Final thoughts: Glad it’s over

Posted Aug 29, 2013

CHICAGO – Here are my final thoughts from the Browns’ 18-16 victory in their preseason-finale against the Bears Thursday night at Soldier Field:

>> Preseason comes to a merciful end. The best part of this game is that it’s over, and the Browns came out of it relatively healthy. It pretty much played out as a typical fourth preseason game, which is to say it was played poorly for the most part. The Browns rested most of their starters, the Bears rested all of them, and it showed. There was sloppy play in all phases. What does it mean? Not a whole lot. Sure, it doesn’t exactly provide a ringing endorsement for the Browns’ depth. But it would be a mistake to be overly concerned about that based on a preseason performance. The goal was simply to get through this thing and get on with the far more important business of preparing for the Sept. 8 regular-season opener against the Miami Dolphins.

>> Brian Hoyer’s up-and-down night. The night was pretty well summed up by the fact Browns third-string quarterback Brian Hoyer ended up starting and playing the entire game when the team’s No. 2 passer, Jason Campbell, became a late scratch because of full-like symptoms. Hoyer did make an impressive throw over the middle for a 14-yard touchdown to tight end Dan Gronkowski in the fourth quarter on the way to completing 24 of 35 passes for 307 yards. But that came after he threw a couple of ugly interceptions. His best pass, a 45-yard completion to Josh Gordon on the Browns’ first play from scrimmage, wasn’t exactly a thing of beauty. It hung up in the air and could have easily resulted in a touchdown had the receiver been able to catch it in stride. Hoyer also had a 32-yard connection with Gordon and a couple of other nice completions, but it was mostly a forgettable night … like the rest of the game.

>> Curious kicking situation. The night’s strange start, courtesy of Campbell being yanked from the starting lineup, got a little bit stranger when kicker Shayne Graham also wound up a late scratch because of a tightening of his back. With fellow kicker Brandon Bogotay sidelined with a groin-muscle injury, the Browns wound up using punter Spencer Lanning as their kicker. He connected on two of three field goals, including the game-winner from 40 yards. Give Lanning credit for coming through reasonably well in the clutch and for bouncing back after a bad miss on his first try, from 41 yards. There doesn’t appear to be a reason for serious panic about whether the Browns will have a healthy kicker for the Miami game, because Graham’s back problem isn’t considered serious.

>> James-Michael Johnson makes a little noise. It’s hard to say whether it will break up an apparent logjam for what could be two backup spots at inside linebacker, but Johnson seemingly helped his cause by intercepting a pass from Trent Edwards and returning it 23 yards for a touchdown. It wasn’t a particularly spectacular play; Edwards threw the ball right to him. But it certainly didn’t hurt for Johnson to make such a play while embroiled in competition with Tank Carder and L.J. Fort for reserve roles behind D’Qwell Jackson and Craig Robertson.

>> David Nelson’s disappointing return. This was supposed to be the receiver’s big chance to convince the Browns’ decision-makers that he should have a spot on the final, 53-man roster. However, it ended with him limping off the field after Hoyer’s second interception. Nelson attempted to stay in the game, but he clearly was having trouble walking, let alone running. Nelson wound up catching four passes for 54 yards, including one for 21 yards and a 16-yarder that set up a field goal late in the first half. However, it ended with him limping off the field with cramps after Hoyer’s second interception.

>> Armonty Bryant makes his case. The defensive end whom the Browns drafted in the seventh round did a nice job of rushing the passer and helping to force a couple of turnovers – a fumble recovery by Fort that set up Lanning’s winning field goal and a hurry on Johnson’s interception. He had a fairly good training camp, although he probably needs to add some size and strength to become a reliable backup. Bryant has a shot to make the final roster, but it wouldn’t be a shock to see him land on the practice squad.

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