July 24, 2014

Sunday Six Pack: Reasons to stay optimistic following loss to Colts

Cleveland Browns v Indianapolis Colts

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)

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    1. The Browns did a masterful job of not showing the Dolphins anything for the regular series opener!!!
    2. I don’t know if I would call Paul Krueger a force going against the Colts line especially when Costanzo wasn’t 100% but it was nice to see him doing what he does best.
    3. It was nice to see Gipson make some plays because this secondary is flat out scary. Wayne abused them.
    4. The OL wasn’t impressive to me that is when Richardson wasn’t in the game. I think they’ll be okay though but largely because of Richardson. Maybe they can pick someone else up because Cousins playing anywhere on the OL is not a good thing IMO.
    5. The WR corps minus Bess looked much more ordinary. Gordon and Cameron were MIA and Little fumbled. Cooper being Weeden’s best option wasn’t a positive for me.

    All in all perhaps it was just a bad game but if this was the dress rehearsal I’m feeling pretty good about 6-10 right now.

  • cmm13

    Reasons to remember why this team is going 5-11 again this year:

    1. Weeden is still uncomfortable under duress
    2. Weeden is still staring down his intended receiver from the time they break the huddle to the moment he releases the ball
    3. Weeden is hanging his receivers out to dry on unnecessary gains which will most likely lead to injury
    4. Our CB’s are vertically challenged
    5. Trent is ready to go but will not play all 16 games leaving us very thin at RB.

    Negative reaction to a preseason loss? No.
    Just a clear reminder on who this team really is.

  • Archibald Butt

    Joe Thomas doesn’t hold. It’s just a fact of life.

  • Ben Frambaugh

    We struggled against a young team that made the playoffs last year. Must be the end of the world.

    1 – Most quarterbacks are uncomfortable under duress
    2 – No argument. He needs to get better at moving through his progressions. Or actually moving through his progressions.
    3 – I have seen him make a lot of good throws. It seems like you are looking for reasons to be pessimistic. Yes, he has made throws that make it tough for his WRs. I have seen every QB do that.
    4 – So what?
    5 – Why are you using your magic crystal ball to view the games that Richardson will/won’t play in when you could be using it to know what numbers to use on a lottery ticket to get a big payoff? I mean…you are clearly a supremely talented fortune teller…but my gosh…you would think that you’d have better priorities.

  • Sam

    It’s supposed to be a Sunday Six Pack not a Five Pack of Whining. How is this not a negative reaction to a preseason loss? You would have posted this comment had the Browns won in similar fashion as the first two preseason games? I highly doubt it. Let’s give this team a chance before we make depressing predictions about injuries that haven’t happened and a quarterback that will finally get a fair chance to prove himself within a system that fits his strengths.

  • cmm13

    1. Any QB not able to deal with the rush is not your franchise QB in this NFL
    2. No argument because he’s still not progressing
    3. I am very pessimistic on Weeden, his inaccuracies far out weigh his good throws and will lead to injury of a receiver.
    4. So….. it’s an automatic mismatch on us EVERY PASSING DOWN.
    5. Laughable.

  • Natedawg86

    Bogotay kicked it into the stands? Holy crap!!!

  • Vindictive_Pat

    I just wanted to point out that #1 just isn’t realistic. Do you know what defensive coordinators say is the key to beating Tom Brady and Peyton Manning? Put pressure on them. There are no QBs in the NFL who do well with a pass rusher in their face. As for comparing to Luck, well there’s a reason Luck was the #1 pick in the draft last year. Not only does he have the smarts and the arm talent to be a great QB, he’s also going to be one of the best in the league at extending plays by moving around in and out of the pocket. I want Weeden to be that way too, but it’s just not going to happen. He can still be successful as long as he is smart with the football and throws the ball away when the situation calls for it.

    As for supposed accuracy problems for Weeden, I think we need a larger sample size in the new offense. He was inaccurate on Saturday, but the previous game he was accurate. Even his misses were right off the tips of the receivers’ fingers and were placed perfectly away from the defensive backs.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    I didn’t get to watch the game, so everything I know is from following the game on NFL.com. With that said, I wonder if Josh Cooper didn’t lock up the final WR spot in that game. I believe he picked up two 1st downs for the Browns in 3rd down scenarios and looks like he could be a good backup to Bess. He may have just bought Jordan Norwood his ticket out of Cleveland.

  • Ezzie Goldish

    Biggest five reasons to me:

    1. It was still just a preseason game, and they immediately talked about needing to learn from the mistakes as opposed to minimizing what was poor like past years have done.
    2. As bad as Weeden was, we saw two important positives in it: The play-calling was still good (people were open) and he never threw a pick or really seemed to force anything dangerous from what I’ve seen. (Though a couple throws did seem to put his receivers in bad spots for big hits.)
    3. Richardson was solid, and when he was in they moved the ball well. [Also a concern that without him they had trouble.]
    4. The pass rush was very good despite missing a ton of players, and while Reggie Wayne is a HOF WR, they didn’t give up any massive plays, and a lot of Indy’s success was with a phenom young QB expanding the pocket and plays and then firing darts for medium range gains. Most of the time opposing QBs won’t have that kind of time, and most of them aren’t Andrew Luck, and most won’t be playing with a big lead in a no-pressure preseason game. Doesn’t mean they can’t improve, but it’s not like they were getting sliced up at the snap by some average QB – this was a top QB making plays after 4-5 seconds of good coverage and a good rush. And even with all that, he left with a solid not spectacular 17 points after three quarters and a number of stops; it wasn’t like they put up 24-27 and were never stopped. It seemed worse because of the Browns’ 3.
    5. The rush D was solid. That’s been something that should have been a concern this year and really has been solid throughout the preseason.

