Although this was the third preseason game both teams approached it differently than they normally would. The Browns and Eagles meet in just over two weeks on opening weekend so both coaches were understandably reluctant to show their hand. Reid decided to play his starters for an extended period last week against the Patriots and so we saw those units for just a couple of series. The Browns, meanwhile, decided to give their starters a full half of playing time. That’s especially worrying considering they struggled so much against the Eagles’ second units. Let’s take a look at some individual performances in the Eagles victory.
Philadelphia Eagles – Three Things of Note
1) Failing to Live up to Expectations
Nnamdi Asomugha had a disappointing season last year after coming over as a high priced free agent and he struggled against Cleveland’s passing attack. Despite being in his favored press-man coverage, he was beaten on the first play from scrimmage for a big play by Josh Gordon. He was also beaten for six on a hitch in the red zone when forced to play off. Even more worrying was how easily rookie receiver Travis Benjamin beat him on a nine route but Brandon Weeden wound up overthrowing the pass.
2) The Derek Landri Question
The veteran defensive tackle was unbelievable as a backup last year but there are questions surrounding whether he can recreate that form as a starter. He answered those questions and then some against the Browns. Landri completely destroyed a stretch run to the left by driving LG Jason Pinkston three yards into the backfield and then almost made the tackle. In the end Trent Cole made the play. Those two have the potential to form a dominant duo for the Eagles this season. He was sealed outside on one run over right guard, the only negative on an otherwise stellar night. Landri later flashed his pursuit skills, getting all the way to a run off right tackle and stuffing it after a two yard gain. Facing third-and-one the former Panther flew into the backfield, beating the block of Mack, and grabbed the runner for a loss. Unfortunately, an Eagle was offside on the play and the Browns automatically converted. No matter for Landri who dominated his man again on the next play. The Browns tried to run an off-tackle play to the right but he got inside Pinkston again and would have had a tackle for a loss if he hadn’t been held on the play. To cap off a complete performance, Landri flew into the backfield and stripped Weeden as he tried to set up a screen to end the Browns’ first drive.
3) Assessing the Future
With Todd Herremans absent for personal reasons rookie 5th round pick Dennis Kelly got the chance to start at right tackle. He did a decent job on the opening series; only allowing late pressure on the play Foles was intercepted. Kelly looked a little shaky on a pass play on the next series where he was driven back, but he reset well enough and was able to prevent pressure. Kelly did decently well in the seven drop backs the starters received overall.
Cleveland Browns – Three Things of Note
1) A Stud in the Making
Haden has the potential to be a shutdown corner in the NFL and he flashed that on just a few plays against the Eagles. He stuck with DeSean Jackson all the way down the field and showed great ball skills going up and plucking the ball out the sky for an interception. Haden was beaten by a recovered Jeremy Maclin quick out later in the quarter but only gave up eight yards. The Eagles made the mistake of going after him again on the next play, with a wide receiver screen. This time he flew up and brought Maclin down for a loss.
2) A Rookie Flashes
With the injuries suffered by their defensive tackles rookie Billy Wynn got the chance to start against the Eagles. He showed great hustle on the first play from scrimmage, making up a lot of ground to tackle LeSean McCoy on a screen. The next series was his highlight of the game as he knifed into the backfield past a Demetress Bell block and tackled McCoy for a significant loss. Although he didn’t do anything in the pass rushing department, he only rushed the QB seven times.
3) A Difficult Day for the OL
One of Cleveland’s strengths this year should be the offensive line, but they had trouble with the Eagles’ dynamic front four. As previously mentioned, Pinkston was destroyed on one early run play. On the subsequent play he then had a false start penalty, a terrible pair of plays for the second year man. Joe Thomas is a stud left tackle but even he couldn’t deal with Trent Cole on a pass play as he flew off the edge and pressured Weeden. Alex Mack and Shaun Lauvao combined well on the next play, getting enough movement on DT Fletcher Cox to open a nice hole for the back. Mack did a good job getting to the second level and sealing off DeMeco Ryans too. Pinkston was again at fault on another short yardage run as he was unable to sustain a block on Landri, who made the play. He made up for it to an extent on the next play as he combined with Mack to move DT Antonio Dixon out of the hole. The athletic center then did well at the second level again pushing Brian Rolle five yards back and eventually off his feet. The next pass play saw rookie Mitchell Schwartz matched up with preseason sensation Philip Hunt. Hunt was too good for the rookie as he pressured Weeden and almost stripped the football. It looks like Schwartz is more advanced as a run blocker than pass protector, as the next play he got onto Cedric Thornton and drove him out the hole. Pinkston was then flagged for a holding call when Landri blew past him and into the backfield.
The second series, despite the lack of success, was a much better display for the OL. They got some push on a Montario Hardesty run and kept Weeden clean for both his pass attempts.