April 21, 2014

Browns vs. Eagles: What We’re Watching For…

Well, we’re here! It’s the “Dress Rehearsal” game! In advance of our weekly “Browns Will Win If…” posts, we like to stretch the hammies and take a few laps during the pre-season games. With that, we give you: “What We’re Watching For…” again this year. This is the game in which the starters usually play the most time during the pre-season, often into the third quarter. So, we’ll get our best look at the offense, and see if the defense can make adjustments to slow opposing offenses down.

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The Eagles are one of the off-season sexy picks to make noise in the playoffs, considering all of the personnel moves they made. Michael Vick is back in the saddle full-time now that Kevin Kolb is in Arizona. Ronnie Brown joins LeSean McCoy in the backfield. Their stable of wide receivers is dangerous, if all healthy. The Eagles are coming off a pretty bad loss to the Steelers, in which their starting offense did essentially nothing, and their starting defense gave up 14 points in the second quarter. One would suspect that they’ll be out for blood tonight. With that on the table, what are we here at WFNY looking for tonight?

What We’re Watching For:

Scott: Montario Hardesty’s return to action for the first time in almost one full year will be something to watch.  While I hate to set the bar low, having Hardesty just get through the game with the ability to play next week will have to be considered a minor victory.  Secondly, I’m watching Phil Taylor. We tend to focus on stats in this era but a defensive tackle rarely gets said type of glory. Is he taking up two offensive linemen on each play? Is he getting improved penetration? How is his mobility sideline-to-sideline, especially in the event of LeSean McCoy et al catching passes in the backfield? We know what we have in Athyba Rubin; Jabaal Sheard caused some havoc against the Lions.  I’ll be watching to see if the recent first-round draft pick is carrying his 330-pound load as well.

Rick: Like everyone, I’m quite interested in seeing the begining of the Hardesty era. I’m also curious to see Colt McCoy lead the offense against a team that practices against the west cows offense every day. I’d like to see the Browns open up the run game a little more on the right side with that starting group, to see Lauvao and Pashos work togther. Defensively, I think the most important thing is to stay healthy. We can’t afford any more injuries to a D-back, and the depth of the front seven is slim enough. That said, I’d like to see a little pressure applied to Vick.

DP: I’m watching for defensive improvement. I know a lot of starters weren’t playing last week, but the Lions pretty much had their way on offense for large stretches of yardage. If the Browns put a big chunk of their intended defensive starting lineup out for tonight’s game, I’d like to see how they can do against what–on paper–should be a potent offense. I’d also like to see if one of the young DBs can step up as the nickel back. On the other side, I’m curious to see if the Browns can get some running game going. Colt McCoy has had success through the air, but sooner or later the Browns will need to run the ball, and I just haven’t seen any extended commitment to the run.

Craig: I’ll be watching the battle for roster spots in the defensive secondary.  The Browns have to make some decisions and get the roster down to 80 by August 30th.  They will need to figure out exactly, among Coye Francies, James Dockery, Dimitri Patterson, Brett Johnson, Deangelo Smith, Ramzee Robinson, Darian Hagan and Carl Gettis that they will keep.  In previous seasons, the Browns have kept nine defensive backs.  Assuming Joe Haden, Sheldon Brown, T.J. Ward, Mike Adams, Buster Skrine and maybe Ray Ventrone, that means the Browns have three slots left and eight candidates competing for the job.  These decisions could end up being important so as to avoid another Hank Poteat type of situation where a guy seemingly plays fewer than ten downs in a game while giving up three first downs and two scores.

Andrew: I’m actually really happy the Browns’ dress rehearsal is against the Eagles. I think it’s good to get a nice, strong test to see just how much more work the team needs. The preseason has given us a lot of optimism and given the team a lot of confidence, but the Eagles will make a nice measuring stick of where the team really is. First and foremost, the Browns’ offensive line will be what I’m watching. I thought they had a rough day against the Lions, and I want to see how they rebound against this Eagles defense. Of course like everyone else, I want to see what Monterio Hardesty can do and if his knees can survive a preseason game. And I’m still going to be watching the WRs to see how can leave their mark on this team and who is going to appear to be the odd man out. Finally, on defense, I’m going to continue to watch the entire secondary as I have all preseason to see if anyone shows that they deserve to be on the field opposite Joe Haden. It’s been a tough preseason for Sheldon Brown, who it appears is showing signs of his age. Can any of the young guys step up and push Brown for playing time? That’s what I want to see.

TD: Let me just say that I feel sorry for all NFL season ticket holders who have to pay full price for two and a half quarters of garbage product. The guy I want to see though is Montario Hardesty. I don’t care about the battle for fifth WR or fifth cornerback to be honest. Those guys won’t matter come September. Hardesty, however, will. If he is healthy and is as good as we hope he can be, it gives the Browns a completely different dynamic. We all know Peyton Hillis was run into the ground last year. That can’t happen again if the Browns want to be successful. Hardesty is a difference maker.

