Is Josh Gordon making progress?

Josh Gordon has a ton of upside, but he’s been very inconsistent so far in the preseason. Hopefully Brandon Weeden’s assessment of him is accurate:

“Look at Josh Gordon,” he said of the rookie receiver. “Look at him a month ago to where he is today. It doesn’t even look [like the same player]. He’s finishing plays, he’s running at full speed. He’s come a long way.

“We’ve got so many weapons at our disposal but it takes time and it takes reps and it takes confidence. They have to have confidence running the routes most importantly and I have to have confidence pulling the trigger.”

Everyone seems to think the kid is very coachable, but right now he needs plenty of it, along with a lot of reps. I’ll be surprised if he starts in Game 1, but he should get plenty of reps if he keeps improving.

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Will DT Ronnie Cameron be a steal for the Browns?

Watching the Browns/Packers preseason game, many of us noticed rookie defensive tackle Ronnie Cameron right away. He was playing against backups but he seems to have a knack for making plays.

Tony Grossi just published a fascinating profile of Cameron, who seems to be very intelligent along with having some serious skills. I hope this kid makes the team, as the Browns have the opportunity to build a special group of young defensive linemen.

Weeden and Browns make their debut in Detroit

After a long and eventful offseason, the Browns finally took the field last night in Detroit for their first exhibition game. Here are some first impressions.

– Brandon Weeden came out firing and hit a couple of beautiful throws. He clearly looks like an NFL quarterback. Then he went on to make some typical rookie mistakes and finished with a pedestrian stat line. He threw one ball that should have been intercepted and another that was intercepted. The key for Weeden will be how he learns from mistakes so we have a long way to go in figuring out how successful he will be in the NFL. I love the kid’s demeanor, however. He doesn’t hang his head and he seems to thrive on the challenges in front of him. He offers a refreshing contrast to Colt McCoy who often looks like he’s sulking on the sidelines.

– Travis Benjamin and Jordan Cameron stood out as potential weapons for Weeden. Benjamin flashed his speed and quickness and had no trouble catching the ball. Many have assumed that he’ll just be a slot receiver due to his size, but Benjamin showed he can play on the outside as well as he blew past a defender to catch a long pass from Weeden up the sideline. Cameron also showed his athleticism. He’s big and fast moved easily in space. Let’s hope his back injury isn’t serious. He was smiling as he left the field so it didn’t look too bad.

– I feel terrible for Mohamed Massaquoi. I saw him in camp last week and he looked great, and most camp observers thought he was back from his injuries and could help the receiving corps. But he got hit in the head on his first play of the game and suffered another concussion. Now his career may be in jeopardy.

– There will be a steep learning curve for some of the rookies. Mitchell Schwartz had a tough night at right tackle. He’s been having trouble in camp with Jabaal Sheard and then had trouble last night with the pass rush as well. He’ll have to develop quickly for the Browns as they don’t really have a viable option behind him. Oniel Cousins had looked good in camp but he looked terrible last night playing left tackle with the second team, so the Browns have to hope that Schwartz can win the right tackle job.

– Josh Gordon also had an inauspicious debut. Bernie Kosar pointed out that Gordon needs a lot of work in running routes, which isn’t unusual for rookie receivers. But we saw Travis Benjamin look like a veteran last night, so Gordon needs to step it up. He’s been out of football however and it shows.

– Montario Hardesty looked solid subbing for Trent Richardson as did the other running backs. The Browns should be able to establish a running game this season assuming Richardson’s injury heals as expected, and Hardesty gives them a solid one-two punch.

– I like what I saw of Brad Smelley. He’s not a devastating blocker, but he’s a real receiving threat out of the backfield. Owen Marecic has to show something in order to keep is job.

– The run defense looked terrible last night, but keep in mind that Ahtyba Rubin didn’t play. I watched the d-line closely and the tackles looked much better when Billy Winn and John Hughes were in there. There’s legitimate concern with the injury to Phil Taylor, but if these two rookies develop the line has a chance to be decent.

– They weren’t in there long, but Joe Haden and T.J. Ward looked fantastic last night, which makes the rumored suspension of Haden even that much more disappointing. But from a talent level the secondary has serious upside. Unfortunately, Dimitri Patterson left the game last night with an injury. Let’s hope it’s not serious.

– Colt McCoy had a nice night as he was able to move the ball with his feet and he made some nice throws. But we also saw some of the typical dumpoffs on third down. Overall I like him as one of the backups if the Browns decide to keep him, and frankly I’d be comfortable with Seneca Wallace and Thaddeus Gibson as well. Gibson looked good in garbage time as he drove the Browns to victory in the fourth quarter.

