Cleveland Browns Mid-Preseason Report

The Cleveland Browns officially ended training camp on Monday, and they take the next step towards their march through a long, bloody NFL season. While there are a few teams who can get through a season with relative ease, most NFL teams are in for a fight. And it's a fight you can't avoid. And the worse the team, the bloodier the year.

The Browns have played two preseason games, and their record is 0-2. Lots of people say record doesn't matter. I agree. The only difference for me is that I truly believe it. Record doesn't matter. Performance, on the other hand, does.

And to be honest, we haven't seen anything in terms of performance that makes us feel that the Browns aren't going to get pretty bloody in 2015.

Josh McCown has looked like what we expected in our heart of hearts. Maybe we felt hopeful that he could regain that Bears' version that the media keeps reminding us of. But the truth is, we know that season was an anomaly for the guy. 

Arizona, Detroit, Oakland, Carolina, San Francisco, Chicago, Tampa Bay and now Cleveland are all stops the 36-year old quarterback has made. And that is just his time in the NFL. He also played in the United Football League (the what???) playing for the Hartford Colonials. In 2011, after lasting all of about 3 weeks on the 49ers preseason roster, he was coaching high school football.

Sounds like a set-up for a feel-good, made-for-TV movie, but this is real life. I think we all know how this story ends.

Johnny Manziel looks improved as a quarterback. He actually stays in the pocket, doesn't make many dumb mistakes, and has stayed away from all that Johnny Football nonsense. 

But he still doesn't look good enough to lead an NFL team. We as fans can only hope that this is a step towards being the quarterback of the Browns future, but he's not ready for 2015. I know fans, who will get impatient with watching the team when the season is being lost, will be calling for Johnny: "How worse can it be?!" "Time to find out what we have in this guy!" They'll want him to play. I hope he doesn't. He's not nearly ready. If he plays and he's not ready, he'll be done in the NFL.

While we're on offense, let's talk about the running game that we know the team is relying on. It's not been good. I haven't seen anything that would indicate that they can do damage as well as create opportunities for the passing game.

On the defensive side, we've not seen the run defense we were all hoping for. Great, they've found a way to clog the line, but still can't protect the edge. Runners are getting outside and making some nice gains.

Okay, do I have everyone bummed out now? Well, don't be. At least not yet. Here's some reasons why:

The Browns looked terrible in the preseason in 2014 and turned out to be a team that was in first place of a very strong AFC North division 11 games into the season. No, last season's results have nothing to do with how 2015 will turn out, but it does show that you never know.

Yes, the quarterbacks are the quarterbacks, but we've not seen Dwayne Bowe at wide receiver, and we've not seen Duke Johnson. What new wrinkles will this add to the offense? Maybe the additions will push other guys into smaller roles they're more suited for.

And, of course, the biggest reason to wait and see is that you're watching preseason games. The teams do not game plan for the opponent, and the play-calling is pretty vanilla. Teams try a few things, but mostly they are just trying to get in reps for the regular season. Football is a timing sport, dependent upon the action of each individual, much more so than in baseball, which is largely a reactionary sport, and basketball, where the order of the day is isolation play.

On defense, we've yet to see Joe Haden back there, taking are of that Cornerback 1 position. Again, this puts guys into roles they're more suited for.

I'm not saying that this is just preseason and that we have great days ahead of us. I truly don't 100% know what to expect from this team. As I've said in past articles, I expect they'll be a .500 team, but a scrappy one.

Next game is the big one, the one where the starters will participate in about 75% of the game. I could go with the much-overused term "dress rehearsal", but, god, do I hate cliches.

The preseason doesn't mean much to me. It's not completely meaningless, but I'm not looking at it as tea leaves for the upcoming season. It's practice. These are practice games. I just can't put too much into them.

Jordy Nelson and the NFL Preseason

Speaking of preseason and cliches, on Sunday, Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson was lost for the year with a torn ACL. That sucks, but somehow this sort of thing is utilized as a rallying cry to shorten the preseason.

Okay, let's look at the logic of that. Would it really matter?

First of all, he was injured in the second preseason game, which, even if the number of preseason games was cut in half.....he still would have been injured in a preseason game. 

Second: Lost for the season is lost for the season. Had this been a regular season game, what difference would it have made? The injury didn't happen BECAUSE it was a preseason game. It happened because the body can be fragile and football is a collision sport. 

Third: If guys are getting hurt without playing entire games - which teams have the luxury of sitting guys because the games don't count - what's going to happen if they start playing full games sooner? Doesn't it seem that they would run a GREATER risk of getting injured if the preseason was cut in half and players were expected to be out there more?

Why don't we all be honest with ourselves: The only reason we want to see the preseason is cut in half is because we want meaningful football sooner than we get it. We get up for preseason games because...well, it's football. But that excitement wears off quick when we realize that the game is for practice and winning isn't everything. I've yet to make it through an entire Browns preseason game because I don't care.

Shortening the preseason isn't going to stop players from getting hurt. It does nothing but pacify our hunger for the NFL season. Leave it alone. I know we live in a time of instant gratification, but putting players at more risk because we want to get really excited in August instead of September, or because season-ticket holders don't want to pay full price for a meaningless game are pretty shallow excuses.

With two games down, we're less than 3 weeks away from those meaningful games we all covet. You're going to be fine. Take the time to have some fun. 

On September 13th, the war begins and the fun could soon be over.
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