Monday leftovers (Tuesday edition)
There is no question the Browns’ offensive explosion – relatively speaking, of course – caught a lot of us by surprise.
Given the stodgy, old-fashioned, buttoned-down approach to offense the team displayed in the exhibition season and first game of the regular season, it’s fair to say the 27-point salvo they laid on the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday was eye-opening.
It was a where-did-that-come-from kind of afternoon. Most fans obviously were pleased, but at the same time had to wonder just where was this offense earlier?
The return of rookie running back Trent Richardson definitely was a factor. After missing the entire exhibition season with knee surgery, no one counted on him being healthy enough to be considered a factor until at least the fifth or sixth week of the season.
But all it took was one sensational run by Richardson on the final play from scrimmage in the third quarter to stun Browns fans all around the globe into the realization that maybe their woebegone team has finally struck gold.
Followers of the college game knew all about this stud. They knew he was something special. But they did not know whether his game would translate to the National Football League. After all, they play the game on a much higher level there.
So when Richardson went down in training camp with a bad knee, doomsayers figured this was just another blown draft pick. Just another notch in the club’s bad-luck belt. And when he returned last week in the season opener against Philadelphia, he looked below average.
Then came the Bengals game, where Richardson used Paul Brown Stadium as his personal stage to introduce himself to NFL defenses in a most spectacular way.
It’s only one game, to be certain, but based on that performance and the notion that the coaching staff will finally realize the talent this kid has and design an offense that maximizes his enormous talents, there’s no telling how much of an impact he can have.
That TD against the Bengals, officially a 23-yard pass and run, was really a three-yard dump off as Brandon Weeden’s second choice on the play, and he turned it into the second of his two scores on the afternoon. What made it special was his innate ability to see the field so clearly, he made Bengals defenders look foolish.
Most great runners have speed, quickness and the ability to break tackles. But the one asset most people overlook is vision. Great peripheral vision allows that kind of runner to anticipate another player’s move and counter it before he can make it.
That’s what happened in Cincinnati. Three Bengals honed in on Richardson in those final 20 yards. All three flailed and grabbed nothing but air as he anticipated their moves and was gone by the time they arrived. Basically, he sees the game in slow motion.
And that, with help from the offensive coaching staff, can be a difference maker. Richardson, who compiled 145 yards (109 on the ground) on 23 touches, is a playmaker. He just needs the opportunity to make those plays. That’s where good coaching comes in.
Brad Childress coached Adrian Peterson in Minnesota. He knows how to handle superstar running backs. As the Browns’ offensive coordinator, it’s incumbent on him to bring out the best in Richardson.
It could make the difference between yet another moribund season and a season filled with hope and optimism for the future.
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Lost in the aftermath of the loss in Cincinnati was the fine game turned in by Mo Massaquoi. The wide receiver was targeted seven times by Weeden and caught five passes for 90 yards.
He consistently gained separation in the Bengals’ secondary and made some nice catches. He looked nothing like the skittish receiver who seemed to tiptoe through opposing secondaries after a two-concussion season last year.
If this is a portent of things to come, that makes Weeden even more effective. It gives him another big target to go with Greg Little, who finally hit the score sheet with his first five catches of the season in Cincinnati.
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It was nice to see Chris Ogbonnaya get a shot Sunday. Filling in for Brandon Jackson (guessing Jackson must have been hurt), Ogbonnaya caught all six passes thrown his way for 73 yards. Kudos to Pat Shurmur and Childress for sticking with Ogbonnaya after a second-quarter fumble on his second touch of the game short-circuited a brief Cleveland drive late in the second quarter. It came at the tail end of a 21-yard play and was the only Cleveland turnover. The defense picked him up and forced a Bengals punt.
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Notes: It’s only two games, but veteran linebacker D’Qwell Jackson is playing at a Pro Bowl level. His tackle total is down somewhat, but he’s helping the young linebackers get into position to make plays, making certain they line up correctly. And he’s making plays all over the field. His three sacks and two interceptions lead the club. . . . Throughout training camp, we were told second-year tight end Jordan Cameron was going to be a contributor. His contributions thus far have resulted in no catches and limited playing time. Maybe the coaching staff overrated him. . . . So far, Joshua Cribbs looks like any ordinary kick returner. In other words, nothing special. Based on the past, fans expect Cribbs to break either a punt of kickoff for a touchdown just about every time he grabs the ball. The relatively new kickoff rule, which went into effect last season, has definitely hurt him . . . Tough work ahead for the run defense. After holding the Bengals to 80 rushing yards last week, their assignment Sunday at home to Buffalo is shut down C. J. Spiller, who leads the NFL in rushing with 292 yards and three touchdowns. The Bills are coming off a 35-17 victory in Kansas City.