Overall, it was a sloppy game. There were plenty of hysterical reactions on Twitter, most notably from certain radio talk show hosts that were probably off their meds again. But I like the potential of this team and the young players, and I’m anxious to see what they look like when Trent Richardson rejoins the lineup.

Pat Shurmur names Brandon Weeden as the starter at QB

It was just a matter of time of course, but Pat Shurmur made it official today. Brandon Weeden will be the starting quarterback.

Weeden has looked very good in camp, though he’s obviously a rookie and he’s going to make his share of mistakes. But his big arm and his willingness to look downfield makes him a huge upgrade over Colt McCoy.

Speaking of Colt, he wasn’t very happy, and he made some smartass remarks about expecting a real competition and the fact that he took no reps with the first-team offense. But he would have gotten reps had he miraculously started throwing the ball like Weeden. Frankly, he just looks like a backup compared to Weeden.

Of course this doesn’t ensure a successful career for Weeden, but we’ve seen in camp that he has the tools and the temperament to be a good one.

Impressions of Jimmy Haslam

You only have one chance to make a first impression, and Jimmy Haslam took full advantage of his first news conference to win over Browns fans and the media. Here are some of my first impressions:

Confidence without arrogance

Jimmy Haslam is a very confident man, but he doesn’t come across as arrogant. He talked about listening and learning. He stressed the importance of “collective wisdom,” explaining that having five smart people in the room to hash out an issue is better than four. So he’s smart enough to know what he doesn’t know, and he’s confident enough to surround himself with smart people. He sounds like a natural leader.

Has not made final decision on Mike Holmgren

All of the haters in Cleveland, particularly certain radio talk show hosts, will have to wait a bit, and perhaps much longer, to dance on Mike Holmgren’s grave. Haslam acknowledged that this young team seems to be heading in the right direction and he made sure to mention Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert. Haslam made it a point to say he would not be commenting now on personnel, but he stressed the importance of putting in place the right team, and he implied he would have an open mind toward Holmgren.

We just might see Holmgren around here for a while. Of course his role will change as Joe Banner is expected to come in as the new team president. Banner is an expert on the business side of football as well as putting together the football operation. With Haslam’s business background and Joe Banner, there’s no need at all for Mike Holmgren to have anything beyond a transitional role on the business side of things.

But when it comes to football operations, Joe Banner’s philosophy is very consistent with what Mike Holmgren has been trying to do here.

Here’s a great profile of Joe Banner, which among other things points out that he isn’t perfect, and that many sports talk radio hosts can be idiots in every NFL town. Here’s one interesting detail:

From the get-go, it was a stretch for Lurie and Banner, two guys with zero experience in professional sports, to think they could march into Philadelphia and take over the Eagles. But they believed, in fact they were dead sure, that they would figure it out. Take the hiring of Andy Reid in 1999, which is Banner’s favorite story. No one had ever hired a head coach who hadn’t run a college team or overseen an offense or defense in the NFL; an impressive coaching résumé was deemed crucial. That was completely backwards thinking, Banner decided. He and Lurie analyzed the qualities the most successful coaches shared — scrupulous attention to detail, absolute commitment to a philosophy, obliviousness to public criticism … hello, Andy Reid! Never mind that Reid was an obscure Green Bay assistant coach. Banner’s and Lurie’s huge risk — just to remind our listeners out there — became the winningest coach in team history.

The “absolute commitment to a philosophy” is exactly what Mike Holmgren has created here in Cleveland, including most importantly Tom Heckert and Pat Shurmur. When it comes to football operations, there seems to be a way for Banner and Holmgren to work together, at least for a little while as Mike eases into retirement.

Yesterday on WKNR, the Hooligans seemed totally shocked when Sal Paolantonio stated that of course Joe Banner could work with Mike Holmgren, citing the fact that Banner is not the football guy. His job is to put the right football people in place.

Given Haslam’s “listen and learn” approach, the fact that the Browns are young with potential, and that Holmgren has established a football philosophy, I don’t expect Haslam and Banner to “blow things up” as others have reported. If the Browns improve this season, I suspect they will strongly consider keeping Heckert and Shurmer in place, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Holmgren stays on as a consultant.

Haslam will be committed to Cleveland and the Browns

Tony Grossi reported that Haslam went to every Steelers game, home and away, in the four years he was a minority owner. He will be passionately committed to the Browns, and he also indicated a desire to become involved in the community in Cleveland.

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