In preseason week 2 of the 2018 NFL season, the Buffalo Bills made their way to FirstEnergy Stadium to play the Cleveland Browns. This post is a quick rundown of what I saw from the game.
Genard Avery – I’ll start with a positive as I’m a massive fan of the Browns’ 5th-round pick, Genard Avery. After reading the experts’ write-ups on the guy I was excited to see how he can transition to the pro game. So far he’s looked excellent and in this game, he looked great in both pass and run defense as he came off the edge to put pressure on the pocket and make plays in the backfield. With Avery rushing from the left-side and Garrett from the right, opposing QB’s better have their wits about them!
I also loved his hustle on third down of the Bills’ first drive. He dropped back and left into pass coverage at the start of the play. As it developed, A.J. McCarron had to scramble to the opposite side to where Avery was due to good pass-coverage. It was Avery who ran the width of the field to force the Bills QB out of bounds shy of the first down…brilliant! This dude could turn out to be a steal from this draft.
Jamie Collins – I noticed Jamie Collins got a lot of playing time in this game and I’m not too sure what to make of that. It could be that the team feels he needs the reps after his injury last season which cut his playing time short, or it could be, as I hope, that they are getting a good look at him and/or putting him on show now that the talk from some in the media that he needs to put more effort in (that’s my take on him) and start performing. I can’t shake the impression of him that his commitment to the game and his employer isn’t very high. It amazes me how he’s suddenly started playing well considering the conversations people are having about him. One of those athletes that always does just enough when he has to?
As can be seen above, Jamie Collins looks like he had a good game according to the grading guys over at Pro Football Focus. If Myles Garrett had been in on more plays, he would have graded best overall, apparently. I can see this as he was very good and, basically, embarrassed the Bills’ LT on plenty of plays.
I still believe that the Browns have enough talent at the LB positions now with the likes of Kirksey, Avery, Burgess Jr, Kendricks and Schobert for them to be shopping Collins around. He’s just not the player he was back in 2014-15. I don’t think an argument about it being good to have his experience in the locker room is valid either. I don’t get the impression he’s a leader.
Nate Orchard – I started with a good point (Genard Avery) but now I get to perhaps the worst performer on defense. I noticed Nate Orchard get into the backfield UNTOUCHED twice and yet he still missed getting the sacks. The guy just looked lost and rookie QB Josh Allen embarrassed him! Orchard was on the verge of being cut at this stage last year and I seriously can’t see him making the roster this year. He looked awful in this game. It was his whiff on getting the sack on Josh Allen that allowed the QB to pass to Rod Streater for the TD.
James Burgess Jr – I’m a big fan of this guy and think he’s a good player as a backup and rotating in on some plays. He helped himself to 5 tackles (3 solo) and 0.5 sacks. He stepped up a couple of times to make important tackles as well. As I stated earlier, he’s one of the reasons I’d be happy to see Collins traded (if he actually has any value these days).
Starting Defense – I’m on board with what everyone is saying about the starting defense looking good right now (even though I’d still like to see more from whoever plays alongside Larry at DT). A stat I saw the Pro Football Focus site mention was that the Browns starting D didn’t allow a single first down on the Bills’ first 4 drives…very impressive!
The 2’s and 3’s weren’t anywhere near as impressive but I’m happy with the way things are going with the starters and the quality depth will be added over time.
Denzel Ward – I must admit that I’m still not noticing a lot of big plays from Ward but perhaps that’s because his coverage is so good his receivers aren’t being thrown to? I do love, however, the way he tackles. None of this attempted highlight reel big play shoulder stuff that sees smaller guys bounce off the bigger guys. Ward still hits big but wraps his man up as well. I love it!
No mistaking where the biggest improvement from a week ago was in this game. The running game was much improved with all three running back (Carlos Hyde, Duke Johnson and Nick Chubb) all having good games. The offensive line was opening holes up the middle for all three to run through and Carlos Hyde showed good patience, vision and decision-making to bounce a couple outside for big gains.
As has been widely spoken about, Hyde went for 60 of his 64-yards after contact. The stiff-arm he put of Bills’ safety Jordan Poyer was excellent. Ex-Brown Poyer was slammed to the ground as Hyde turned the corner.
I must admit that I had to chuckle when the turf monster got Duke as he broke free and had space to get more yards but, other than that, he looked great. Nick Chubb also put on a show behind the much-improved running game play of the offensive line as he put on a few moves to make defenders miss.
This is a unit I’m looking forward to seeing as I think they’ll be very good so long as the offensive line can continue to improve opening lanes.
Offensive Line – I’d have to say that I’m comfortable now with the way both Austin Corbett and Joel Bitonio are playing together on the left side of the line. They seem to have got into a stride together unlike the backups on the right. Shon Coleman looked lost on the play that saw Baker Mayfield get sacked. He disengaged from Terrence Fede to pick up the defender going wide even though Nick Chubb had picked him up and Spencer Drango had also disengaged Fede to go double-team JC Tretter’s man. Maybe Coleman just didn’t understand the play and thought he’d go into standard pass-blocking mode, not knowing Chubb was there to pick-up the outside guy? Whatever the issue on that play, it didn’t look good for Coleman.
I can’t say that I’d be surprised or saddened were Shon Coleman to be another roster casualty come cut time even though the PFF boys have him as the third highest rated offensive player this week with a 77.5…where’s the ‘shrug’ emoji when you need it.
I’m still not sold on Drango either. He looks ok in pass-protection but is kinda hit-and-miss in the run game. I did notice he looked slow when the play goes to the outside and sometimes couldn’t clear space when it was going up the middle, but when pulling to block on a play or two he looked ok. He is yet another I’ve seen rumblings of being cut but I think he’ll keep his place as a backup interior lineman, especially considering the number of reps he’s getting.
I do like how both guards(Drango and Corbett) have been playing the entire games so far. I’m not sure if Drango’s in there all game because there’s no-one else until Zeitler comes back but Corbett is gaining valuable experience.
Wide Receivers – A couple of things I thought I’d mention with regards to the wide receivers was the nice catch that rookie Derrick Willies made in the endzone for the TD and rookie Damion Ratley who looks to have a safe pair of hands.
These two rookies are probably on the ‘at risk’ list when it comes to roster cuts, but I’ve heard a lot of good things about Ratley in training camp as well as seeing good things for myself in this game. Could he be the reason the Dez Bryant contract talks have been put on hold rather than the tentative return of Josh Gordon?
Perhaps we might be wise to keep an eye on both Antonio Callaway and Damion Ratley this year for the Browns as well as big name Jarvis Landry and Josh Gordon? Let’s not forget Rashard Higgins, who I think started to look decent last year and who would appear to have improved again this off-season. He’s one I rooted for last season and am doing so again this year.
Quarterbacks – Neither of the starting two QB’s had outstanding games stat-wise, but they both continued to look good and comfortable. I’m really looking forward to seeing Tyrod this year and have nothing but confidence in Baker Mayfield as the future of the franchise.
There are two other guys in that QB room, though, and this week we didn’t get to see the young Brogan Roback as the experienced Drew Stanton got some playing time. Stanton was, well, crap, to be honest. Zero completions of his four attempts and a sack for a loss of 6-yards. Fair enough, it was his first action of the preseason and he’s just there as a mentor to Baker, but he’s going to have to do a damn sight better than that.
So, what did you see from this second game of the preseason for the Cleveland Browns? Let me know in the comments below.