Monday, August 15, 2011

Green Bay perspective

It’s so easy to feel good about the way the Browns played a football game Saturday night against the Green Bay Packers. At this point, Browns fans will latch onto just about anything positive. And that’s understandable.

But there is still a long way to go as Pat Shurmur attempts to change the culture of his team. And he knows that.

That’s why the 27-17 victory over the Super Bowl champion Packers should be put in perspective. If anything, it showed that the stodgy offense Cleveland fans have been used to watching the last several seasons is gone. And the 3-4 scheme that failed to do what it was supposed to do the last several seasons is gone.

What a welcome change.

If the victory over the Packers is any indication, the Cleveland offense will be as wide open this season as a Texas prairie and the defense finally – finally!! – will show up with an attitude on Sundays.

Some more specific observations . . .

There is no question the Browns have uncovered a quarterback who has all the attributes of a strong leader. Colt McCoy appears to have the right intangibles.
Couple an overwhelming desire to succeed with absolutely no fear of failure and you have a potential winning combination.

He’s not big by National Football League standards. He doesn’t have the arm strength fans would love to see. And yet, he is a playmaker. He helps elevate the performance of his teammates. He is poised in the pocket. And he has wonderful touch on his passes.

He also has a swagger reminiscent of another Cleveland quarterback of about 30 years ago. Brian Sipe was not big, had a marginal throwing arm and was not the most mobile quarterback. All he did was win – or always give his team the chance to win – for several seasons. McCoy possesses some of Sipe’s characteristics. . . .

What in the world were the Browns thinking when they passed up the opportunity to trade for wide receiver Lee Evans when the Buffalo Bills put him on the market?

All the Bills wanted was a fourth-round draft choice. That’s not too much to give up for a man who can stretch a field with his speed and would clearly have been the Browns’ No. 1 receiver once he put on a uniform. That’s how average the Cleveland receiving corps is. He would have been a more vital contributor to the Browns than any future fourth-round pick.

Two other reasons it would have made sense to go after Evans. First of all, he’s a Cleveland guy. Graduated from Bedford High School. But what hurts most is that he wound up with Baltimore Ravens. Now we’ll get to see him twice a season. Wake up Tom Heckert Jr. and do your homework. You blew this one. . . .

It looks as though Peyton Hills won’t have to carry the brunt of the running attack this season. The slashing running style of Brandon Jackson gives the Browns a solid backup to Hillis. He is hard to bring down and always seems to be leaning forward. No more downgrading at the position when the big guy needs a breather. . . .

Based on early returns, the Browns won’t have any problems with the kicking game this season. Richmond McGee’s punting against the Packers was surprisingly strong, averaging nearly 50 yards a kick. Now let’s see if consistency is in his repertoire.

And let’s see how the Browns handle placekicker Jeff Wolfert. The youngster showed a powerful leg, nailing field goals of 46 and 44 yards against the Packers. Both kicks cleared the crossbar with room to spare. And his kickoffs consistently found the end zone.

It’s not unusual for teams to keep two kickers on the roster. And with Phil Dawson winding down his career, it might behoove the Browns to consider keeping Wolfert for the future. . . .

The Browns’ defensive line is young – maybe a little too young – and looks as though it will experience considerable growing pains as it switches to the 4-3 look. It’s still way too early, of course, but Ahtyba Rubin seemed to struggle in his three series against the Green Bay offense and rookies Jabaal Sheard and Phil Taylor looked lost. Only Jayme Mitchell, who registered one of the five sacks of the evening, looked comfortable. . . .

It was nice to see Brian Robiskie get open for the first pass reception of the evening. The lanky wide receiver had all sorts of problems getting off the line of scrimmage last season, but seems to have solved that problem.

If he is to be successful in the NFL, he has to make himself available to his quarterback. If he can do that with any degree of consistency, he very well might turn out to the wideout the Browns thought they drafted a few years ago. . . .

It didn’t take tight end Ben Watson long to get into mid-season form. It looks as though he and McCoy are cultivating a nice relationship that should translate into a better season than 2010. Watson and fellow tight end Evan Moore have just about perfected the seam route down the middle with which McCoy has found plenty of success. . . .

One down note . . . what in the world happened before the first play of the game? As the Packers lined up for the first play from scrimmage following the opening kickoff, the Browns called a timeout.

First of all, timeouts are precious. They are to be used only in extreme situations and should be saved until the end of halves. Use them only in critical situations.

In this case, the Browns opened up the game on defense with 12 men on the field. Someone did not get the message he was not starting. Bad communication. Inexcusable. Embarrassing.

Even so, a timeout should not have been called at that juncture. Run the play, take the penalty and move on. It’s an exhibition game.

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