DETROIT – New starting quarterback. New wide receivers. Full off-season with no lockout. Same Cleveland Browns?
Thanks to a sloppy first-half in which the Browns would commit eight penalties, turn the football over twice, four injuries and one field goal, the first-team offense would struggle move the ball in a 19-17 win over the Detroit Lions.
The first-team offense resembled last year’s inept unit, thanks to the same—and predictable—subpar play-calling. The run defense still managed to look like a sieve as they would get gashed by the likes of Kevin Smith.
For the game, Cleveland would give up close to 200 yards—198—in a pre-season game. For a team that will face the likes of AFC North heavyweights, Baltimore and Pittsburgh in the regular season, that is simply unacceptable
If first impressions mean anything, the Browns so-called” West Coast offense” looked more like East Coast custard.
First round draft pick, quarterback Brandon Weeden would struggle in first ever NFL start by going 3-of-9 for 62 yards, one interception and one fumble lost.
Weeden, the 22nd overall pick out of Oklahoma State, would fumble—and be sacked—by defensive end, Willie Young. Young would also recover the ball for the Lions.
Moments later, Weeden would be intercepted Lions cornerback Dwight Bentley on a pass intended for wide receiver Greg Little in the first quarter.
Welcome to the league, Weeden.
Despite a so-so debut, Weeden would show that he can give the Browns offense a much-needed vertical boost, as he would complete his first-ever NFL completion to wide receiver Mohamed Massaqoui for 12 yards. After a three-yard run by running back, Montario Hardesty, Weeden would connect with rookie wide receiver Travis Benjamin on a 34-yard completion down the left sideline two plays later.
Benjamin, the 5’10 speedster out of Miami(FL), would finish with two catches for 46 yards.
Second-year tight end, Jordan Cameron would continue his strong play in training camp by catching two passes for 58 yards. Currently projected as the No.2 tight end on the official depth chart opposite starter Benjamin Watson, Cameron would haul in a 42-yard pass from second-string quarterback Colt McCoy before leaving the game with a lower back injury.
The Browns bad luck with injuries would continue as Massaqoui would leave with a head injury, the fore-mentioned Cameron would injure his back, cornerback Dmitri Patterson would injure his ankle and defensive tackle Scott Paxson would injure to his knee.
Cleveland, who is already without starters on defense Phil Taylor(pectoral), Scott Fujita(suspension) and Chris Gocong(Achilles tendon) can ill afford any more injuries. With starting cornerback, Joe Haden facing a possible four-game suspension a failed drug test for his use of Adderall, 2012 looks to be another long season for the Browns.
If there was a bright spot for the Browns was the competition for the number two quarterback spot behind Weeden between McCoy and Seneca Wallace. McCoy, who would start 11 games for the Browns in 2011-12, would lead the Browns to a field-goal in the second quarter. McCoy would finish 6-of-8 for 88 yards, no interceptions and a QB rating of 110.4
Wallace, who would play five games in place of the injured McCoy, would finish 7-of-13 for 86 yards, no interceptions and a QB rating of 100.2
Wallace would toss a 12-yard touchdown pass to rookie tight end/fullback Brad Smelley at 8:22 in the third quarter.
With the need of a quality backup for teams such as the Arizona Cardinals—who would see starter Kevin Kolb suffer a rib contusion—it may be wise for the Browns to move McCoy while he still has some value, due to his knowledge and experience in the West Coast offense.
And to also eliminate any distraction of a possible quarterback change—and another quarterback controversy—if Weeden were to struggle.
In the case of Weeden and his shaky debut, it may not have been pretty, as there was some rough patches, but in the case of the Browns new look offense, call it a case of growing pains.
Robert D. Cobb is the NBA Network Manager for Rant Media Network, Featured Writer of the Cleveland Cavaliers, and Featured Columnist for the Cleveland Browns and Arsenal Gunners.
In addition to covering the NBA, I also cover MLB, NFL, NHL and Champions League soccer news, rumors and opinions, please follow me on Twitter at @RobertCobb_76