After a whirlwind trip to my brother-in-law’s wedding, I’m back! I actually did catch the second half of the first preseason game against the Packers, but other than a Browns victory and Jarrett Brown appearing to be able to run as fast as Usain Bolt, I didn’t really have much to say about what I saw.
The Browns will square off against the Lions tonight at Cleveland Browns Stadium. On a related note, the Cleveland Indians are squaring off against the Detroit Tigers in a key AL Central Division matchup tonight. Needless to say, Clevelanders are hoping for a sweep of Detroit tonight!
Many fans might look at the Browns’ victory over the Super Bowl champion Packers and think that a game against the Lions will be a walk in the park. I don’t think it’ll be as easy as many people believe, but I do think the Browns will emerge victorious. Over the years, the Lions have taken big steps on both sides of the ball, and I believe that they could be one of the surprise stories of the NFL this fall if they stay healthy and improve their defense.
Writing about the second preseason game is tough. The third preseason game is interesting because the starters typically play at least half of the game, and the fourth preseason game is fun because it is often a hard-fought affair in which players are fighting hard to make the final roster. Nevertheless, here’s my thoughts on tonight’s game:
When healthy, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford has shown that he can put up big numbers. Last week, Stafford threw for two touchdown passes in one quarter of work against a decent Cincinnati secondary. Browns fans should keep a close eye on how Joe Haden matches up against Calvin Johnson, one of the league’s elite wide receivers. The Lions improved their running game with the speedy Jerome Harrison, who had a down year in 2010 after having a breakout end to the 2009 season. Jahvid Best, who was the team’s starting running back in 2010, is an explosive back. However, he was plagued by injuries throughout the 2010 season. The Lions also signed Mike Bell, but I wouldn’t exactly consider him much of an upgrade after seeing his dismal performance with the Browns last season. I still think he’s coasting off of his surprise promotion to the top of the depth chart when he was with the Denver Broncos, but that’s just one disgruntled fan’s opinion.
On defense, Ndamukong Suh was a breakout player in his first season. I’m particularly interested to see how Colt McCoy handles the disruptive Suh, who will provide a taste of the pressure brought by other disruptive tackles in the AFC North such as Haloti Ngata and Casey Hampton. Suh’s received a lot of negative PR lately because of his aggressive nature, but unless he’s intentionally trying to hurt someone (maybe one of those Detroit auto executives was inspired by Nevin Shapiro and took a bit of that federal bailout money to use as a bounty for Suh?), I’m fine with it. Would you rather have an overaggressive Suh or a lazy Albert Haynesworth who lies on the ground as the play swirls around him?
Jason Hanson–yes, the same Jason Hanson who is in Tecmo Super Bowl for the SNES–has reliably handled the kicking duties for the Lions since 1992. Browns fans should be hopeful that he won’t get much work tonight and that he’ll have a chance to rest his aging body!
With regards to the Browns, I’m eager to see if Colt McCoy is able to replicate his scintillating performance against the Packers. The Browns’ recent history is littered with players who had a breakout game one week and completely disappeared the next week (Frisman Jackson or Chris Jennings, anyone?), but I don’t think McCoy will join that list. Nevertheless, I’m wondering what effect another week of training camp and a week of game film of the Browns’ new offense will have on the opposing team’s defensive preparation for McCoy.
I’m also hoping to see another great performance from Josh Cribbs. Early reports from all parties involved have indicated that new head coach Pat Shurmur isn’t a big fan of the Wildcat, which is the formation in which the Browns have utilized Cribbs in the past. Cribbs is an amazing talent who can change the face of a game with one touch of the ball, and the Browns need to figure out a way to get him on the field and put the ball in his hands!
I’m still going to keep a close eye on the performance of the young defensive backs. I’m not sure if their great performance last week against Graham Harrell is due to Harrell’s ineptitude or their talent–I’m hoping it’s the latter–and I’ll be interested to see how they fare against the more experienced Shaun Hill.
Let’s hope for another game with no significant injuries, continued development from the Browns’ young players, and if we’re lucky…a win! GO BROWNS!