BALTIMORE -- Here are my final thoughts from the Browns’ 14-6 loss against the Ravens Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium:
>>What's next at quarterback? Brandon Weeden's sprained thumb on his right (throwing) hand raises questions about what the Browns will do at the position for next Sunday's game at Minnesota. Jason Campbell, who finished the Baltimore game in Weeden's place, would figure to be the next man up as he was against the Ravens. And if that's the case, the impact of the change will be interesting. Campbell brings considerably more experience. His big, strong frame makes him the right physical fit for an offense that asks the quarterback to primarily stand tall in the pocket and look to make big throws. Although Campbell isn't exceptionally mobile, he can move around well enough to buy time. He also is likely to benefit greatly from the return of the Browns' best receiver, Josh Gordon, from a two-game suspension.
>>Rough day for Weeden. Beyond the thumb injury, it was a particularly long afternoon for the Browns' quarterback. He was sacked five times. He was penalized three times for delay of game, which apparently stemmed from communication problems that hampered plays being relayed to him from the sidelines. He threw a pass beyond the reach of a wide-open running back Chris Ogbonnaya along the sideline for what could very well have been a touchdown. He had passes repeatedly dropped by Greg Little. He misfired on other throws. Injury aside, it was the sort of day that lent itself to plenty of second-guessing about Weeden's performance and inability to get more production from the offense.
>>Wasted defensive masterpiece. The defense did its part to give the Browns a victory that was theirs with even a modest improvement in offensive production. Just as in last week's season-opener against Miami, this group did a good job of stopping the run, holding the Ravens to average of 2.8 yards per carry. The Browns' No. 1 defensive mission was to shut down Ray Rice, and it did (before he left the game with a hip injury early in the fourth quarter). The defense also avoided being shredded by big plays through the air, but Joe Flacco did a superb job of distributing the ball to nine different receivers and making just enough critical throws to lead the Ravens to victory.
>>Barkevious Mingo debut/preview. After missing the season-opener while recovering from a bruised lung he suffered in the second game of the preseason, the rookie outside linebacker finally got his first chance to show why the Browns made him the sixth overall pick of the draft. On his very first snap at outside linebacker, he blew right past offensive tackle Bryant McKinney to sack Flacco. Mingo was a disruptive force on multiple occasions. He also did a nice job as a blocker on punt returns. Mingo showed no ill effects from the injury or being held out of conditioning work while recovering. In addition, he provided a preview of what opposing offenses can expect with his speed and dynamic athletic talent joining an already loaded front seven that includes Paul Kruger, Jabaal Sheard and dominant defensive lineman Desmond Bryant.
>>Slightly better offensive balance, but ... The Browns at least made an effort to have more of a balanced offense. Trent Richardson ran 18 times, which was five more than a week ago when the Browns threw it 40 more times than they ran it. This week, the disparity fell to 19, not counting two Weeden runs. But the Browns' rushing production was abysmal, with Richardson averaging a mere 3.2 yards per carry. Amazingly, it has taken Richardson 17 career games (counting 15 as a rookie last season) to crack 1,000 yards. When he bounces plays to the outside, he is able to make progress, such as on his long run of nine yards Sunday. However, Richardson struggles to find daylight inside.
>>Way too many penalties. The Browns have to become more discipline as a team. They were penalized five times for minus-33 yards. They drew three in the first half. They have to be smarter about how they go about their business. What’s troubling is that this was a trend that showed itself during the preseason.
>>Billy Cundiff makes a strong statement. Fans here weren't all that welcoming to Cundiff, who made the Pro Bowl when he was with the Ravens. They booed him as he lined up the first of his two field-goal attempts, from 21 yards. Cundiff made that kick, as well as a 51-yarder. But what was even more impressive was the two kickoffs he sent through the end zone for touchbacks. The Browns mostly wanted that when they signed Cundiff in order to help minimize the impact dangerous returners and the exposure of their kick-coverage units, which are loaded with younger players.
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