Here’s some of what we learned from Tuesday night’s edition of “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford”:
–Shawn, via Facebook, pointed out that the NFL’s most successful teams running the West Coast offense had the following qualities: a dominating offensive line, a premiere tight, and a quarterback/wide receiver combo that were money in the bank. Based upon the performance we’ve seen thus far in preseason, Shawn asked, how does this team stack up against the competition?
Although I would not say the Browns have truly arrived in any of those categories, I would say that they have the makings of a team capable of excelling in the critical areas you mentioned for success in the West Coast or any offense for that matter.
The line clearly has taken a big hit with the loss of veteran left guard Eric Steinbach to season-ending back surgery. But it still has some outstanding core players and some solid young people, including Steinbach’s immediate placement, rookie Jason Pinkston. I’d be more worried with the loss of either tackle or the center.
The Browns look as if they can be exceptional at tight end. And we’ll have to see how the quarterback-receiver combination develops. Colt McCoy is making big strides, but I can’t say that there is a receiver who accurately fits your “money-in-the-bank” description.
–Having said that, I do feel good about the Browns starting the season with the receivers they have, provided that Massaquoi is back to his top form before suffering his foot injury.
I think there is tremendous promise from rookie Greg Little. And I can see Josh Cribbs making an impact as the Browns involve him more heavily in the passing game.
–Browns general manager Tom Heckert hardly sounded as if he was panicking over the loss of Steinbach. “(Offensive line’s the) one position we’re kind of deep at,” Heckert said. “We traded for John Greco; he could play either guard or tackle, obviously. We drafted Pinkston, and we think he’s going to be a really good player. So between those two guys we should be able to fill that spot and hopefully be productive … I think we’re OK.”
–Center Alex Mack on Pinkston: “He’s doing a good job. He’s still young, still picking up on some things. It’s not second nature yet, so he has some time to pick things up, try to get to know the offense a little better, get to know how to work with each one of us, see what the games are like and learn over that time. Hopefully, he gets some playing time in there and learns really fast.”
–Heckert said there have been “quite a few” players who began training camp under the radar but have since made their presence known. Among them are undrafted rookie free-agent defensive back James Dockery and first-year defensive lineman Auston English. “I think he’s proven he can play in this league,” Heckert said of Dockery. “We actually threw him out at safety a little bit. If you can do more than one thing and be on special teams, that’s a huge advantage for him.” Heckert said he thought English has had a “good training camp” and should see plenty of action in Thursday night’s preseason-finale at Chicago. “He’s a guy that can rush the passer. He was a defensive end in college (Oklahoma); we kind of made him into a linebacker in the 3-4, and now he’s playing in his true position, so it’s really shown that he’s a good football player.”
–Gil Brandt, an analyst for NFL.com and former personnel guru for the Dallas Cowboys, said the Browns are better than they were in 2010. “(Cornerback) Joe Haden has a year of experience, (safety T.J.) Ward has a year of experience, (Pro Bowl tackle) Joe Thomas keeps getting better all of the time,” Brandt said. “They won five games last year and I think they have the chance to win six or seven games this year. They are definitely a team that’s on the rise. I wish they had another wide receiver to help (Mohamed) Massaquoi out there a little bit, but I think Browns fans will be very proud of this team in the future, not only because of Pat Shurmur, not only because of (Mike) Holmgren, but just for the type of players they’ve recruited and for the second year in a row I think they’ve had a very good draft. And I think the fans will love their first choice, (defensive tackle) Phil Taylor of Baylor because he’s going to make a lot of people wonder why they didn’t draft him.”
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