Monday, August 20, 2012

A second dress rehearsal
OK, let me see if I’ve got this straight.

The Browns, at least according to coach Pat Shurmur, played their dress-rehearsal game last Thursday in Green Bay against the Packers.

So far, so good.

This Friday night at Cleveland Browns Stadium, the Browns welcome the Philadelphia Eagles in their third exhibition game of the season.


Eagles coach Andy Reid, however, says that since it’s his club’s third exhibition, he’s going to play his regulars for at least a half because it’s their dress-rehearsal game.

Shurmur originally indicated game two in Green Bay was the dress rehearsal for the regular season because the Browns and Eagles open the regular season just 16 days after meeting in Friday’s exhibition.

Now comes word from Berea that Shurmur has rethought the situation and Cleveland’s ones most likely will play as long as the Eagles’ starters.

Reid has put his former assistant coach on the spot, but he can’t worry about that. He wants to get his men ready for the regular season and this just happens to be the third exhibition game. Call it inconvenient scheduling.

Question is how vanilla will the calls be for the Browns in this one on both sides of the ball? In the first two exhibitions, Shurmur and offensive coordinator Brad Childress played the conservative card. Heavily. 

There is every reason to believe the Browns will stress fundamentals in this one and exercise extreme caution. On offense, we most likely will see a lot more off tackle runs and short passes. On defense, mostly straight up. Nothing fancy. Don’t want to give away too much.

The Browns have more to lose by opening up the playbooks on offense and defense since their talent level is nowhere near that of the more explosive Eagles, who probably will be much more daring.

So Shurmur’s plan of just one dress rehearsal has now morphed into a couple. And that’s not a bad thing. The more reps the starters get between now and the season opener, the better. This is a young offense that needs all the work it can get.

So it very well could turn out to be somewhat of a blessing in disguise for the Browns if Reid plays his strong hand. Considering Brandon Weeden has yet to throw his first touchdown pass – and his receivers haven’t exactly been scintillating in running their routes – this extra work cannot hurt.

But there is one certainty that will emerge from Friday night’s meeting. The Eagles’ defense Weeden sees in no way will bear any resemblance to the one he sees on Sept. 9 at CBS.  That’s when the tempo of the game changes radically. The speed and quickness of the game shift dramatically when the meaningful games begin. 

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