When the Cleveland Browns took the field against the Detroit Lions, all eyes figured to be on the offensive side of the ball as first round pick Brandon Weeden was set to make his pre-season debut.
The reviews for Weeden were mixed, but the positive way to put it after his performance on Saturday night is that there are definitely things to work on. Weeden completed just three of his nine passes and had an interception as well as a sack and fumble. Obviously, not a lot of positive coming from that, but he did average over 20 yards per completion with 62 yards passing.
It should come as no surprise that Colt McCoy was the most efficient of the Browns’ quarterbacks in terms of completion percentage, but Seneca Wallace threw the only touchdown of the night to Brad Smelley, the fullback.
Obviously, the Browns were without top draft choice Trent Richardson on the night, and not surprisingly, the running game struggled mightily. Every back who got playing time on Saturday finished with a rushing average of under four yards.
One of the biggest positives Browns fans have to take from this game is the play of the receivers and tight ends, specifically from guys whom they are going to need big contributions this year. Tight end Jordan Cameron flashed some big play ability with two receptions for 58 yards to lead the team, including a 42 yard play. His ability has always been there, but last year he wasn’t able to put it together on the field. The Browns are counting on him to play a bigger role this season and give them a dynamic receiver/tight end on the outside who can make plays in the red zone.
One player who looked pretty solid on the night was rookie Travis Benjamin, who caught two of the three passes thrown his way and made some big plays just like he used to at Miami. Benjamin has the speed to get downfield, and he showed it off by catching two passes for 46 yards. He is a bright spot also for this Browns’ receiving group, and I think he may be one of the most versatile pass catchers they have. Obviously the team is counting on big things from second round picks Greg Little and Josh Gordon, but Benjamin was a high draft pick in his own right, and though he is smaller, they are going to need him to step up and be a big play type of guy. He also showed he can be a pretty good kick returner, averaging over 27 yards on two returns.
Speaking of Josh Gordon and Greg Little, they combined for zero catches on four targets. A lot of that had to do with the quarterback play and lack of chemistry between them all, but I think those are really disappointing numbers. You’ve got to get at least one ball and get some reps and make these pre-season games count, especially if you are Josh Gordon.
Nenvertheless, being down 10-17 for much of the fouth quarter, the Browns were able to mount a late rally and beat the Lions with an Adonis Thomas touchdown and a game-winning 45-yard field goal by Jeff Wolfert, who is auditioning essentially for other teams with Phil Dawson back on the Browns’ roster.
What you should take from the game is this—the Browns are young, they are going to struggle their way through a lot of games this year, but they have some promise. There are young playmakers on this team that make up the foundation for the future, and I think the second game will be much better overall statistically than this one for some of the more prominent young guys like Weeden, Gordon, and Little.
Mohammed Massaquoi suffered a concussion after his first catch from Weeden early in the game. Hopefully he rests up this next game and gets himself right for the regular season, because he can be a valuable playmaker when he is healthy.