Philadelphia Eagles vs. Cleveland Browns Semi-Coherent Preview

May 13, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz (11) runs drills during rookie minicamp at the NovaCare Complex. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
May 13, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz (11) runs drills during rookie minicamp at the NovaCare Complex. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports /

A preview of the game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Cleveland Browns.

The season is here! After an offseason that could be described as mildly eventful, we finally have real games. Before we talk about the game, let’s recap the Philadelphia Eagles’ actions since last season:

  • Hired Doug Pederson because he was the closest they could get to bringing back Andy Reid
  • Re-signed starting quarterback Sam Bradford to a lucrative, but short-term contract
  • Made Chase Daniel one of the highest-paid backup quarterbacks in the league
  • Traded just about every player acquired during the great Chip Kelly free-agent signing spree of 2015
  • Traded a slew of draft picks to move up to the #2 spot where they selected Carson Wentz
  • Saw Bradford stop reporting to organized team activities and demand a trade
  • Welcomed Bradford back when he returned and claimed he was now okay with the situation
  • Signed a bunch of free-agents
  • Watched their long snapper do really well on a reality television show
  • Traded Bradford for two draft picks, including a first round choice in 2017
  • Named Wentz the starter after months of claiming that he’d be best suited sitting on the sidelines for most of the season

Did I miss anything? Okay then; on with the season!

Cleveland Browns

2015 record: 3-13 (4th place in AFC North)

Head coach: Hue Jackson

The last time they met

Philadelphia Eagles
Nov 22, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans quarterback Brandon Weeden during game against the New York Jets at NRG Stadium. Houston won 24-17. Mandatory Credit: Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports /

Four years ago, the Philadelphia Eagles also opened the season with a game against the Browns. Despite being huge favorites, the Eagles found themselves trailing late in the fourth quarter thanks in part to Michael Vick‘s four interceptions. Narrowly averting disaster, Vick was able to lead the team to a comeback, throwing the winning touchdown with less than two minutes left.

The Browns attempted to answer but the Eagles ended the game with their fourth interception of the game. It was a rough debut for Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden. Not only did he get picked off four times, but he also got trapped under a giant flag during the pregame ceremony.

What’s the deal with the Browns

After years upon years of losing, the Browns decided to take radical action and hire a baseball executive to run their team. Paul DePodesta, the executive made famous by Moneyball was named chief strategy officer and he has attempted to bring his analytics-driven approach to the NFL.

Philadelphia Eagles
Jun 7, 2016; Berea, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns running back Duke Johnson Jr, (29) runs a drill during minicamp at the Cleveland Browns training facility. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports /

One of his first moves was to trade the #2 pick in the draft to the Philadelphia Eagles. He has gone on record saying he doesn’t think Wentz will be a star, and the Browns are better off with the extra draft picks. Most Philadelphia Eagles fans are pleased that the Browns didn’t want Wentz since their judgement has often been poor when it comes to quarterbacks. (Really, their judgement has kind of sucked when it comes to every position.)

The Browns allowed many free agents to leave and replaced them with a slew of undrafted players and cast-offs from other teams. Have they spotted a Moneyball-style market efficiency that will allow them to succeed, or are they destined to discover why no other team wanted these players?

The Browns’ strength will likely be their running game as they have a pretty good tandem in Duke Johnson (that’s a Hall of Fame name right there), and Isaiah Crowell. If those two can do damage on the ground, the Browns might have some offensive success.

Reason to hate the Browns

Considering how much the team has sucked, there’s very little reason to hate the Browns. But before you start feeling sorry for Cleveland fans, just remember that they got to celebrate a championship earlier this year. They deserve no pity!

Featured Browns player: Robert Griffin III

Four years ago, RG3 was the league’s brightest young star. But after a major knee injury, clashes with two head coaches, and two seasons of uninspiring play, Griffin found himself on the bench for the entirety of the 2015 season. He left town as a free agent, and there were very few people in Washington sorry to see him go.

Philadelphia Eagles
Aug 26, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Robert Griffin III (10) drops back against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the first half at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

Granted free agency, Griffin sought an opportunity to get his career back on track. He managed to find a starting job, but it isn’t clear if his situation is any more stable. While it is tough to find a franchise in more disarray than the Redskins, Griffin might have somehow found it when he signed with the Browns.

Supposedly, the guidance of head coach Hue Jackson will allow Griffin to recapture the form that made him offensive rookie of the year four years ago. It isn’t clear if Jackson will allow Griffin to finally be able to read a defense or not try to rely on athleticism which hasn’t been the same since his knee injury.

