CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – For anyone questioning why Cleveland Browns coach Pat Shurmur did not play Brandon Weeden Thursday night – here’s why.
Rookie linebacker James-Michael Johnson was the only would-be defensive starter to play last night.
Johnson is expected to fill in for the first 3 weeks for Scott Fujita.
He might not be able to after going down in the second quarter with what the team said was an oblique injury.
The good news is that x-rays were negative.
“That happens in games quite a bit,” Shurmur said. “We really had a shell group out there tonight. I think we played this game with roughly 40 players, so there was a lot of guys that took a lot of reps and some of the guys had to play unfortunately.”
Whether or not Johnson will be available for week 1 is now a major concern for an already thin linebacker corps.
Start Me Up: With Shurmur resting his starters, here’s how they lined up on both sides of the ball to start the game.
Offense: Colt McCoy, Montario Hardesty, Owen Marecic, Greg Little, Travis Benjamin, Alex Smith, Ryan Miller, Jarrod Shaw, Garth Gerhart, Stanley Daniels, John Greco
Defense: Emmanuel Stephens, Kiante Tripp, Brian Schaefering, Brian Sanford, James-Michael Johnson, Craig Robertson, L.J. Fort, Trevin Wade, Buster Skrine, David Sims, Tashaun Gipson
Shurmur played a total of 46 players in the game.
Backing Up Trent: Trent Richardson has not been seen or heard from since undergoing surgery Aug. 9. While the Browns are “very optimistic” about his availability for week 1 his status is very much in doubt.
Brandon Jackson likely secured a roster spot after running for 48 yards on 7 carries Thursday night against the Bears. He helped set up a second quarter touchdown with several bursts.
Jackson, who spent last season on injured reserve, isn’t taking anything for granted.
“We’ll see, I don’t know,” Jackson said. I’m praying for it, just hoping for it. It’s all I can do, just be accountable and take advantage of my opportunities, and I feel like I did that tonight.”
Jackson averaged 4 yards per carry in the preseason.
Montario Hardesty, who has looked strong in practice, has run for 97 yards on 30 carries – a 3.2 yards/carry average in 4 preseason games.
“I think I came and played well,” Hardesty said. “I think I put my best foot forward and we’re going to just go from there. I’m not into this and that, I just try to come out here and work everyday and do the best I can do.”
Both Jackson and Hardesty may have to carry the load against the Eagles if Richardson isn’t ready.
Slow Start: In 4 preseason games this year, the Browns were outscored 35-6 in the first quarter.
Even though the games don’t count the trend is noticeable for 1 reason – 2011.
The Browns were outscored 82-26 in the first quarter last year en route to scoring a paltry 218 points for the season.
Hopefully it’s not a sign of things to come.
Not So Special: For the second time in as many games, the Browns had a punt blocked – this time it was returned for a touchdown.
Rod Windsor flashed with a nice touchdown catch in the back of the end zone but was blown up and pushed into the punting lane twice in the second half. One resulted in a blocked punt which was returned for a touchdown.
Shurmur was asked if he’s concerned about 2 blocked punts in as many weeks after the game.
“Absolutely and there are specific reasons,” Shurmur said. “Rod Windsor was in there in a back-up role playing the wing, and he got bull rushed, which can’t happen. He was blocking the right guy, he just got pushed back, it can’t happen. We know what happened last week.
“They are fixable errors and there are no excuse for them.”
Bubble Burst: Corner James Dockery didn’t do much to help make his case to make the 53. Dockery was flagged for a pair of pass interference penalties – the second set up the Bears second touchdown.