The stakes – a great big barge trophy. With three head coaches in the last three seasons, a new look Browns team took the field and for once, there was no “deer in the headlights” look from the new head coach.
Here are some observations from the first preseason game as they were defeated 13-12.
Back to the Basics: Now I get it being the first game of the year and rust needs knocked off, but the tackling was horrendous this evening. While the first team defense did not allow a touchdown and played a “bend but don’t break” mindset, tackling needs to be refined in this week’s practice.
Run for your Lives: I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to see a running game again. Ben Tate is a proven veteran and runs with authority. The 25-year-old carried the ball six times for 25 yards and ripped off a nice 8 yard run early in the game. He also fumbled the ball, but was reluctant to get it back.
Rookie Terrance West ran hard but only averaged 2.2 yards per carry and seemed to dance a bit before hitting the hole. But, West did have a couple of nice one-cut runs.
Kick it like Cundiff: Since taking over for the legend Phil Dawson, Billy Cundiff has missed just five field goal attempts, two of which were from 50+ yards. On Saturday night, Cundiff continued his consistency with four more three pointers – 37, 43, 26, and 41 yards respectively.
Great Battle: An intriguing battle to watch is not what you think. Inside linebackers Craig Robertson and Chris Kirksey is a real good one. It was Robertson that struggled in coverage last season and a roster spot this season was not a lock whatsoever.
However, Robertson fits a lot better in this defensive scheme and his coverage skills are much better.
The third year man had a very athletic pass break up. Kirksey, the third round pick from Iowa, played like a veteran tonight. Against first round pick Eric Ebron, Kirksey held his own and also had a nice pass defense.
Raw Lindenwood: Don’t get me wrong, I am 1000% on the Pierre Desir wagon. I believe it was an excellent selection and the kid has talent. However, this game was a rude welcoming to the NFL for Desir.
I counted at least three missed tackles and he was flagged for an illegal use of hands penalty in the second half.
The rookie looked uncomfortable, out-of-place, and sometimes lost on the field. He has a lot of work to do and needs to watch the film tomorrow to see his mistakes.
Dial it Up: Don’t be surprised if veteran linebacker Zac Diles makes this team. It seemed like every running play, Diles was in on the tackle.
Brownie Bites: Undrafted rookie free agent receiver Taylor Gabriel was all over the field. He finished with just three catches for 32 yards, with a long of 14. Gabriel also saw time in both return games and had three returns overall for some decent yardage. Marlon Moore, a recent free agent signing, had an awesome 52 yard kickoff return and set Johnny Manziel and the Browns offense up with great field position.
I can’t believe I’m writing this, but Dion Lewis will not make this team. He had a case of fumble-itis tonight and is so far down the depth chart. The Browns made a great move moving MarQueis Gray to tight end/H-back.A former quarterback in college, Gray has the size, speed, and hands to help off the bench.
The QB1 Battle: Neither Brian Hoyer or Manziel led a touchdown drive tonight. Hoyer went 6 of 14 for 92 yards. Manziel, 7 of 11 for 63 yards. This battle is going to get interesting as time goes on here. Both quarterbacks did not light it up by any means, but Manziel is going to be fun to watch if he wins this battle.
The kid simply has the “it” factor and did not look like a scared rookie quarterback. I loved how he is visibly vocal in the huddle and has complete command of it. I loved how when he was tackled, his offensive lineman (both first team and second team) were quick to help him. As I’ve written in other articles, there is a respect factor for him and the players like him.
It was very interesting to see the two quarterbacks different play calls too. For Manziel’s first three plays, he worked out of the pistol formation. The Browns plan on running him too as he had led the team with 27 yards on six carries.
Ryan Ruiz is the Cleveland Browns Beat Writer for The Inscriber: Digital Magazine. You can follow him on Facebook: Ryan (BrownsWriter) Ruiz and Twitter @ryanpruiz24. Ryan is also a Browns correspondent for The Sportsfix. Tune in every Friday at noon on www.thesportsfix.net. Email Ryan at ryan.ruiz@http://184.108.40.206/~theinscr