Key Eagles storyline

This week’s game will be the coaching debut of Doug Pederson, and nobody knows quite what to expect. Obviously, the super-tempo offense of Chip Kelly is gone, but I don’t think many people really want a return to the plodding pace that we often saw under Andy Reid.

Sep 1, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson during the first quarter against the New York Jets at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 1, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson during the first quarter against the New York Jets at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports /

The good news is that unlike Kelly, Pederson seems to recognize the strength of his offense: The tight end position. In Zack Ertz, Brent Celek, and Trey Burton, the Eagles have three guys who can both block and catch the ball effectively. I expect to see the team to often line up in multiple tight end sets.

Will that be enough to overcome a questionable wide receiver group and a running game that doesn’t have much depth behind starter Ryan Mathews? Not to mention the inevitable mistakes that we’ll see out of Carson Wentz?

Tweets of non-importance

Each week, I’ll survey Twitter to find some of the best (by which I mean worst) tweets from fans of the opposing team.

I don’t want to be the one to tell him the bad news about Gordon.

At least one Browns fan seems to have his priorities straight.

Sure, it’s not at all premature to declare winners and losers of the deal before a single game has been played.

Catching up with the Chipper

Eagles fans might be curious about former head coach Chip Kelly now that he’s moved on to San Francisco. Every so often, I’ll take a look at what Kelly is up to on the West Coast.

The scene: Chip Kelly and offensive coordinator Curtis Modkins are coming up with a game plan for Sunday.

Modkins: Did you hear about Eric Rowe?

Philadelphia Eagles
Nov 26, 2015; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson (81) scores a touchdown while being pressured by Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Eric Rowe (32) during the third quarter of a NFL game on Thanksgiving at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports /

Chip: The cornerback on the Eagles?

Modkins: Not anymore. The Philadelphia Eagles got rid of him.

Chip: What??? (Picks up his phone and dials 49ers general manager Trent Baalke)

Baalke: Hey, Chip. What’s up?

Chip: I heard Eric Rowe was available! Can you sign him?

Baalke: No, he’s not available. He’s on the Patriots.

Chip: Damn it. How’d they sign him so quickly?

Baalke: They didn’t sign him. They traded for him.

Chip: Traded for him? Why would they do that?

Baalke: I guess they thought he could reach his potential.

Chip: No, I mean why didn’t they just wait for the Eagles to release him.

Baalke: The Eagles weren’t going to release him.

Chip: Why not? They didn’t want him anymore, so why wouldn’t they just release him.

Baalke: Here’s the thing, Chip. Most teams in the league don’t just cut guys who other teams might want. They try to work out trades and get something in return.

Chip: Ah, I get it. They traded him for a player coming off an injury?

Baalke: No, they traded him for a fourth round draft pick.

Chip: No way.

Baalke: I’m serious.

Chip: Well, that’s too bad for us. I always liked that guy. (Hangs up phone and shakes his head) Man, some of these teams just have no clue what they’re doing.

Quick season prediction

The Philadelphia Eagles offense worries me. They’ve got a rookie quarterback who until a week ago, was said to need maybe a year before he was ready to play. Their running game lacks depth, and their receiving group is uninspiring. In addition, their right tackle is likely to miss ten games in the middle of the season. Add in an inexperienced play caller, and it’s very easy to predict that the Eagles will struggle to score points this season.

Philadelphia Eagles
Aug 11, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz prior to action against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports /

On the other hand, I think the defense will be good. They have an excellent defensive line and 3/4 of a good secondary. The linebackers aren’t a deep group, but since adding Stephen Tulloch, that’s not as big a concern. Perhaps the biggest reason for optimism is the switch from Billy “Let’s have Bradley Fletcher in single coverage on Dez Bryant” Davis and his 3-4 system to Jim Schwartz and his 4-3. That upgrade alone should be worth two wins.

The defense is capable of winning this team some games, and I expect the special teams to remain strong as well. That means this likely won’t be a bottom five team as some are predicting. That said, the offensive limitations will hold them back, and even in a weak NFC East, I don’t see them winning more than six games.

Final record: 6-10

Next: Has Jamaal Charles Lost a Step?


The Browns might be excited about their new regime, and RG3 MIGHT be able to make a comeback. But when it comes down to it, Griffin has had one good NFL season, and that was four years ago. The rest of the roster is filled with guys who either shouldn’t be in the NFL, or will need a few years before they can make much of an impact.

In future weeks, Ryan Mathews might get hurt, and Lane Johnson might be suspended, but they’ll be playing on Sunday, and that should be enough to get the Eagles a win.

Eagles 16 – Browns 10