By John Bedell
The Cleveland Browns have a lot to feel good aboutthree quarters of the way through of the preseason.
What the guys in the Orange and Brown have done so far this year has me feeling cautiously optimistic about the upcoming season. Emphasis on the “cautiously” part, and here’s why.
The Browns are 2-1.
They say the third preseason game is the most like a regular season contest — it’s the “dress rehearsal” for the season opener. In that sense, the Browns laid an egg. In the closest thing they’ve seen to regular season football so far this year, they stunk. The offense was bland and at times gave me horrible flashbacks to the boring and antiquated West Coast Offense of the Pat Shurmur/Mike Holmgren regime.
That said, I was, in a way, relieved to see the Browns lose Saturday. I think the team will be able to learn more from that loss than they would have by turning in another nearly-flawless performance. And here’s hoping some of that goose egg the offense laid was because Rob Chudzinkski and offensive coordinator Norv Turner were playing their offensive cards close to the vest against Indianapolis. Maybe they are trying to conceal as much as they can before springing it on the Dolphins when the games start to count on Sept. 8.
I’m comforted to hear Brandon Weeden say he’s not ready to hit the panic button after the loss to Andrew Luck and company.
“We’ve got to learn from it and we’ve got to get better,” he told The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer on Monday.
He went on to say his teammates and his coaches aren’t too worried about the performance either.
“You lose a game and everyone wants to (panic),” the Oklahoma State product said. “But the attitude in here has been great all day, so it’s not in this room. We’re excited. We saw the mistakes, but they’re all fixable. This locker room is excited. That one’s behind us and now we’re looking forward to Chicago (Thursday) and it’s going to be here before we know it.”
The NFL is the ultimate “next man up league.” Every year in training camp, teams lose players to injuries. Some losses are key guys. Others are some not-so-key guys. Still others are trying to make their first NFL roster. Even solidified Pro Bowlers aren’t immune (See: LeCharles Bentley).
Injuries are something every team has to deal with, but right now injuries are starting to strain the depth of this roster. Through three preseason games, the Browns are down two starting offensive linemen and two backup running backs.
Guards Shawn Lauvao and Jason Pinkston are both out for probably another five weeks or so with high ankle sprains. Pinkston’s injury has put a halt to his comeback after he suffered complications from a blood clot last season.
The Browns announced Tuesday that backup running back Dion Lewis had been placed on season-ending injured reserve after he underwent surgery to repair the broken leg he suffered against the Lions on Aug. 15. Lewis was averaging 4.5 yards on 10 carries and had caught 11 passes for 37 yards and a touchdown before he was injured.
The Browns seemed to have big plans for him as a strong No. 2 back behind starter Trent Richardson. The loss of Lewis is magnified because the Browns are already without Montario Hardesty for the first two or three games of the season while he recovers from arthroscopic knee surgery. Backfield depth is quickly becoming a glaring issue for this team.
And last, but certainly not least, linebacker Barkevious Mingo is still out with a bruised lung he suffered in the win over the Lions. Mingo’s injury is of the most concern. This year’s first-round pick was hospitalized for treatment and at one point was spitting up blood. Doctors have said his recovery could take months and that Mingo should have some testing done to make sure this injury isn’t a warning sign of a more serious condition. Let’s hope not.
Chudzinski did say Wednesday that the team is going to let Mingo “test” his lung by running and seeing how it responds. But Chud made no promises about the young linebacker, saying there’s no timetable for his return. The coaching staff has said Mingo will not play against the Bears in Thursday night’s preseason finale in Chicago.
Speaking of The Windy City, if the Browns starters can look sharp for say, the first quarter or so, and improve to 3-1 with a win over “Da Bears” in the pre-season finale Thursday night, I’ll take it.
But for the love of Marion Motley … just say healthy, Brownies!
John Bedell is a reporter for WHIO-TV and the host of “Flyer Feedback” on News Talk Radio WHIO. A native Clevelander, he’s been a Browns fan since birth. “The Move”, “Game 7”, The 2007 ALCS and Dwayne Rudd’s helmet toss still haunt him. He still calls it “Jacobs Field”.