The Packers and Browns are entering the 2010 season with drastically different expectations. The Packers, coming off of a heartbreaking wild card loss in Arizona, are considered legitimate Super Bowl contenders. Conversely, the Browns are going through the same type of changes the Packers went through a few years ago. Eric Mangini is entering his second year as head coach, and newly acquired Mike Holmgren will serve as Browns President, giving him authority over the team’s football operations. Tom Heckert will serve as the new general manager, bringing his services over from Philadelphia.
Browns’ offense, Packers’ defense
These changes lead to the acquisition of quarterback Jake Delhomme. Delhomme immediately showed the value of a veteran signal caller, as he drove the Browns 80 yards in 11 plays, with a good mix of short and long passes, and a good mix of passes and runs. Delhomme also found Massaquoi on two long gains, culminating in a 4 yard Jerome Harrison touchdown. I was disappointed rookie running back Montario Hardesty was not able to go, as I was looking forward to seeing the Tennessee product. Nonetheless, the Browns were successful out of multi-wide receiver sets, giving the Packers nickel and dime defense fits. Further contributing to the success of the Browns passing game was the nonexistent pass rush from Green Bay. The Browns continued to use these sets successfully with Seneca Wallace. It was exactly what plagued the Packers’ defense last year, so it will be interesting to see the changes defensive coordinator Dom Capers has made once the regular season rolls around.
The Packers’ defense got a break when Texas product and rookie Colt McCoy came onto the field. He went 5/10 for 25 yards with 2 interceptions, both very poor throws – essentially gifts for the Packers. Although, McCoy did show very good athleticism in the pocket, twice scrambling for first downs.
Packers’ defense, Browns’ defense
On the other side of the ball, Aaron Rodgers was nearly flawless, going 12-13 for 159 yards and 1 touchdown; a beautiful 25 yard rainbow down the right sideline to WR Greg Jennings. The Browns blitzed early, and Rodgers got the ball out quickly to the right target. I think this will be the year Rodgers is finally mentioned in the upper echelon of quarterbacks along with Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees. 3rd year TE Jermichael Finley also showed why he will be a force this season, catching 2 passes for 1st downs. Backup quarterback Matt Flynn also showed good poise in the pocket, going 9/15 for for 69 yards, with the help of rookie guard/tackle Bryan Bulaga holding his own. Unfortunately for the Packers, aside from rookie Quinn Porter and 2nd year man Kregg Lumpkin, both in scrub time, the running game was non existent.
The Browns defense is still a work in progress, but 2nd round safer TJ Ward showed a good nose for the ball, picking up 6 tackles in the game. 1st round corner Joe Haden played fairly well, considering he was left on an island much of the night as the Browns blitzed. If Ward and Haden continue to progress, they can serve as 2 cornerstones on defense to build around.
Overall, I think each team came away with different impressions of their first preseason game. Green Bay can be rest assured their offense will once again be one of the deadliest in the league, but the shortcomings on offense and special teams will need to be improved upon in practice. The Browns, on the other hand, have to be encouraged by the play of veteran Jake Delhomme, and the variety of playcalling by offensive coordinator Brian Daboll. The Browns played this game with heart and intelligence, which frankly is not something we have seen from them in quite some time. Hopefully for Browns fans this new regime can instill the pride into Cleveland football.
Oh yeah, the Browns won the game 27-24, behind 2 field goals by Phil Dawson in the last 90 seconds, from 59 and 46 yards out.
Positives – Rodgers, first string passing game
Negatives – Running game, special teams, lack of passrush, trouble in the secondary
Positives – Delhomme provides stability, Harrison, Dawson, playcalling
Negatives – defense still needs to grow, McCoy