One preseason game. Four injuries. That is not a ratio the Cleveland Browns would like to continue to see as they travel to Green Bay to play the Packers at 8 p.m. on Thursday.
“It’s a quick turnaround, but it’s been good,” said Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden on Tuesday. “We’ve had however many practices we’ve had and we’ve come together and learned from our mistakes and put together a pretty good week. I’m excited to get back out there and correct the mistakes I made last week.”
We’ll get back to Weeden in a second.
Aside from the 19-17 victory last Friday, the Browns returned home from Detroit with injuries to wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi (head), defensive lineman Scott Paxon (right knee), defensive back Dimitri Patterson (right ankle) and tight end Jordan Cameron (back). Those names are added to the pile that includes running back Trent Richardson (knee), linebacker Chris Gocong (Achilles) and defensive lineman Phil Taylor (torn pectoral).
The ultimate goal is to leave Green Bay without any more injuries. Such is life in preseason football.
Back to Weeden. His NFL debut spawned a variety of reactions from social media to radio airwaves to the Interwebs. Here are the facts: He was behind center for three series and finished 3-for-9 for 62 yards with one interception and one fumble. Was his debut as eye-popping as Andrew Luck last Sunday? No. Yet it is difficult to predict those similar numbers will continue in September for Luck and for Weeden. A day after the Browns’ second preseason game, there are still 24 days before the regular season begins.
Regardless, Weeden needs to continue to display positive signs. Against the Lions, the first positive sign was the 34-yard pass to Travis Benjamin on the Browns’ third play from scrimmage. The negatives were Weeden’s two turnovers, most notably the fumble that ended a seven-play drive in which the Browns’ reached the Lions’ 28-yard line.
“The tough part of only playing 15 snaps because you’re not really getting into the flow of the game,” Weeden said. “As a quarterback, you like to get into the flow and the rhythm of the game and get going. It’s tough in 15 plays, but I would really like to have (the fumble) back, just because it took three points off the board.”
Weeden and the rest of the Browns’ starters are expected to play at least a half against Green Bay. The same goes for the Packers. Defensively, Green Bay’s unit wasn’t a record-breaking unit. In fact, the Packers were ranked last in defensive yards allowed per game (411.6).
“I think in all the preseason games you would like to see efficiency,” Browns coach Pat Shurmur said. “You like to see completions. You like to see if the ball is thrown down field, again you get completions. You obviously want to score points, but you want to see the quarterback, of course, manage scoring drives and do it efficiently.”
The Packers are considered to have one of the best offenses in the NFL led by Aaron Rodgers who threw for 4,643 yards and 45 touchdowns last season. Even at half speed, he is quite a test for a banged-up Browns’ defense. Yet last Friday, it wasn’t the Browns' pass defense that struggled. Once again, the run defense allowed chunks of yards at a time, as Detroit rushed for an average of six yards per carry.
“We have to play better team defense," Shurmur said. "Again, I’ve been saying it all along, you want to stop the run more, so at the end of the day when you look at the statistics - and that’s what everybody looks at after the game – the run numbers are not where they’re at. I think it’s important on defense that you prevent the score, so let’s keep that in mind as well.”
Now that the particulars are out of the way, let’s end this preview with some time spent on the soap box.
Please keep in mind this is a preseason game. It is practice. Yes, it is important to see positive signs, especially from the rookie quarterback, but these games are never a thing of beauty. Don’t get too high or get too low based off the result of a preseason game.
Remind yourself that this is a young team with young talent, some of the best young talent this team has seen since 1999. How that talent progresses is not determined by a practice game in early August, but throughout the course of a 16-game regular season. Everyone is starved for a winning football in Cleveland, but winning the month of August doesn’t correlate to winning when it counts.