Patronizing Preseason Football: Browns Bubble Players Fall to Bears, 24-14

Thousands of Chicago Bears fans were financially assaulted on Thursday night as those who pray to the altar of Ditka were forced to hand over hard-earned money to see what was ultimately a glorified scrimmage that just so happened to be televised. 

While the Bears would trot out a few players who have actually been drafted to fantasy teams at some point in their career, the Cleveland Browns countered with what would ultimately be rookies and bubble-laden veterans hoping to make the 53-man roster when the announcement is made this coming Saturday at 6pm.  The final score read 24-14 in favor of the Bears, but on a night when the goal at hand is to extend a career rather than win the game, lighting up the Soldier Field scoreboard was merely a waste of electricity.

Eighteen of the Browns 22 starters were spectators on this evening, dressed to play but never stepping foot beyond the sideline.  What they witnessed was the arch-enemy of competitive football, the remaining 60 or so players looking to impress the Browns decision-makers – while avoiding injury – but failing to stop the Bears attack on defense or muster one of their own on offense.  Punter Richmond McGee earned his paycheck in this contest with the Seneca Wallace-led offense providing more three-and-outs than three-yard outs.  The first completed pass and subsequent first down came with just under five minutes to go in the first half.

Once again, despite being represented by rookies and practice squad hopefuls, the Browns fell victim to the penalty flag and extended many Bears drives into what would ultimately be scoring opportunities.  At one point early in the evening, theOrangeand Brown had amassed seven penalties before the Bears recorded their first. There were back-to-back plays by rookie defensive end Jabaal Sheard (one roughing the passer play, a 15-yard penalty) which resulted in yellow accessories lacing the field; rookie hopeful James Dockery was also nailed, being flagged for two separate pass interference plays as well as an illegal contact penalty in the first half alone.

To Dockery’s credit, his receiver (Chicago’s Johnny Knox) was targeted early and often, providing more opportunity for missteps.  He challenged his opposition on every play, not allowing any easy receptions even if multiple plays resulted in infractions.  Also playing well was third-year wide receiver Brian Robiskie who hauled in three passes for 39 yards, refusing to merely go through the motions despite the circumstances set forth. 

Rookie running back Armond Smith managed to find the end zone once again, finishing the preseason as the Browns’ leading rusher.  Key for Smith is that he did not put the ball on the ground, something that had plagued him in the preceding weeks.  With Brandon Jackson banged up, Smith could be one of the few bubble players who the Browns opt to keep on their 53-man roster or stash on the practice squad.  The other player who made his presence be felt was defensive end Auston English who recorded two sacks, finishing with four on the preseason. English’s competition for a back-up end roster spot comes in the form of Derreck Robinson and Brian Sandford as Sheard, Jayme Mitchell and Marcus Benard will hold down three of the others.

Not doing well and hopefully never seeing the football field again after this season is the asinine kickoff rule that continues to find footballs five yards beyond the end zone and players still attempting to run them out with hopes of springing a big run.

The Browns – and fans alike – can now look forward to opening week as theOrangeand Brown will play host to the Cincinnati Bengals.  Just who will be manning the sidelines, representing Cleveland, remains to be seen.

AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com BAJ22

    I feel bad for season ticket holders that pay full price for that rubish…

    I had nothing going on last night so had the game on while simultaneously reading a book. Needless to say my book was way more interesting.

    IMHO there should be no exhibition games. Let teams line up scrimmages if they want or need to, but it’s time to get rid of these meaningless games.

  • Tyler

    Is anyone else REALLY REALLY mad at Heckert for getting rid of Vickers in favor of Marecic? Lets face it, that was a huge mistake. I could have also gone for Casey Matthews instead of Jordan Cameron in the 4th round. We needed linebackers not tight ends.

    me = sad =(

  • The Conductor

    Pat Shurmur’s hair starts way above his belly button.

  • Shamrock

    There have been more then a few questionable player decisions. Maybe that’s why there are issues with depth.

  • 5KMD

    BAJ22,

    What are you reading? I am currently getting through Gladwell’s “Outliers”, but 2 toddlers and a newborn make it tough to get through anything in a timely manner.

