Observation Deck: Cleveland Browns
August, 28, 2014
By Pat McManamon | ESPN.com
CLEVELAND -- The fourth preseason game meant quite a bit to the Cleveland Browns on Thursday night. The Browns and their offense needed something good to happen, and they got it -- from both Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel.
Hoyer led the starting offense on an 85-yard touchdown drive on the first possession, and Manziel came on to score 13 points in five possessions. Manziel did not have a great completion percentage (6-for-17) but did make plays with his feet. Hoyer was quick and decisive, finishing his drive 6-for-8 with a rating over 100.
The best thing, though, was the Browns' offense could take something good from the 33-13 win over Chicago. The Bears used their backups throughout the game, but that didn't matter.
"It was about us," Hoyer said in quotes distributed by the team in the third quarter. "Regardless of who’s playing for them -- they were nameless and faceless opponents -- we just wanted to go out and make everything about us."
Getting something accomplished at least sends the Browns into preparation for the opener against Pittsburgh with a little bit of a positive feeling after some serious struggles the first three games.
"We needed that," said running back Ben Tate, who scored the first touchdown. "We’ve been making so many mistakes the last couple games. ... That’s what it’s supposed to look like.”
Here are some other thoughts on the Browns' third preseason game:
- Justin Gilbert's NFL education continues. With four cornerbacks sidelined, the eighth overall pick in the draft started again, and was schooled by veteran Santonio Holmes for a 32-yard touchdown. Holmes caught the pass on an angle toward the line of scrimmage, planted, spun and scampered down the sideline for a touchdown. It was a clear case of veteran beating rookie.
- Tight end Gary Barnidge looked worse than he should have on a throw down the middle from Manziel. Barnidge was wide open, but the ball was late and because it was late it allowed the safety to get into the play. Barnidge peeked to the safety before making the catch and dropped the pass. He should have caught it, yes. But the ball should have been there sooner, too.
- Nate Burleson made his first preseason appearance and contributed. Burleson found an open spot as Manziel scrambled. The receiver turned a 10-yard pass into a 27-yard gain to set up a touchdown. It was Burleson's only catch, but it was a good play by both. Without Josh Gordon, the Browns need a guy like Burleson, whose experience is important. He has had trouble staying healthy the past couple of seasons, but if he and Miles Austin can stay on the field, the Browns could put Andrew Hawkins in the slot, where he can take advantage of matchups. That would allow the Browns to use Travis Benjamin in different roles, and bring along Taylor Gabriel, an undrafted receiver who appears to have made the team.
- Isaiah Crowell got his first real time of the preseason and responded. The undrafted rookie had a 48-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter and totaled 102 yards on 13 carries. He ran well and hard, and looked smoother than Terrance West has at times. Crowell had gotten little time, but he definitely made a strong case to make the team -- and made it a little harder to sneak him onto the practice squad.
- The best throw of the preseason might have been Rex Grossman’s first as a Brown. He hit Willie Snead perfectly on a crossing route for 37 yards. Grossman played like a guy who has been in the offense for years, which he has. ... Billy Cundiff had a busy night with four field goals in four attempts, the longest from 47 yards. ... Though one was negated by a penalty, Manziel twice lost the ball after being sacked, a mild point of concern. West also had a fumble to turn the ball over.