Sunday, August 10, 2014
JUDGING THE QB COMPETITION, AND GRADING SOME STANDOUTS FROM PRESEASON GAME #1
New Browns coach Mike Pettine has said this offseason that the Browns were going to "break off the rear view mirror," this season. Blowing a 4th quarter lead in a football game isn't going to make that happen any quicker. But it is the preseason and I'm not going to sweat some bubble players letting a game get away. The real competition is between teammates in these games. So I am going to look at some of the battles for positions that were fought last night.
Obviously the most hotly contested battle on the team is between the hometown boy Brian Hoyer and the media darling Johnny Manziel. While tons of fans have a personal agenda is at play in this battle, I personally want to see the best man win. The trouble is that objectively I didn't see one guy take a resounding lead in the competition.
Hoyer's was 6-14 with 92 yards in three series with the offense. He made a few nice reads and throws, but the kink in his armor on Saturday night was a couple overthrows that could have potentially lead to big plays for the Browns offense. The worst part of his night was that perhaps his best two thrown ball of the night were also not hauled in. Miles Austin dropped a pass near the end zone that would have set up first and goal. And Josh Gordon couldn't haul in a well thrown ball in the end zone, due to a very nice play by the Lions' defense.
Manziel's debut was also somewhat polarizing. Johnny went 7-11 for 63 yards with 27 rushing yards. While Johnny didn't set the world on fire, it is important to remember this was his first ever professional action. Kyle Shanaham wasted no time letting Johnny be Johnny as he rotated between standard pro offensive plays, and more gimmicky style offense. Johnny made a couple nice reads and throws, and a couple drive saving runs to keep the offense on the field. Probably the most impressive moment of his game for me came when Johnny was under pressure and threw an awkward, but catchable ball to Terrance West in the flat for an 8 yard gain. Not many QBs in Browns history make that play. But Johnny's night wasn't all positive as he had a fairly bad overthrow on a comeback route and fell victim to some poor WR and OL play.
While the numbers were a bit pedestrian I felt that both guys did a nice job of moving the ball and despite no touchdown drives, we consistently flipped field position, putting our defense in a good position to shine. Neither guy probably gained or lost much ground.
Some other guys who really helped their cause vs. the Lions:
RB-Ben Tate: Tate had 25 yards on 6 carries, while not great numbers you must remember the Browns passed the ball more than any team in the NFL last season because we weren't getting solid carries out of anyone.
RB-Terrance West: 22 yards on 10 carries doesn't sound that great, but considering he lost a fair number of his yards on poorly blocked runs out of the pistol sort of balances that out. When given ample opportunity West showed some power and vision and had several nice runs of his own.
TE/FB-Marqueis Gray: The former Golden Gopher QB showed why he was in camp showing a unique blend of size and speed. Gray had two nice catch and runs for 51 yards. He will just have to clean up a bad drop that he had in the red zone, that looked more like a borderline fumble to me.
WR-Charles Johnson: Browns WRs did not have the best night against the Lions, so Johnson's performance probably will allow him to sit smugly during positional meetings this week. Johnson made three tough catches for 30 yards, showing off his hands and running ability.
G-John Greco: The block of the night came from Greco as he alertly blasted a back side rusher. The block was so vicious that it was initially flagged, but was ultimately deemed a clean block. He helped a first team offensive line that really stood out as a unit.
S-Donte Whitner: Whitner has nothing to prove as one of the veterans on this team, but he had a couple hard yet clean hits. I felt he really motivated the rest of the defense to tighten up after a shaky start.
MLB-Craig Robertson: Robertson showed great improvement over last season in both run support and pass coverage. With draft pick Christian Kirksey (who stood out himself) breathing down his neck, Robertson didn't do anything to indicate he is going to give away his starting position easily.
OLB-Barkevious Mingo: Last year's first round pick made the Browns only sack of the night, but it was a highlight reel sack. Mingo powered through what I thought was an obvious hold by a Lions fullback to get his first preseason sack.
K-Billy Cundiff: Cundiff made all four of his FG attempts, quieting critics of the team for not bringing in multiple kickers for this year's camp to challenge for the spot.
WR-Marlon Moore: While Moore wasn't involved much in the offense he made the most of his one touch by returning a kick 52 yards, showing incredible speed in the process. With the Josh Gordon suspension looming there may be an extra spot available. All eyes were on Willie Snead for that spot, but Snead really hurt his cause last night opening a possible door for a guy like Moore.
Hopefully next week's game in Washington will answer even more questions.