Today is the day folks, your Cleveland Browns are about to play their first preseason game of the 2016 season against the Green Bay Packers. With new head coach Hue Jackson at the helm, here are a few things I’m interested in seeing and some things that worry me as they look to finally right this ship.
How does Robert Griffin III actually look in Hue’s offense?
We’ve heard a lot both ways on this and there’s been a recent uptick of “good practices,” so I’m interested to see if he looks comfortable in the offense, making throws from the pocket and (gasp!) how does he look in game situations after taking a few hits. Which leads us to…
Who is playing where on the offensive line?
Free agency, the draft and injuries have (gutted) shaped and reshaped the offensive line. Joe Thomas and Joel Bitonio will be starters, and Cameron Erving seems to have gotten the nod at center. Stopping there, I loved Erving in the draft and still want him to succeed, but I’m worried about him starting anywhere on the line after watching him getting beaten mentally and physically everywhere he played.
I believe a large problem for the Browns offensive line last year was losing offensive line coach Andy Moeller so early in the season. It doesn’t explain all of the issues, or even half, and may only be a petty excuse of mine, but Alex Mack looked like a shell of himself, Mitchell Schwartz and Thomas played well, but somehow the Browns could not run the ball and had problems protecting the QB.
Ducktape, smoke and mirrors.
The loss of Desmond Bryant for the season to a torn pec was awful news for returning defensive coordinator, Ray Horton. He went into what he called “survival mode,” and I can’t blame him. Bryant was a veteran who can produce on Sundays, and his production will be missed. That bad news was offset by the return of Joe Haden from injuries.
Point being, Horton has a lot of youth, 1st and 2nd-year players. Can he get something out of Barkevious Mingo, Nate Orchard and the rookies and develop them quickly enough to offset the loss of the veterans? Not an easy task.
Since the draft
A lot of the talk of the 14 rookies has stalled. Some have been injured and others have not made quite the impression of, sayyyyyyy, Corey Coleman. Every practice he has been in, he has made an impact.
Whether it was a catch, a jump or just his speed, he’s gotten noticed. Which is a rarity, but when was the last time you heard of Scooby Wright or even Emmanuel Ogbah impressing the crowd or reporters in attendance?
This will also be a good chance for us to get a look at some of the rookies due to the injuries of players like Coleman, Andrew Hawkins and Bryant. Ogbah, Carl Nassib, Orchard, Rashard Higgins, Ricardo Louis, Jordan Payton and others should get some extra reps against another NFL team.
Oh and to make matters more intriguing? Orchard is the only one of those players I named that has any NFL reps. Buckle your seat belts, Browns fans.
The Jackson Browns?
By that, I mean, I want to see the Hue Jackson effect.
His energy on the sidelines, how he coaches and what he is doing with the offense. I love the energy, optimism and seeming unity of the Cleveland Browns organization. I say seeming not to mock Jackson or even insinuate anything.
Again, I mean, he has become the face of the Cleveland Browns. He seems like he has the support of the owner, players and front office, a harmony that the Browns organization has not seen in a long time. As a cause from all of the past turmoil, I have learned that a coach, player or exec can smile and say team platitudes while being completely screwed. All signs point to the Browns actually having the sort of harmony you expect and want from a coach and front office, and I truly hope Jackson gets the chance here that he deserves.
The Prophet’s Profit
This year, the Cleveland Browns can be a much better team than last year and still lose a lot of games.
I want to see improvement and I won’t measure it in “wins and losses” (unless the Browns win, of course). Jackson and his coaches have a surplus of youth and energy, but precious little in experience among the players.
The staff Jackson assembled is pretty impressive to me. Horton, DBs coach Louie Cioffi, RBs coach Kirby Wilson, Al Saunders and Robert Nunn all have impressive resumes.
To me, I want to see Nunn teach the Browns to play with their arms to clog passing lanes and bat down balls the way the New York Giants were known for. Cioffi did an excellent job with a young secondary in his last stint here with Horton, let’s hope he can work that same magic this time.
Many excellent features have been done on Saunders, so I don’t need to go further on him, but the staff Jackson has assembled is quite impressive and helps inspire some hope for a, relatively, quick turn-around for the franchise.
Big plays happen, and things go wrong. Momentum swings and pressure mounts as time ticks down. The Browns will have to make sure that the young team doesn’t try to impress the staff and instead of making the solid play, they go for the big hit or interception and fail to do the job they were assigned and give up another big play. If the rookies can play how they were coached and how they practiced, the Browns will be ok.
It’s like Jackson said, “you can’t go broke taking a profit.”