NFL Nation: 2013 preseason reaction Week 4 browns-bears

Observation deck: Browns-Bears

August, 30, 2013
CHICAGO -- Cleveland Browns wide receiver David Nelson had a vision for what his first game back would be on Thursday.

Nelson, who hadn’t played in a game since tearing the ACL in his right knee in the 2012 season opener, held two assumptions about his return. First, he thought he would get really emotional prior to Thursday’s preseason game with the Chicago Bears because of how much he had gone through to return to the field. Second, he expected his performance would again meet his high standards.

Neither went according to plan.

Nelson did make his season debut and caught a team-high four passes for 54 yards, but he wasn’t overcome with emotion and he wasn’t pleased with how he played.

“[The game wasn’t as emotional] as I thought it would be,” said Nelson, who had 61 receptions for 658 yards and five touchdowns for Buffalo in 2011. “There was a time before the national anthem and before the game started I got emotional. Once we stepped on the field, it was just playing football again.

“It was a special moment [being back]. It really was. Obviously, today wasn’t the way I wanted. I think I’m my harshest critic. I just didn’t play the way I wanted to. It wasn’t because of the knee. I wasn’t out there slipping because of the knee. It just didn’t go the way I wanted to.”

Nelson first got involved in the Browns’ offense in the second quarter. He missed his first opportunity at a catch when he wasn’t looking as Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer threw him the ball. But five plays later, Hoyer went back to Nelson, and Nelson hauled in a 4-yard reception.

Nelson was targeted 10 times, and his longest reception was for 21 yards. He reported no pain in his knee, but he did suffer leg cramps late in the game.

Browns coach Rob Chudzinski understood Nelson wasn’t satisfied with his day, but he believed it was a positive starting point.

“I thought it was great he got back out there,” Chudzinski said. “You know what? I know there’s a few plays he’d like to have back. Playing in a NFL game, you get tired, and he was tired by the end. Those guys got a lot of reps. We had limited guys to begin with. It was really good to see him. He made a couple plays. Those are the kind of experiences you can build on.”

In other notes from the Browns' 18-16 victory:
  • Quarterback Jason Campbell, who was expected to start, missed the game due to flu-like symptoms. Hoyer played the entire game and was 24-of-35 passing for 307 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.
  • Kicker Shayne Graham did not play after his back tightened up in warm-ups. Punter Spencer Lanning was thrown into the emergency-kicker role. Lanning, who was a placekicker/punter in college, missed a 41-yard field goal on his first attempt but connected from 32 yards and 40 yards on his following two attempts. The latter proved to be the game winner in the Browns’ 18-16 victory. He also punted twice for a 52-yard average.
  • Wide receiver Josh Gordon played in his final game before serving a two-game suspension for a positive codeine test. Gordon had catches of 45 and 32 yards Thursday. “Josh can come to the facility over the course of the next two weeks,” Chudzinski said. “He can be at meetings, and he can work out in the weight room and run and that type of thing. He can get treatment. So he can be around. He can’t be out at practice. He can’t do any of those type of things with the team.”
CHICAGO -- Here are a few quick thoughts from the Chicago Bears18-16 loss Thursday night to the Cleveland Browns in the exhibition finale:

What it means: It’s finally time for real football. The Bears showed gradual improvement over three games before sitting the starters for the finale. Now it’s time to cut down to the final 53-man roster, a process that begins Friday morning.

Palmer shines: Recently signed quarterback Jordan Palmer put together a sharp performance despite just one week of practice. Signed to replace Matt Blanchard, Palmer connected on 11 of 17 passes for 111 yards and a touchdown to finish with a passer rating of 102.8.

“It says a lot about his preparation,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said. “He has learned a lot of offense and spent a lot of time on his own trying to assimilate all of it. I’m happy for him. He came out and played very efficiently.”

If the Bears keep three quarterbacks, Palmer likely makes the team.

Rookie starters on right side? Every uninjured starter suited up, but the distribution of repetitions may have told the story. Trestman refrained last week from naming rookies Kyle Long and Jordan Mills starters. But the fact they didn’t play against the Browns means the Bears wanted to eliminate the prospect of injury, which likely means they’re the starters for the Sept. 8 opener.

Long made his first preseason start on Aug. 15, as did Mills. The rookies started again in the third preseason game, which is typically the team’s most important game in assessing personnel.

With Long and Mills and the other starters, the Bears likely will keep three reserve linemen for a total of eight. Perhaps it’s telling that James Brown didn’t play, nor did Eben Britton (until Corey Brandon was carted off with 2:13 left to play), while former starting right tackle J’Marcus Webb started.

Based on what took place, it’s likely the Bears keep the starting five along with Brown, Britton and Jonathan Scott -- who missed the game recovering from a knee procedure -- as the three reserves.

Anderson reappears: After catching two passes for 27 yards in the preseason opener against Carolina, receiver Joe Anderson disappeared, going without a catch in the next two games.

But against the Browns, Anderson caught four passes for 64 yards, in addition to hauling in a 5-yard touchdown from Palmer in the second quarter.

What’s next: The Bears need to cut to the final 53-man roster by 5 p.m. CT on Saturday, and any players they want to add to the practice squad will need to clear waivers. After taking off the weekend, the Bears will return to Halas Hall on Monday to prepare for the opener against Cincinnati.