The Browns won their preseason finale in front of their home crowd by the score of 33-13. The offense started fast, and Brian Hoyer appeared to have much greater rhythm in this game. Hoyer made quick decisions and got the football out of his hands without hesitation. Following the game, Hoyer shared his thoughts on the offense,
“It was great to get out there and move right down the field. We said tonight wasn’t about them. It was about us. Regardless of who’s playing for them, they were nameless and faceless opponents. We just wanted to go out and make everything about us. It’s good to go down and have an 85-yard drive and just execute and get in the end zone.”
Johnny Manziel had a night filled with ups and downs. While he did a very good job extending plays with his legs and completing passes on the run, he was relatively inaccurate when asked to set his feet and drive the ball down the field. Manziel had multiple passes flutter and fall short of their intended target.
Manziel should also continue to work on his ball handling by keeping two hands on the football while breaking the pocket. Manziel often keeps just one hand on the ball in the pocket, and as a result, he fumbled on his second possession of the game. Manziel finished the night completing 6/17 of his passes for 83 yards and one touchdown. He also added 55 rushing yards on the night. When asked about his completion percentage, Manzeil said,
“[...] I don’t think I threw the ball particularly well today. I felt it came out of my hand a little funny with those first few throws, and as the drives went on, I felt like I threw it better. I mean you have days like that where the ball feels a little different in your hand. [...]“
Taylor Gabriel received time with the first team, and finished the night with two receptions for 38 yards. Though Gabriel didn’t get his hands on the football much, his two receptions were instrumental in the Browns’ first scoring drive. Gabriel continued to flash his speed, and get separation against Chicago’s defensive backs throughout the game.
Willie Snead led all receivers with 75 yards on three receptions, and appears to have redeemed himself for poor performances in weeks past. In this game, Snead performed to his talent level; however there were a couple of passes he should’ve corralled, even in this game. Coming out of Ball State, Snead was known for his route-running ability, and catching radius. He’s maintained his precision as a route runner, but shockingly he’s been prone to some drops as of late. Hopefully the recent dropped passes are a mere aberration, and don’t preclude him from making the Browns’ final roster.
Ben Tate exercised patience, as well as the ability to set up blocks along the perimeter. The first team offensive line consistently got great movement in the run game, allowing Ben Tate to punch the ball in the end zone from the one-yard line on the team’s first drive. After the game, Tate said of the Browns’ offense,
“It felt good. It’s a preseason game so it really doesn’t count. At the same time, it felt good for the offense to finally get in a rhythm.”
Terrance West displayed outstanding patience on the perimeter as well, but fumbled as a result of keeping his shoulders perpendicular to the line of scrimmage entirely too long. On West’s subsequent carries he showed outstanding leg drive, as he converted multiple 1st downs in short yardage situations.
Barkevious Mingo showed the explosiveness and ability to get to the quarterback that made him a hot commodity upon entering the NFL. The modest Mingo commented after the game on sacking Bears’ quarterback David Fales,
“It felt good. I can’t take total credit for it. The guys set me up great, and I just came in and made the play that was given to me.”
Phil Taylor looked great as a five-technique, opening the door for the linebackers to generate pressure on the quarterback. Billy Winn did an excellent job chasing down plays from the backside and held up extremely well at the point of attack. Jacobbi McDaniel also did an outstanding job tying up blockers, and allowing linebackers such as Jamaal Westerman and Tank Carder to make plays.
Christian Kirksey and Craig Robertson continued to see playing time at inside linebacker together which will enable the Browns to remain multiple on defense.
Leon McFadden struggled covering the fly route, as he did not turn his head and look for the ball either time he was challenged deep. Out of fear of getting beaten deep, he began to play too far off of receivers, allowing them to run free underneath.
Justin Gilbert also had a difficult time closing down on underneath routes. Gilbert gave Santonio Holmes cushion and failed to tackle him, which enabled Holmes to break free for a 32-yard score. For the moment, a healthy Buster Skrine is the better option to line up on the other side of Joe Haden. Gilbert has athleticism out of this world, but unfortunately he does not trust his eyes, or his God-given ability at this juncture.
Robert Nelson got in on the action with a late interception on Chicago quarterback David Fales. Nelson did a nice job reading the quarterbacks eyes and driving on the football. Unfortunately Nelson’s interception in the final preseason game is not emblematic of his play throughout camp. It will be difficult for Nelson to land a spot on the Browns’ 53-man roster.
Josh Aurbrey and Jordan Poyer did an outstanding job coming up and making tackles in the open field. Both have been consistent supporting the run, but have also done surprisingly well in coverage. Aubrey and Poyer will likely make the team.