The Cleveland Browns return to the field for tonight’s second preseason game when they host the Detroit Lions in the annual Great Lakes Classic at FirstEnergy Stadium.
After a 27-19 victory over the St. Louis Rams in the preseason-opener last Thursday, the Browns have one goal in mind for the Lions game: improvement.
“I want to see progress,” coach Rob Chudzinski said. “I want to see improvement from the first game in a number of areas. I think, ultimately, we want to have consistency. If you go and look at specifics of execution and detail, I want to continue to improve upon the identity we are creating in how we play. I want to go out and see these guys in different situations that come up and how they compete and react in those situations.”
“Whether it’s offense, defense, special teams, we’ve got to show we’re capable of getting better,” veteran linebacker D’Qwell Jackson added. “The focus will be there. I’m approaching this game like it’s the regular season. I think we have a good group of guys that can win football games this year. We don’t have time to take steps back. We’ve got to move forward if we’re going to be anything once the regular season starts.”
The Browns spent part of the week working on their schemes, and toward the middle, dedicated more time to preparing for the Lions. The coaches were also able to figure out how long the starters would play, including running back
“I am looking forward to playing against somebody else,” Chudzinski said. “They are a very talented team. I am looking for progress and improvement from game one to game two. We plan on playing the starters through midway in the second quarter, possibly all the way to half. We will just have to play it by ear and see from a rep standpoint, series and the flow of the game. We will get the twos in after that and then, the threes in the fourth quarter at some point.”
The Lions bring with them an offense capable of moving the ball down the field and putting points on the scoreboard in short order.
In 2012, Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford completed 435 of 727 attempts (59.8 percent) for 4,967 yards and 20 touchdowns, and veteran wide receiver Calvin Johnson was his favorite target. Johnson hauled in 122 passes for an NFL record 1,964 yards and five touchdowns. Since joining the Lions through the 2007 NFL Draft, Johnson has 488 catches for 7,836 yards and 54 touchdowns, including 16 during the 2011 season.
“Detroit has a great offense,” Jackson said. “It’s well-documented. Stafford has thrown for over 4,000 yards. He threw a lot of picks last year, but they still have one of, and he’ll probably finish as one of the best receivers to ever play the game in Calvin Johnson.
“We’ve got our work cut out. They have a good group of O-linemen. It’s going to be a good test defensively, but it’s one of those games where last week was last week. As a young team, we have to learn how to keep building and get better.”
While competing against the Lions’ high-powered offense and pressure-getting defensive front, the Browns will focus on playing within their own game and avoiding “the negative plays, penalties” that Jackson said “kills momentum.”
“If you can cut down those mistakes, create turnovers on defense, not turn the ball over on offense, create field position on special teams, your percentage of winning goes up that much more,” Jackson said. “It comes down to making plays. In the preseason, you want to cut those things out now so in the regular season, it doesn’t come back to hurt you.”
Veteran defensive back
“I was fortunate to play a couple playoff games in Atlanta,” Owens recalled. “I know there’s a difference from preseason to regular season to playoffs. The work is not over. Even though you show things out here on the practice field, you’ve got to show it on Sunday.
“These preseason games are a bit of a tease because even though they don’t count, you still want to work hard, master your craft, and when Sunday comes in the regular season, it really counts. You’ve got to win, one day at a time, one practice at a time. You’ve got to ‘Win the one’ for sure.”
The Browns-Lions game is sponsored by Cleveland Clinic.