Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

Browns preseason opener is first step

Preseason games in the NFL are tricky things.

The players are almost in a no-win situation with media and fans. If they do well, “it’s only preseason” against an opposing team that is playing under its own agenda.

Struggle, and it’s “man the lifeboats” time (which is only true if the team you are talking about is the Bengals).

Having said that, there were some positives to take out of the Browns win against Green Bay on Saturday in the exhibition opener:

  • Colt McCoy looked sharp, completing 9-of-10 for 135 yards and a touchdown. “I’ll be the first to tell you we’re nowhere where we need to be,” McCoy said in published reports. “It’s a good start, but we’ve got a long way to go.”
  • Josh Cribbs caught a 10-yard pass on third down and a 27-yard touchdown pass from McCoy. “It’s a great sneak preview of the West Coast offense, especially with the way we moved the ball down the field at will,” Cribbs said. “It was so beneficial for us to work all summer long … and we’ve got the timing down pat.I don’t want to say too much, but with the talent on this football team and the winning tradition that Colt had in college, it’s starting to look like that now.”
  • Defensive tackle Phil Taylor drew the first of what should be several holding penalties.
  • Defensive end Jayme Mitchell finally had a chance to show Browns fans what Tom Heckert saw on tape last season, sacking backup quarterback Matt Flynn in the first quarter.
  • The starters on the offensive line looked really good. We all know Joe Thomas, Eric Steinbach and Alex Mack are going to be solid, but Shawn Lauvao and Tony Pashos looked like they can do some damage if they stay healthy (a big if in Pashos’ case).
  • Coach Pat Shurmur finally saw game action as a head coach and he came through it in one piece. “Even though this one doesn’t really go in the record books as a regular-season victory, that feeling you get when you win is something we all long for,” Shurmur said. “Somebody that’s teaching young men, to see them respond to some of the things we’ve been talking about, I thought it was good.”

Having said all that, it’s good to remember not to get too carried away.

Green Bay didn’t dress four of their cornerbacks, including Charles Woodson, which helped make things easier for the Browns offense.

And on their second drive, the Packers went 73 yards in seven plays pretty easily, scoring on a 21-yard touchdown pass from Aaron Rodgers to Greg Jennings.

“We did some good things and we have to improve on some things,” tight end Ben Watson said. “Don’t take it any further than that. We’re still in training camp, we’re still working out the kinks and we’re still going to face some adversity. When that happens, it’ll be important to see how we respond.”

But the Browns still accomplished everything you could want from the first game. They got their first-team offense on the field under game conditions, rookies Taylor, Jabaal Sheard and Phil Taylor all got their first taste of NFL action and, most importantly, the team came out of the game without any major injuries.

It’s also evident that the players are responding to Shurmur in a way we haven’t seen with the Browns in quite a while.

“It all starts up top,” lineback D’Qwell Jackson said in published reports. “Shurmur) has created a winning environment. The coaches are relaxed and it trickles down to us players.”

“Coach Shurmur is real calm,” Ward said. “He expects you to do your job and be a professional. He lets us go out there and be men. We really appreciate that because he’s not riding us all the time. As men we have to knuckle up and know that this is our job. We’re not just here to play football. We’re here to win and play football. He let us know that right off the bat.”

“I like his aura,” cornerback Joe Haden said. “It’s really good and it rubs off on the players.”

So while this was just the first step in what is sure to be a long journey, at least the Browns made that step in the right direction.

(Photo by The Plain Dealer)

***

Finally, this one is for the few remaining hoople heads who think the Browns should sign Troy Smith to play quarterback simply because he used to play for Ohio State.

San Francisco got rid of Smith in the off-season, choosing to keep Alex Smith and rookie Colin Kaepernick instead. Now, after one preseason game, the team is so desperate for quarterback help that they are bringing in 34-year-old Daunte Culpepper for a workout.

Culpepper hasn’t played in the NFL since 2009 and spent last season with the Sacramento Mountain Lions of the United Football League.

Further proof that Smith isn’t an NFL-caliber quarterback and the last player the Browns need to bring to the team.

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