  • Ben Frambaugh

    1 – Tom Brady got beat by the Giants in their last two super bowls because he couldn’t handle their rush. Guess he isn’t really a franchise QB though.
    2 – If that was the only thing he needed to progress in, then yes, you could say that. However, that’s not the ONLY thing a QB needs to work on to progress. His footwork is better. His “ball tapping” has gone away. And he’s working on all of this while learning a very new offense.
    3 – We hadn’t noticed you were pessimistic on Weeden. Glad you mentioned it here…because the rest of your posts seem full of sunshine, rainbows and unicorn fur.
    4 – Almost EVERY CB is short. Particularly shorter than the WR’s they cover. That is the nature of the NFL today.
    5 – yes, your post is laughable. That’s why I pointed out all of the flaws in it.

  • http://www.cinpleweb.com/ stin4u

    This is all well and good, but none of these positives relate to Brandon Weeden which is still the biggest missing piece of the puzzle.

    The problem I see is two fold; pre-snap reads of non-base, vanilla defenses, like he saw the first two games, and his outright refusal to manipulate the secondary with his eyes or pump fakes or…anything really. I watched him, again, watch Jordan Cameron run from one hash to the other and try to drop a ball in on three converging defenders. That can not happen, these guys aren’t idiots and when they realize they can trust the quarterbacks eyes, it’s all over.

  • steve-o

    My Monday 12 pack;

    1) Weeden will have a lot of film to study along side the coaches. Hopefully the experience will make him better in the regular season, because we all know this team will only go as far as he can take us. If we see ‘bad’ Weeden to start the regular season, the QB draft talk will start by week 2 (if it hasn’t already).

    2) Campbell also struggled, so maybe the poor showing had more to do with something the Colts were doing right (and our vanilla offense).

    3) A mobile QB like Luck can make up for a lot of OL deficiencies. He’ll be considered the best QB in the league one day. I wish it was somehow possible to make the Browns lose two more games two season ago.

    4) McFadden played his first ever NFL game and was heavily picked on. No surprise there.
    5) Skrine looks a lot better this season, but I still want him in the slot instead of the outside where he’ll get burned by taller receivers.

    6) Wayne is a future HOF WR and looked like it. He plays well against most teams, not just the Browns.

    7) If you want Trich on your fantasy team, you will need a t5 pick.

    8) Bess could lead the team in receptions this year because no one else has reliable hands.

    9) Roberson is exactly the kind of big WR who is worth developing in our offense. I hope we keep him around. I’d hate to see him land in Baltimore catching passes against us.

    10) The offense missed Dion Lewis. Our next quickest back looks like Cook, who did pretty well, but he has just an outside shot of making the roster. We could be combing the waiver wire for a speedy back.

    11) Our D-line has some major depth but this defense needs at least two stud pass rushers to be effective. The game might have looked a lot different with Sheard and Mingo in there.

    12) Indi had many defensive weaknesses last season, especially in the secondary. They filled all their holes by using a large portion of their salary cap in FA. That strategy appears to have actually worked, but it clearly must be a mirage. Joe Banner should pay them a courtesy call to let them know they are building the team the wrong way.

  • mgbode

    (1) It’s a preseason game
    (2) I didn’t see any new injuries to worry about
    (3) I didn’t watch it because it’s a preseason game
    (4) The Lions (whom we handled) crushed the Pats 40-9 because it’s a preseason game
    (5) Only 2 weeks until we get to face the Dolphins

  • Vindictive_Pat

    I agree with all of these very astute points, except for #7. You only need a top-5 pick to land T-Rich if your draft has other Browns fans in it. Not because Richardson doesn’t warrant a top-5 pick, but because people who follow the NFL but don’t really follow the Browns think T-Rich is an injury risk and they hate his 3.6 yards/attempt from last season. He’s a top-10 pick in all drafts, though.

  • Garry_Owen

    Re #3:
    The Colts were all-in on sucking that year so that they could draft Luck. If the Browns had lost 16 games that year, the Colts would have found a way to lose 17. They were that good at being purposefully bad. Sometimes, I hate them more than I hate the Steelers. Sometimes. Like in 2007.

  • Harv 21

    Didn’t want to comment until I actually watched this thing. One negative and one positive takeaway:

    - Weeden’s understanding of the routes and confidence getting the ball there has clearly improved. But that helps his effectiveness mainly when his primary receiver is isolated. His staredowns are drawing DBs like honey draws bees. It’s worrisome that he doesn’t have the confidence or ability to look off or go to his secondary receiver, not when he had time and not even against the second team defense. It’s like someone dribbling while watching the basketball, or typing while watching the keyboard. Wonder whether he’s internalized the offense enough to make the instantaneous decision to default to a second option, or whether he remembers what that option is under game conditions. It could be he will take a big jump early this season. It could be his football IQ is too low to be an effective starter, or that his long football absence cost him the requisite QB nuances developed by playing the position. Just get the feeling that right now he doesn’t know where all the chess pieces are on the board.

    - Leon McFadden did NOT get schooled by Reggie Wayne, like I keep reading. I counted 3 short catches. On one he made a beautiful open field tackle on a 5 yarder that prevented a big gain. He also came over the top perfectly to knock one away and had good coverage in the red zone on the interception when Luck went to the RB who then tipped it up. Most of Wayne’s catches came against LBs and Skrine. Very solid start for a rookie seeing his very first NFL action.

  • Shojib Ashrafi Na Ashrafi

    Follow the prosecutors advice & give him 25 years. What’s the judge really waiting for?
    Letters from a Stake Prez, Legislator & the guv’s wife exalting his great character?accident attorney utah
    is very painful.