A 35-10 victory on the road against one of the premier teams in the NFL tends to have that effect. Everything discouraging in the loss at Detroit last Friday proved encouraging against the Packers on Thursday night.
Rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden, who completed 12 of 20 passes for 118 yards, found his rhythm with rookie WR Josh Gordon (2-38) and other receivers. The run blocking that was horrid against the Lions was stellar; the first-team line consistently opened up holes. Starting rookie RT Mitchell Schwartz performed significantly better.
The defensive effort was equally heartening. Those who need to provide badly needed depth in the secondary, including Trevin Wade and Buster Skrine, blanketed receivers. And the run defenders who were shredded by the Lions filled the gaps and wrapped up ball carriers.
Not bad all the way around considering that 15 players -- including such defensive stalwarts as LB Chris Gocong, DT Ahtyba Rubin, DE Frostee Rucker and MLB D'Qwell Jackson -- were sidelined with a variety of injuries.
The optimism must be tempered by the knowledge that the first-team offense spent much of the night against the Green Bay second-team defense. Also, Packers backup QB Graham Harrell was simply awful. He completed 12 of 24 for 100 yards, threw two INTs and was called for an intentional grounding in the end zone, which resulted in a safety. But the Browns played the cards that were dealt them and ended up holding all the aces.
Battle for backup QB spot heats up: Both Colt McCoy (4 of 6 for 58 yards) and Seneca Wallace (3 of 4 for 44 yards) played well in relief of Weeden. McCoy owns the inside track on the backup job, but his fine preseason efforts will also increase his trade value. One must believe he has piqued the interest of the Packers, particularly considering how poorly Harrell performed for them Thursday night.
It's also apparent that talent itself is not the only reason for the offensive success for the Browns in Green Bay. The full offseason resulted in a stronger grasp of the west coast scheme, and the addition of offensive coordinator Brad Childress and special assistant Nolan Cromwell have also had positive effects. Browns receivers found open seams in the Packers' zone and gained yards after catches, a critical component to success in the west coast that was unseen last year.
Same old Dawson: The most reliable player on the team, aside from OT Joe Thomas, is PK Phil Dawson. Now the highest-paid PK in the NFL, he nailed three more field goals Thursday night, including a 53-yarder. His only miss was from 56 yards -- and that was barely off. It seems amazing that Dawson has gotten better every year despite the fact that he's about to start his 14th season.
Haslam has to be happy: The Browns picked a fine time to play their finest exhibition game in years and run their preseason record to 2-0 for the first time since 2005. New owner Jimmy Haslam III was in attendance. His ownership is expected to be approved by the NFL in September or October.