With the Browns disappointing 27-6 loss to the Colts we’re likely to be left with a bad taste in our mouth leading all the way up to the opener on September 8th. The “dress rehearsal” was a sobering reality check that predictions of 11-5 and playing of “Bernie, Bernie” may have been a bit premature. Worst of all, I lost a bet on the game that will force me to be clean shaven for a full two weeks. So as we wake up Sunday morning dealing with the effects of a Browns’ hangover, the fastest way to feeling better is to start drinking once again — which is why we immediately crack into Sunday’s Six Pack looking to bring back feelings of two days ago when life couldn’t be better for Browns fans.
Paul Kruger is a force.
When Kruger signed his $40 million deal this off season, many questioned if Banner and Lombardi had overpaid and whether Kruger’s success would translate to Cleveland without another pass rusher like Terrell Suggs to take the attention off of him.
But so far, so good. The man who had two sacks in last February’s Super Bowl was in Andrew Luck’s face all first half long on Saturday. Kruger had success bull rushing his man deep into the backfield, collapsing the pocket, and forcing Luck to move from his spot (which Luck does very well). On the Colt’s third play of the game, Kruger stuck right tackle Gosder Cherilus back on his heels with a strong jab, then blew by Cherilus on an inside move, dove and got enough of Luck to bring him down for the sack.
The 5th year pass rusher out of Utah was also responsible for Luck’s only pick of the night, getting the pressure that forced Luck’s errant throw.Trent Richardson is ready to go.
Trent told members of the media following the game that “I feel like I am back in shape for game conditioning. I feel really light on my feet. I am just ready to play.”
He looked explosive, and threatening on his 7 carries and one catch out of the backfield for 41 yards from scrimmage. Trent did his usual bowling of defenders, and even looked slippery after catching a Weeden swing pass on his way to a first down.
It’s odd seeing a Brown listed as a consensus first round fantasy pick, but it’s clear a healthy Trent has the ability to be that type of playmaker and put up big numbers. With Weeden still a work in progress, Trent needs to be productive for Norv’s offense to get going.
The kicking game will not be a disadvantage.
With Phil the Thrill out in San Francisco the place kicking duties are set to be carried out by Brandon Bogotay or veteran Shayne Graham. Bogotay missed the game in Indy while nursing a groin injury, leaving Graham all the kicking opportunities. Graham converted on both of field goals, one from 50 yards and another from 44. The injured Bogotay has showed a strong leg this preseason, slamming a kickoff into the stands against Detroit and directly hitting the back of my chair while I made my only trip of the game to the concession stands. I will now never miss another kickoff for the rest of my life.
Spencer Lanning got plenty of work in Indy, punting seven times, including two punts inside the twenty yard line and two sixty plus yard booms. Lanning is also holding on field goals and at the least should be able to pick up the punting where Reggie Hodges left off in 2012.
Tashaun Gipson showed playmaking ability.
The Browns have been inept at free safety ever since I can remember and I expected it to be a position of weakness once again in 2013. After being named the starter earlier in the week, Gipson showed some ballhawking ability on the defense’s only turnover of the day.
After Kruger’s pressure forced an errant throw off Stanley Havili’s hands, an oncoming Gipson reached out with one hand to snatch up a crucial interception, tight roping the sideline inside the Browns’ five. In addition to his pick, Gipson also broke up a pass, and recorded four tackles (two solos).
It’s encouraging to see the second year man out of Wyoming flying around out there in the secondary.
The offensive line looked fine.
The Browns started the game with a heavy dose of Trent, easily moving the ball behind the offensive line until a controversial Joe Thomas holding penalty forced the offense into a long yardage situation.
With a lot of uncertainty surrounding the guard position, it was nice to see the line start the game strong and help the team pick up some easy yards. Aside from that first drive the Browns offense largely shied away from the run throwing it 43 times and keeping it on the ground just 17.
The big fellas up front kept Weeden on his feet, not allowing a single sack, but did concede some pressure. There were multiple plays where Weeden was flushed from the pocket, but that looked to be more of Weeden reading the defense too slowly than a major protection issue.
The defense was putting pressure on Luck.
With all the additions to the Browns’ front seven this season, and lack of additions to the secondary, this defense has to get to the quarterback to be successful. Ray Horton’s attacking style defense has been a big story line leading up to the season, but it was the ability of the defense to get pressure with just four rushers that impressed me.
Kruger and Groves, who started for the inured Sheard, seemed to be on Luck’s hip all night long. While the team only recorded two sacks on the night, the pressure caused Luck to move around and keep most of his throws short.
(Photo: Andy Lyons)