On Thursday, I gave you five things I was watching for each the starters and the reserves. This is the evaluation of those topics.
From the starters:
1) The Browns did have a rhythm on offense. Unlike many games last season, Weeden came out and hit receivers early. The first play from scrimmage saw Weeden hit Lewis on a little swing pass out of the backfield. He hit on his next three passes as well. Is there a coincidence that eight of Cleveland’s first 14 plays in the drive were from the shotgun? I don’t think so either. Not only that, but seven of Weeden’s eight passes in that drive were out of the gun.
In the second series Weeden played more from under center, with only three plays coming from out of the shotgun. All three of those were passes and all of those were completions. The last one went for a touchdown to Lewis on Weeden’s final play. Even when Campbell was in, the offense kept the same pace, which I took as a good sign.
2) Dion Lewis looked decent, but honestly still looked like a back-up. He looked his best catching passes out of the backfield. Lewis finished with three catches for 22 yards. He rushed for 12 yards on five carries. That’s a 2.4 yards per carry average. Meh. I do give him credit for a really nice draw play on third and five. He was patient and set up his blockers well. The nine yard gain was his biggest of the day, and kept the drive going. Lewis also took the opening kick-off 31 yards.
3) Did Jordan Cameron make an impact? Well, sort of. He had one catch for 30 yards. It was a crossing route and Cameron got free of his defender. It was the big play of Cleveland’s second drive that resulted in a touchdown. He also let a ball skip off his hands on the first drive that fortunately Greg Little was able to jump up and come down with in traffic. His catch was the longest play from scrimmage for the Browns, so I suppose you have to consider it a successful quarter for Cameron.
4) The Browns did put pressure on St. Louis quarterbacks. The defense recorded two sacks and registered nine quarterback hits. They tipped at least one pass at the line, which was intercepted by a linebacker. They did blitz more than I thought they would have though. Of course, that could be the base, vanilla defense.
Jabaal Sheard had a hit on quarterback Sam Bradford. He also had an assisted tackle on a running play. The starting defense as a unit really wasn’t out there for many plays. The Rams’ first drive was six plays long. They made two first downs on the drive before Phil Taylor stripped the ball from Isaiah Pead. On their second drive, the Browns held St. Louis to a three and out. So many of the starters played a whopping nine plays. Some even less with the nickel package substitutions.
5) Did the secondary hold up? That’s debatable. Again, the Rams’ first team offense did not score on the Browns, but they did move the ball through the air most of the night. The Rams had 314 yards passing for the game on 54% passing. If Ray Horton’s defense is designed not to give up the big play, then he can’t be thrilled with pass plays of 59, 53 and 28 yards.
Chris Owens was a scratch because of a strained arch in his foot that he complained of after practice Wednesday. With Owens, Ward, McFadden and Slaughter all out the secondary was a little thin. Buster Skrine made a nice pass breakup and also had very tight coverage on a completion. He also recovered the Phil Taylor forced fumble. Trevin Wade gave up the first big gainer for St. Louis when Chris Givens got behind him for a 59 yard play, setting up the Rams first touchdown.
From the reserves:
1) Which reserve wide receiver stepped up? Cooper had a pair of catches. Croom had a 22 yard reception. Norwood, Edwards and Gurley all had a catch. The obvious answer to the question would be Cordell Roberson who had a 26 yard touchdown reception from Brian Hoyer. It wasn’t a spectacular play by any stretch. There was some kind of blown coverage on the play and Roberson was wide open. Naaman Roosevelt returned a kick-off for 29 yards. Mike Edwards downed a punt inside the two.
2) Barkevious Mingo looked like he belonged on the field. His speed is a serious weapon. Safety Josh Aubrey made a special teams tackle and had 3 combined tackles on defense. He certainly looked the best out of the rookie defensive backs. Justin Staples had an interception. It was a little more than being in the right place at the right time, but only because he had to dive to catch the ball.
3) I would have to go back and see the film to really see what James-Michael Johnson did in the game. He had two assisted tackles in the third quarter. Tank Carder had two solo tackles also in the third quarter.
4) The fullbacks are another area where I would have to see the game again to make any distinction. Nothing jumped out at me during the game. Well, the fact that the Browns struggled to run the clock out on the ground might say something. As a team the Browns averaged 2.8 yards a carry.
5) Ah, the kicking game. If you are keeping score, Brandon Bogotay made a 25-yard field goal and missed from 54 yards to the left. He hit an extra point. Shayne Graham hit on his 41 yard field goal attempt and his two extra points. Both kickers put kick-offs in the end zone.
Spencer Lanning and T.J. Conley both punted twice. Lanning averaged 45 yards in his kicks to Conley’s 40, but Conley pinned the Rams down at the 1 on one of his punts. Lanning had one bounce inside the five and go into the end zone. The kick coverage units were very good in the game.
(Photo: Jon Cole Photography for WFNY)