Ahead of the Atlanta Falcons second preseason game with the Cleveland Browns, we caught up with Thomas Moore of Dawg Pound Daily.
Moore gives us a peak behind the curtain of Atlanta’s opponents on Thursday night. What can we expect from the Browns, and how has their offseason panned out amid a lot of change?
FALCONS AT BROWNS: Five Falcons to watch in second preseason game
The Falcons have plenty of their own questions to answer ahead of their trip to Cleveland. Let’s get a better understanding of their opponents.
From the outside it felt like the Browns were ready to burn the thing to the ground and completely start over. Under a new regime, is the team finally headed in the right direction?
TM: It is still very early in Cleveland’s latest biennial reboot, but optimism remains high among the fans. But that optimism carries with it two caveats.
The first is owner Jimmy Haslam. Every time he hits the reset button he promises that he has learned from the past and will not repeat the same mistakes. Then, two years later, he is back at the podium essentially repeating the same speech.
If Haslam has truly learned the error of his ways, he will give this new regime the time it needs to finally right the ship. It’s important to remember that the Browns are where they are because of 16 years of bad decisions. It is hard to accept in a society that embraces instant gratification, but it is going to take time to fix this mess in a tangible, sustainable manner.
The second is that much of the optimism — far too much, actually — is being placed on head coach Hue Jackson. “In Hue We Trust” is a popular cry among Browns fans who are excited that the team landed a coach with Jackson’s pedigree. Although the label of “quarterback guru” is probably misplaced, given time Jackson should be able to fix the offense.
As far as succeeding in the role of head coach, that remains to be seen. Enough time has passed that fans accept the narrative that Jackson got a raw deal in his one season as head coach in Oakland, but the fact remains he has only been a head coach for one season. Reflection between head coaching jobs can be a wonderful thing, but Jackson is still a question mark as the man in charge.
What can we expect from the RG3 era in Cleveland?
TM: Best-case scenario is that Jackson helps Griffin find the player that we all saw in 2012, when he was Offensive Rookie of the Year. If that happens, the Browns will not have to worry about the quarterback position for at least the next five or six years. A pleasant fiction, to say the least.
Worst-case scenario is that Griffin’s game hasn’t evolved beyond being a player that is immensely talented but is not an NFL-caliber quarterback. Fans often get excited about a player who can “make things happen” at the quarterback position, but forget that there is so much that goes into playing the position than what we all see for a few hours on Sunday afternoon.
The reality probably lies somewhere in between. While Griffin shares some responsibility for things going sour in Washington, a player doesn’t go from rookie of the year to a safety on the scout team without a little help. Griffin should be good enough to get the Browns through this season, but no so good as to keep the team from looking for a true franchise quarterback in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Corey Coleman is generating a ton of buzz. What’s your take on him?
TM: Coleman is very much the real deal. He is the type of player the Browns have lacked for years now, one that can turn a short pass into a game-changing touchdown every time he touches the ball. If Josh Gordon can stay engaged through his four-game suspension (a big if) and Terrelle Pryor can continue his progress as a wide receiver (still a question mark) then opposing defenses are going to have their hands full in determining who to cover.
Now we just need to get Coleman’s hamstring to cooperate, as he only returned to practice this week and will be limited (if he plays at all) on Thursday against the Falcons.
What did the Browns learn from their preseason opener with the Packers?
TM: That there is still much work to be done. The Browns have 14 draft picks and 16 second-year players in camp, and with that much inexperience comes a steep learning curve.
Patience is a four-letter word in these parts, and while the Browns appear to be trending in the right direction, this is going to take time. This is a team that is going to struggle early in the season, having four of its first five games on the road doesn’t help, but should become more competitive as the season progresses.
Even though they will never admit it, this fall is more about reshaping the culture of the team and evaluating how much work remains to be done, rather than how many games the team wins.
Which Browns players should Falcons fans look out for in this game?
TM: Robert Griffin III would be at No. 1. He only played two series against the Packers and needs as much work as he can get. He should see more playing time come Thursday night.
If his hamstring cooperates, Corey Coleman is also on the list, for the reasons we outlined above.
On defense, let’s go with the starting secondary. Joe Haden may see his first action of the preseason after recovering from off-season ankle surgery, and both starting safety positions are up for grabs, with second-year player Ibraheim Campbell and former undrafted free agent Jordan Poyer taking the first-team reps.
Defensive coordinator Ray Horton likes to talk about how he wants his defense to attack the quarterback, but that gets increasingly more difficult if the secondary is not sound.
We’d like to thank Thomas Moore for taking the time to talk to us. Be sure to check out Dawg Pound Daily for great coverage of the Cleveland Browns.