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Posted by Aug - 14 - 2011 0 Comment

No OTAs, no minicamps, barely more than two weeks with this players, and all Pat Shurmer has to do was prepare his young Browns to face the World Champion Green Bay Packers. Looks like he had plenty of time as the new look (again) Browns beat the defending champs 27-17 last night at Cleveland Browns Stadium. While there are undoubtedly plenty of things that this young team needs to work on, they looked confident and organized in their first dress rehearsal of the 2011 NFL season, and none more than second-year QB Colt McCoy. In three series of work, McCoy was 9 of 10 for 135 yards and a TD, which came on a finely tossed back-shouler pass of 27 yards to WR Josh Cribbs. McCoy was indiscriminate with the ball, hitting six different receivers in his nine completions, including rookie WR Greg Little, TEs Evan Moore and Ben Watson (twice), WR Brian Robiskie, RB Peyton Hillis, and Cribbs. The offensive line, believed to be one that can be one of the league’s best if they stay healthy, gave McCoy ample time to process reads and be judicious with his passing. As well, they opened enough holes for HIllis to pick up 16 yards on 5 carries with a TD on his short but effective night. It wasn’t just the starters, however, that produced. FA running back Brandon Jackson looks explosive on more than a couple runs against his former team, looking like a nice compliment to the brusing Hillis while picking up 28 yards on 8 carries. Other young offensive players fighting to earn roster spots that showed well include WRs Jordan Norwood and Demetrius Williams, as well as RB Armond Smith.

On the defensive side of the ball, defensive coordinator Dick Jauron’s squad appears to be grasping their own format change to the 4-3 pretty well. Regardless of what unit was in there, the Browns were able to get consistent pressure on Green Bay QBs, gathering 5 sacks including one by LB Brian Smith that jarred the ball loose from QB Graham Harrell which was scooped up by fellow LB Titus Brown and returned 43 yards for a touchdown. There were some signs of growing pains in the new system, and after forcing the Packers to go 3-and-out on the first series of the game the Pack looked like the team that won it all last season, marching 73 yards in 7 plays on a scoring drive capped by a perfectly thrown ball from QB Aaron Rodgers to WR Greg Jennings for 21 yards and a TD. That was enough to earn the Packer starters a pass for the rest of the game, however their backups never could get over the hump and wrestle the game away from a scrappy Browns squad. Young, hungry guys like DBs Buster Skrine and Ramzee Robinson made plays throughout the course of the second half, and a cadre of undrafted FA linebackers looking to last past the final cut showed signs of being able to hold their own, at least against their 2nd and 3rd string counterparts from Green Bay. This is a key issue for the Browns as they lack experienced depth at the linebacker position, and need some of these young guys to not only make plays against backups, but be able to do so against the NFL’s best once the season starts.

The Browns 2011 rookie class was well represented on-field last night with contributions from WR Greg LIttle (2 catches for 20 yards), defensive line mates Phil Taylor and Jabaal Sheard, and DBs Skrine and James Dockery. Their development will have to continue at a spirited pace for the Browns to be successful in 2011 and beyond.

While it was merely the first preseason game of 2011, it was hardly the meaningless game that these games typically are. As its long been said, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Well, Pat Shurmur and the 2011 Cleveland Browns made quite the successful first impression last night. Now the task is to progress from it and become a competitive team this season week in and week out. The next step comes Friday night at Cleveland Browns Stadium against the Detroit Lions, a short week by normal NFL preparation standards, though the Browns look like short timreframes are something they can successfully manage.

Categories: Cleveland Browns

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