Defense rules the day in scrimmage
AKRON – The storm clouds were moving in quickly and getting ready to strike Saturday at InfoCision Stadium.
Unfortunately, for Browns coach Mike Pettine, the struggling offense didn’t strike at all in an unscripted Family Day scrimmage on the campus of the University of Akron. Eight series that started from the offense’s 30-yard line and four red zone possessions (starting at the defense’s 25) netted zero touchdowns.
Reporters are always told that the defense is ahead of the offense at this stage of training camp, but this is starting to get ridiculous. Either the defense is really good or offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan needs to start worrying.
“Obviously that (scoring touchdowns) is the name of the game,” quarterback Brian Hoyer said. “Whether it was a penalty or a few miscues, you just have to overcome some things.”
The large crowd was anxious to cheer a touchdown of any sort, but especially one led by quarterback Johnny Manziel. Hoyer completed 7-of-11 passes for 56 yards. He was 3-of-5 for 50 yards on the first possession.
Manziel looked more comfortable than he has in previous practices, but he couldn’t seal a drive that reached the 1 on his second possession. On his two possessions that started from the 30, he was 3-of-7 for 14 yards, with two runs for 14 yards.
Manziel’s day would have been graded much better if tight end Gary Barnidge had been able to keep both feet inbounds on a good pass in the deep corner of the end zone. Manziel also had a pass dropped by Charles Johnson on a slant route that would have been a touchdown from the 4.
“I thought we moved the ball after the first drive pretty well,” Manziel said. “We had a 16-play drive on the second series, which is good. We were keeping the chains moving.
“The first drive I came out a little sloppy, but from there I was proud of my group; proud of the way the O line, receivers and running backs played. It was nice.”
While it was a small step forward in Manziel’s progress, Hoyer remains ahead in the competition to start the season opener. Pettine continues to consider it a competition.
“When camp began Brian was with the ones because we had to put somebody out there with the ones and they truly were competing against each other,” Pettine said. “At some point we will mix the units. That’s all a part of our evaluation process.”
For a player that told quarterback coach Dowell Loggains “let’s wreck this league” on the first night of the NFL draft, Manziel has put on a humbling front in two media appearances this week.
“There’s no gap that I’m looking at right now,” Manziel said. “It’s know the playbook; know everything. There are still so many things here and there that can change a play. That’s stuff that I wasn’t used to. Now I’m seeing it, adjusting and learning.”
Manziel’s frustrations increased on a red-zone drill when he rolled to his right and misfired on a throw to an open Taylor Gabriel in the end zone. Among the bright spots were two read-option runs for 9 yards and a first down on each, along with another run for 5 yards.
Manziel’s ability to move the chains with his speed is something Hoyer doesn’t present defenses. At this time, however, Manziel doesn’t have to be worried about taking hits.
Hoyer was quick to remind reporters that it’s still early and that a full week of work remains before the preseason opener Saturday against the Detroit Lions.
“Remember this was more of a practice than a scrimmage,” Hoyer said. “We didn’t have a call sheet. We didn’t talk things over. We kind of went off the cuff of our sleeve. It’s good to react. That’s the best thing. You want to see how people react in a situation where they haven’t studied the script the night before.
“Another thing is, we have to remember how good our defense is. It can be frustrating at times, but in the back of your mind you have to know it’s good to have them on our side of the ball.”