Kirk: I think, above all, I’m looking for what Montario Hardesty can provide. Ill settle for 3-5 nice runs, maybe a reception or two, and both his ACLs intact for his first game back. Baby steps. Also, who stands out in the wide receiver group? There are going to be some tough choices to make there between Mitchell, Robo, Norwood, Williams, etc. On the defensive side, it would be nice to see a reserve in the front seven make some plays… that still worries me. Other than that, the starters need to stay healthy in their last big chunk of the preseason.

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What about you, folks?

  • BuckeyeDawg

    I guess I can’t choose just one area. I just straight up want to see if the Browns can hang with a team that is arguably the most talented in the league. I normally don’t care much about the score of a preseason game, but I will be quite interested to see where we are come mid-third quarter when they start pulling the starters.

    This should be a great all around test, going up against a team that is more talented in pretty much every way.

  • mgbode

    Packers, Lions, Eagles – well, the defense can’t say they didn’t get work against quality opponents in the preseason.

    i’m terrified of our defense this year and will watch that said. mentioned above was Phil who is one of the biggest keys as is getting DE pressure and our LB-depth not being completely terrible.

    is Ventrone going to have to start at safety? (that is a bit scary, no?)

  • B-bo

    I’m not looking for much more than “not having another starter injured” in this one. We are going to be down 6 rather key guys, so struggles against the Eagles first-teamers should not be terribly surprising. I would like to see the D-line get pressure on Vick, who will hopefully be in as charitable a mood as he was in their last game. Hardesty surviving with both legs would be fun as well.

    Rick, I’d say your interest in seeing McCoy against a defense that practices with a west cows offense every day is a moo point.

  • REEPJP

    Rick….I’m really not confident in our defense if they’ve been practicing against the West Cows….now if it were the East Cows, that’s a little different

  • Harv 21

    Seems we’re all in agreement: looking forward to The Hardesty Bowl, as always aponsored by The Caring Medical Providers at The Cleveland Clinic.

    His few carries last preseason had me on the edge of the couch and, just as Justice Potter Stewart knew it when he saw pornography, I just felt we were finally seeing our feature back. Does he still choose a hole decisively, hit it and power through it, cut quickly, shift away from direct contact, fall forward?

  • REEPJP

    ahh dang, I messed up my interpretation of Rick’s comments…maybe an udder time I’ll get it right

  • B-bo

    @Harv After you used the word “pornography”, the rest of what you wrote caused me to giggle like a middle school kid. Not sure my mental age will ever truly exceed 14 or so.

  • mgbode

    @B-bo – even worse for me. i clicked on your comment link and this is all of Harv’s I could see on my screen:

    “pornography, I just felt we were finally seeing our feature back. Does he still choose a hole decisively, hit it and power through it, cut quickly, shift away from direct contact, fall forward?”

  • Billy Thomas

    Regarding Hardesty: I understand we are all curious but be realistic. The guy was risky when drafted. Now he has had major problems with both knees and plays the position that takes the most abuse. The chances of him being a productive player with the Browns for even a few years isn’t good. Most likely he will look good in flashes between rehabs while he continues to have injury problems for as long as he’s in the NFL. Some people seem to think he will be our new #1 running back next season I highly doubt that.

  • Harv 21

    If the avatar fits …

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/ Rick

    Thanks DP for copying and pasting that take without reading it. (Auto correct strikes again.)

    West cows offense. COME ON!!!

  • Adam

    Anyone have a link yet?

  • Adam
  • http://serandez.blogspot.com Ezzie

    Adam – is that WKYC or Eagles? I’m on an Eagles broadcast through JustinTV, would prefer Browns…

  • Shamrock

    17-0 in second…philly

  • ManSleezee

    Evan Moore’s gone from hero to zero tonight… Totally whiffed on his block that caused the blocked FG & then he dropped a beautiful long pass from Colt.

    The defense has actually played quite well. It’s just a shame the special teams & offense have played so poorly.

  • Max

    that roughing the passer call on the INT that wasn’t was complete BS. And Colt just got sacked and some LB came flying in with a knee after he was on the ground with no call…the selective enforcement of rules in this league is getting worse every year

  • http://serandez.blogspot.com Ezzie

    I’m sure people will say the Browns were horrible tonight, but I really don’t think so. The D was rather solid (a pass rush?! wow!), and the O wasn’t bad (if those drops were caught…).

    That said, the Browns seem to have a real problem keeping their eye on these RBs releasing out. McCoy had 7 catches for 69 yards: Yes, that’s his game, but that’s rather poor. Someone needs to be tracking the RB out of the backfield, even if he’s blocking first, especially with a QB like Vick who extends plays. (Think Roethlisberger.) Also, they sometimes had great contain on Vick, but on both QB TD runs they simply had nobody on the outside – and the same on the 4th down end around. You can’t have nobody on the outside at all on short field plays like that, even though you need to give that middle some extra attention.

  • nic

    as max said that roughing the passer call was bs, i think that if it weren’t for several thing we could have one if that interference call on robiskie wasn’t called, if our special teams didn’t run into each other, if that bs roughen the passer didn’t get called, if those passes wouldn’t have been dropped, we lost because of like 2 large errors and a lot of bs calls