Ben Watson has hands!

CLEVELAND - AUGUST 21: Benjamin Watson  of the Cleveland Browns scores a touchdown in front of Craig Dahl  of the St. Louis Rams at Cleveland Browns Stadium on August 21, 2010 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

With Benjamin Watson, the Browns now have another tight end with good hands to go along with Evan Moore who came on strong last season.

Even Robert Royal made a good catch! He was terrible last season, but you have to wonder how much he was affected by two sub-par quarterbacks. Royal is a good blocker, so I think he still has a chance to hang on a keep a roster spot, particularly if he starts catching the ball.

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Peyton Hillis and his impact on the power running game and the passing game

CLEVELAND - AUGUST 21:  Peyton Hillis  of the Cleveland Browns runs the ball through the St. Louis Rams defense at Cleveland Browns Stadium on August 21, 2010 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

We saw some sloppy play the other night when the Cleveland Browns faced the St. Louis Rams, but we also saw more good signs heading into the new season.

It was a joy watching Peyton Hillis play. He’s the kind of blue-collar player that can make this team more physical so we get back to Browns football. He’s a tough runner who is hard to bring down, and he showed that on Saturday night as he punished the Rams in the running game. On one play it took practically the entire defense to bring him to a stop, and they were lucky the refs blew the whistle as Hillis broke free again at the end of the run.

Hillis is also an excellent receiver, which gives the Browns more options in the passing game. We know Jerome Harrison can be explosive catching the ball out of the backfield, and we’re seeing that Hillis can be very effective as well. This can be a huge plus in games when the Browns are facing a tough pass rush. Hillis is a big back who can help on pass protection in games where Harrison is having trouble picking up blitzes.

Finally, we haven’t even seen Montario Hardesty yet. With Hillis, Harrison, and then Lawrence Vickers opening up holes, the running backs suddenly look like a strength on this team.

Here’s another photo of Hillis. It will be nice to see him pounding the Steelers and Ravens defenses.

CLEVELAND - AUGUST 21: Peyton Hillis  of the Cleveland Browns celebrates with Robert Royal  after a run against the St. Louis Rams at Cleveland Browns Stadium on August 21, 2010 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

The Browns look like a real team again

GREEN BAY - AUGUST 14: Jake Delhomme  of the Cleveland Browns calls out a play during the NFL preseason game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field August 14, 2010 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Tom Dahlin/Getty Images)

It’s only one preseason game, but watching the Cleveland Browns last night against the Green Bay Packers, a Super Bowl favorite, had to make Browns fans feel better for a change.

What we saw was a team that belonged on the field with their opponent. We also saw a team that had two NFL quarterbacks. Jake Delhomme looked like a solid veteran, and Seneca Wallace looked like a potential weapon at that position. We don’t have to hold our breath any more and hope that Brady Quinn can hit a wide open receiver or that Derek Anderson can stop throwing the ball right in the hands of defensive backs.

We still don’t know how good this offense can be, but we do know that they probably won’t looked like a bunch of over-matched amateurs when trying to throw the ball. Mike Holmgren realized that a change needed to be made, and I suspect that Eric Mangini was all for a change as well.

The running game also didn’t miss a beat. It was a joy to watch the Browns pound in that first touchdown from the four yard line. Lawrence Vickers is a beast at fullback, and Jerome Harrison showed again that he can gain tough yardage. With a solid running game, Delhomme should be able to have a solid season. Also, we didn’t even see the Wildcat last night and Josh Cribbs didn’t touch the ball!

Peyton Hillis showed that we now have several weapons coming out of the backfield. This kid is a great receiver, and I loved seeing the screen pass. We haven’t even seen Montario Hardesty yet.

The defense could stop one of the best offenses in the league, so let’s hope they play better against more typical NFL offenses. That said, the young DBs looked pretty good. T.J. Ward looks like a real player, even with some of the mistakes. Joe Haden looked solid, and we saw a glimpse of his athletic ability and speed on the kickoff return.

Bottom line – the Browns looked like a team that can play with the better teams in this league. Let’s see how they do next week at home against the St. Louis Rams, a team that seems to be starting over.

Ohio State Buckeyes are #2 in first coaches’ poll

Ohio State Buckeyes' quarterback Terrelle Pryor (R) hugs head coach Jim Tressel after victory over the Oregon Ducks 26-17 in the 96th Rose Bowl game in Pasadena, California on January 1, 2010. UPI/Jon SooHoo Photo via Newscom

Coming off their huge win over Oregon in the Rose Bowl, the Buckeyes start the season with the #2 ranking in the first USA Today coaches’ poll.

The Big Ten also gets some recognition to open the season.

With four teams in the top 15, the Big Ten had more than any other conference. Iowa is No. 10, Wisconsin No. 12 and Penn State No. 14. The Buckeyes play all those teams, as well as playing host to No. 13 Miami in the second week of the season.

I thought that the Buckeyes would have to go undefeated to earn a shot at the National Championship, but the schedule might give them a shot even if they suffer a close loss in one of the Big Ten games, though I still think that’s a long shot.

The key is beating Miami. The Buckeyes have no chance at a title shot without beating a respected non-conference opponent.

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