Thursday, August 25, 2011

Browns learned a lesson tonight

The Eagles were a bad match-up for the Browns tonight.

 The Eagles defense has been practicing against the West Coast offense since 1999. The Browns defense has been practicing against the West Coast since July 30.

The Browns starting defense played well, particularly the defensive line, but the difference in the game was the way the Eagles defense engulfed Colt McCoy and the Browns offense. The Eagles anticipated McCoy well and forced his first interception of the preseason. At one point the Browns trailed 24-0. The defense played better than that score indicates, but not the offense.

The highlights for the Browns were rookie defensive lineman Phil Taylor and third-year receiver Brian Robiskie. Taylor was in Michael Vick's face most of the first half. He sacked Vick and forced a fumble. Jayme Mitchell recovered inside the Eagles 20, but the Browns didn't cash in.

Robiskie might have saved his job. He caught the ball well and, despite an offensive interference penalty, showed he'll fight for the ball.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Defense active in first quarter

Too much focus is on the offense in a football training camp, although it is natural to think offense first because this is a quarterback-driven sport.

The Lions led the Browns 10-7 after the first quarter. The defense led the way for the Browns. A forced fumble and fumble recovery by rookie Jabaal Sheard set up the Browns' touchdown, a three-yard pass from Colt McCoy to Evan Moore.

The Browns linebackers have been outstanding. D'Qwell Jackson and Kaluka Maiava each had tackles behind the line of scrimmage. Early in the second quarter the Browns forced the Lions to punt from their own end zone.

Another long punt return by Jordan Norwood - 20 yards - game the offense the ball on the Lions 21. McCoy jumped on the gift with a touchdown pass to Moore on the first play. The pass was ruled incomplete, but Pat Shurmur challenged the call and the ruling was reversed. Moore made a sliding catch and controlled the ball.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Browns lead after three

The Browns led the Packers 24-17 after three quarters Saturday night.

Once the starters are done for the night the rest of a preseason game is a stage for second and third line players to jump out.

Linebacker Titus Brown helped himself by making two stops on running plays to hold the Packers to a field goal in the second quarter, preserving a 14-10 Browns lead. With the score 17-17 in the third quarter, Brown scooped up a fumble on a strip forced by undrafted rookie Brian Smith and returned it 43 yards for a touchdown.

Jordan Norwood, trying to wedge his way into the  wide receiver group, showed he can catch the ball and excel on special teams. He returned the Packers opening punt 22 yards in the first quarter. He caught three passes for 36 yards in the third quarter with Seneca Wallace at quarterback.

Brian Sanford, trying to grab a spot on the Browns defensive line, sacked Packers third quarterback Graham Harrell with about 12 minutes left.

McCoy perfect first drive

Too bad Colt McCoy couldn't bottle that first possession and open it every time the Browns play.

 McCoy led a touchdown drive for a 7-0 lead over the Packers by going 5-for-5 for 72 yards while spreading the ball to three wide receivers plus running back Peyton Hillis.

McCoy capped the drive with a touchdown pass to Josh Cribbs. Cribbs jumped and fell backward  making the catch.

Green Bay answered with a 21-yard touchdown from Aaron Rodgers to Greg Jennings. Jennings beat cornerback Sheldon Brown on the play.

McCoy is still at quarterback as the second quarter begins with Browns facing third-and-four on the Cleveland 43. This is likely his last possession. He keeps the drive going with a 19-yard pass to Ben Watson to the Packers 40 and then hit Watson again to the Packers 3.

Hills ran inside 3 yards for the touchdown. The Browns lead, 14-7, with 13:46 to play in the first half.. It was a good night for McCoy.

The Browns second defense is in the game.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Cribbs dazzling as a receiver

Josh Cribbs has his detractors as a wide receiver, judging by the comments readers make whenever his name shows up in a story, but those skeptics might be basing their theory on old information.

Cribbs has consistently been the best receiver in training camp. Hope this doesn't jinx him, but Cribbs is catching everything thrown his way. He is fighting for passes much better than some of his peers. He made a diving catch Wednesday morning.

A year ago Cribbs reported to camp weighing about 225 pounds. He is 10 pounds lighter this summer and it shows. He is sleek and quick out of his breaks. In the past he has dropped catchable balls, but that isn't happening this camp.

The West Coast offense is designed to hit receivers in open space and let them run. Cribbs could be ideal in this offense. When Mohamed Massaquoi heals from his left foot injury I'd like to see Massaquoi and Cribbs as the starters in the third preseason game.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Scrimmage would be nice, but..

Here's another sign Pat Shurmur is all business in his first year coaching the Browns: A scrimmage today would probably attract more fans to Family Day at Cleveland Browns Stadium, but Shurmur believes he can accomplish more with a normal practice, so that's what he has planned.

Still, this is an important step for rookie defensive linemen Phil Taylor and Jabaal Sheard. 11-on-11 will be part of the practice, and the rookies will be fired up to be in Cleveland Browns Stadium for the first time. This is also the next step for rookie receiver Greg Little. The field, by the way, is so perfect it looks like artificial turf.

Fans are starting to file in for the 2 p.m. start. The smart ones are going to the first row on the lower deck so they can have prime spots for autographs at the end of practice. Rain is forecast for around 3 p.m., but right now the stadium is sitting under blue skies.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Size matters in Browns defense

Phil Taylor practiced today for the first time since ending his holdout Tuesday. He won't put on the pads until this afternoon, but he is huge. He weighs 338 pounds and Ahtyba Rubin weighs in at 315. That is a lot of beef inside at tackle in the 4-3 defense the Browns will play.

Run defense has been a problem for the Browns most of their first 12 years. Last year they were 27th against the run. They finished 5-11 for the second straight year.

As big as Taylor is now, he was even bigger before he changed his diet. He\once weighed 388 pounds until a coach got hold of him and made him change his eating habits - no more late night feasts. He is much quicker at a svelte 338.

Taylor immediately started working with the first team defense today. General Manager Tom Heckert said the Browns have to get younger, and Taylor plus end Jabaal Sheard, both rookies, are part of that youth movement. The Browns should be better defensively in October than in September as the rookies learn their craft.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Peaceful training camp

Anyone watching the Browns in training camp can hear the person next to him or her without straining. Why? Because that ridiculous idea of Eric Mangini's to blast music to simulate stadium noise is not Pat Shurmur's idea.

Shurmur's version of training camp is to teach and coach. It is just a few days in, but the concentration level of players is high. It has to be, because they are trying to digest a new offense and new defense without the benefit of any offseason program due to the lockout. On the other hand, the players are fresh for having not gone through the minicamps and OTAs, and they were responsible enough as individuals to train on their own so they were physically ready for camp.

One idea of Mangini's not being used by Shurmur was beneficial. Mangini had officials work every practice. Making players run laps for penalties might have been unnecessary, but the supervision did result in fewer gameday penalties. Shurmur will have officials in camp at some point, but not yet.