  • Fritzer

    @tyler agreed on all points I’m a huge Heckert fan but that 4th round was terrible

  • -bobby-

    I agree with you Tyler, I think Hills will be hurting without Vickers. A proven vet beast of a FB only signed for 2 yrs 3 mil. I would have given him that shot in Cleveland.

  • Vengeful Pat

    That’s a great title for this article. Love it. I was hoping we’d at least get a couple series from the starters, but I guess they’re all experts at running their new offensive and defensive packages. Nothing left to do but sit back and wait for the undefeated run to start.

  • NJ

    I love how we had to hear about how the strike-shortened off-season would hurt so many teams (especially ones with new head coaches), yet last night there was no need to get our team more reps. Even though it’s a new system… even though we’re big on precise timing… even though we have many young guys…

    I’ll bite my tongue until we play at least one real game.

  • jimkanicki

    @nj9 – 100% agree.

    why does a 5-11 team implementing a new defense and a complex, timing-based offense in a shortened pre-season pass up an opportunity to work out the kinks? did the coaches find the execution vs the eagles to be sufficiently crisp? has pinkston gotten in sync with mack and thomas? are taylor’s stunts no longer going to take out mitchell? have we identified a vickers replacement? is maiva ready to step into an OLB starting slot? just who are the starting WRs? do they have the timing down on all their routes? are the clear out patterns working as planned? our starting guards have 3 games of nfl experience between them.. are they ready?

    if this were the defending SB champ packers, i could get behind the ‘rest the starters’ deal. if your team went 14-2 last year and all your hopes depend on your QB staying healthy i could understand it…….. oh wait, belichick played tom brady and the starters last night. i guess brady needed work more than colt mccoy.

    injuries are a fact of life. our fricking punter blew an achilles in practice. tight ends, as we know, can get laid up for two years from a motorcycle accident. all-pro centers can end their careers on the first day of practice. IT HAPPENS. you cant put bubble-wrap on these guys.

    if/when we lose to the bengals you can bet we’ll hear all about the challenges of implementing a new offense and defense. it will be a load of crap.

    shurmur succumbed to conventional thinking last night and it’s quite disappointing.

  • typo

    @Jim. Exceptional rant. Job well done.

  • NJ

    I noticed that on the highlights. Every team was playing 2nd/3rd stringers pretty much, yet there’s Brady slinging it around the field.

    What I love about Belichick (and Mangini too) was the total lack of fear when it came to the second-guessing media. Just do your thing and know that the haters are going to hate.

    And all this I keep reading about how easy our early schedule is sure does remind me of last year a whole lot. Maybe we should worry about how prepared we are instead of focusing on how terrible/injured/inept our opponents are.

  • Harv 21

    @9 and 10: agree. If they come out sluggish and sloppy against Cincy we’ll hear, “whaddaya expect, haven’t played at game speed for 2+ weeks.”

    On the other hand, hope they keep Colt healthy. Don’t know Seneca’s excuse for looking as angsty as a rookie instead of a 30-something west coast guy playing against scrubs. Not buying it was all receiver issues, talking about passes batted down, not scramble effectively, and general meh.

  • mgbode

    @NJ – if we don’t focus on that, then we’ll turn our focus to our depth at OL, LB, RB, and S. Let alone the starters at alot of those positions (read: not RB).

    I’d rather focus on playing the redhead the first game, possible peyton-less Colts week 2, hopefully Locker week4, and the NFC West.

  • Brooks

    Great article Sarge.

    I couldn’t agree more about the 4th round picks. I don’t understand why we have a FB who is smaller than our RB’s (the first time I saw Marecic line up I though the RB and FB were confused at where they were suppose to lineup). I get that this is a much different game-plan than we ran under Manmoron but seriously.

    I made the same point about Casey Matthews last week with some friends. We’ve got good TE’s and no depth at LB. Obviously he is good enough to start and call the defense in Phili soooo…I know we have good MLB in Jackson and Fujita but at least he would be depth because if I remember correctly neither Fujita or Jackson were on the field week 17 last year.