The Browns aren’t definitively headed to the Super Bowl this season even after beating the defending Super Bowl Champions 27-17 in their opening pre-season game. That being said, this weekend, they showed up and did their jobs on the field better than most probably thought they could. We’ve been hearing about how the Browns, out of all NFL teams, would be behind the eight ball with a new offense, defense and without training camps. Those thoughts were well-founded, but the Browns did their best to dispel it as myth this weekend against the Pack.
Colt McCoy and the first-team offense’s overall efficiency has been very well-documented since they left the field on Saturday. McCoy’s ability to work the ball around to Ben Watson, Josh Cribbs, Greg Little, Brian Robiskie, Evan Moore and Peyton Hillis is encouraging to say the least. The Browns might not have “The Greatest Show on Turf” levels of talent on their roster, but that doesn’t mean as a unit they can’t do some serious damage by being smart and efficient. They at least showed the beginnings of that this weekend.
For me, the real takeaways from this game were on the defensive side of the ball from a depth standpoint.
I have been concerned about the thin linebacking corps. I want D’Qwell Jackson to be the player I’ve always thought he could be, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have concerns about his prospects for staying on the field. Scott Fujita is a clear leader on this defense and changed games last year, but he is an elder statesman at 32. Chris Gocong isn’t thought to have a serious injury, but he missed Saturday’s game with the lingering effects of his neck “stinger.” That put Kaluka Maiava in the starting lineup for the Browns. I like Kaluka Maiava. I think he can be a solid NFL pro. The fact is that he is a former fourth round draft pick and due to injury last season, this is basically only his second year on the field. That concerns me.
That’s why I was so pleasantly surprised to see Maiava play pretty well in Gocong’s place. I was elated to see Brian Smith, undrafted from Notre Dame, find his way into the backfield and strip the QB. It was good to see Titus Brown scoop the ball up and rumble for a touchdown. That one play aside, Titus Brown showed some serious toughness clogging lanes with his big 6’3″ 250 pound frame. Obviously it is just one pre-season game, but all these guys can do is pass the tests that are in front of them. They passed this first quiz, I’d say.
I also have concerns about the depth in the secondary for this Browns team. It was nice to see guys like Buster Skrine, Ramzee Robinson, and James Dockery make plays, amongst others. This team still has loads of question marks, but you have to feel good when you start looking at potential holes and find out that they aren’t bottomless pits the way some people describe them.