The Browns looked very much like it was their first game of the pre-season this week. There were some good plays, but overall the team seemed to be trying to find their sea legs. As always with the pre-season there was some good and some bad. I was a bit negative about it on Friday night, but as long as it was just a starting point, there were a few good things.
In defense of the bad, the Browns were without Trent Richardson on offense and gave the day off to the likes of Ahtyba Rubin and D’Qwell Jackson on defense. Brandon Weeden fumbled and threw an interception in his short time on the field, but he also tantalized Browns fans with a couple of his passes including a pretty awesome strike to Travis Benjamin that you know Colt McCoy probably (almost definitely) can’t make.
Speaking of Colt McCoy, he did exactly what I thought he should. He showed himself to be more of the gritty playmaker that we saw when he was thrust into the starting spot for Eric Mangini a couple years ago and less of the wide-eyed, terrified guy who was trying to learn a new offense last year. While Colt McCoy didn’t do enough to supplant Brandon Weeden on the depth chart, he kept his name in a few different conversations.
If Brandon Weeden gets hurt or completely fails over the next few pre-season games, Colt McCoy has kept his name in the conversation to start. At a minimum Colt McCoy has kept his name in the conversation as to whom is most capable of being the backup this season. Finally, McCoy made a pretty good case for the Browns should anyone else around the league want to trade for Colt McCoy. The Browns may not favor McCoy right now, but as long as Tom Heckert is around you know he favors draft picks. The way Colt McCoy played Friday, you’d have to think higher (3rd or 4th) than lower (5th or 6th) at least for one week.1
The controversy surrounding Mohamed Massaquoi’s head injury is baffling. The team called it a concussion. MoMass tweeted that it wasn’t a concussion. Pat Shurmur was understandably annoyed at being questioned due to a player tweet contradicting him. After all that though, the Browns are painfully thin at receiver when and if MoMass goes down again. To leave a game with a head injury and not return after taking what appeared to be a somewhat benign hit (at least compared to any of the James Harrison jobs we’ve seen around these parts) it is a real concern for the Browns and their receiver depth.
I like the moves the Browns have made at receiver. Travis Benjamin looks good. Greg Little should be fine. I’m not letting one bad game from Josh Gordon seal his fate, but the Browns could use one legit veteran to take a load off. I certainly am not saying the Browns should go sign Chad Johnson and his distraction level. I’m also not saying they need a washed up guy like Lee Evans who was cut ahead of Brian Robiskie in Jacksonville yesterday. So who? I don’t know for sure, but this would have been a great spot for someone like Plaxico Burress.2
Burress was a red zone threat last year. His biggest days are behind him, but he can still play. The Browns could probably use him more early this season and as the young guys step up and earn their jobs, Burress could play more sparingly and situationally. That’s the kind of arrangement that would work well for the Browns so that they could better compete now, develop at QB, and not stunt the growth of their stable of young receivers.
Also, I’m saying the same thing at linebacker. I don’t know who the veteran is, but the Browns could use one guy. They lost Chris Gocong for the season and Scott Fujita is going to miss the first three games. I know that the Browns want to be young and grow, but adding one veteran guy to make up for the 19 games that Browns existing veterans are guaranteed to miss isn’t a bad thing. There will still be plenty of reps and opportunities for young guys like James-Michael Johnson, Ben Jacobs, Emmanuel Acho, L.J. Fort and Kaluka Maiava to continue to play and get better.