensive secondary. I want to see the new linebackers Fujita and Gocong along with recent newcomer Matt Roth. I want to see what kind of pressure the Browns can get on Rodgers. Even after the starters sit down, I want to see the monster that is Geathers. I know the offense is going to be a little bit slower in getting their act together with all the new additions. There will be things I am going to watch for on the offensive side of the ball. Ultimately though, I want to see impressive defense from the new secondary and linebackers. The defense should be much improved, but in the NFL you can’t take anything for granted. I want to see it against another NFL franchise.
Jon: Yes, I’m a Browns fan too, though certainly less informed than I am on the Indians. That said, the sort of expectations I have for the Browns’ preseason mirror those I had for the Indians this season: is there progress taking place? Is the team starting to build a coherent philosophy that can guide it back toward a winning course? What that philosophy should look like is likely beyond my expertise, but I know that the team cannot win only by running. That said, I need to see some improvements in the passing game over last year. If Delhomme looks poised going through his reads (largely a factor of O-line play) and his short passes are crisp and accurate, I think the team can start to establish a more balanced attack that will force defenses into more coverage. Further, while Mangini is probably not yet willing to tip his hand on some of the more creative plays, I would like to see at least one non-traditional play involving Wallace and/or Cribbs against GB’s first team defense. The Browns need to keep defenses from keying solely on the run, and trick plays with athletic players may be one way to do it. On defense, I want to see Haden lineup against either Driver or Jennings for a couple of sets to see what the kid has. While I certainly hope Eric Wright can play, I’m also excited to see Haden get some time against a premier passing attack.
What about you, folks?