It's rare for anything from an opening preseason game to legitimately point towards good vibes for the regular season, but Cleveland Browns fans have to be excited about the strong passing and special teams that got the team out to an early lead against the St. Louis Rams on Thursday. They'd hold on for a 27-19 win.
The Browns were without Trent Richardson as the team takes precautions with a minor shin injury, but Brandon Weeden was as good as can be, throwing for 10-for-13 with 112 yards and a touchdown. He hit Dion Lewis for a two-yard score shortly after the start of the second quarter, his final pass of the evening. After throwing 17 interceptions as a rookie, with just 14 touchdowns, it was an encouraging outing for last year's No. 22 pick.
Then again, it may have just been an awful night by St. Louis' aerial coverage: Jason Campbell came in and completed 6 of 7 passes, and Brian Hoyer was 10-for-14. The Rams were above average as a pass defense last year, so it's not too worrisome.
As for St. Louis, Sam Bradford looked fine, completing 5 of 8 pass attempts. He seems to have an extremely strong connection with Chris Givens, the second-year receiver out of Wake Forest who nabbed a beautiful 59-yard ball just out of stride for the touchdown. He finished with three catches for 82 yards and a score.
A few plays after Weeden's TD pass, the Rams made the mistake of punting to Travis Benjamin. John Hekker let loose a 66-yard punt, but outkicked his coverage, and Benjamin took the ball 99 yards for a score. Benjamin only had three returns last year, but took one to the house for a 93-yard score. Look out for the Miami grad, who should have full-time punt return duties for the Browns this year.
Even more encouraging, Barkevious Mingo had a fine rookie debut in the pass rush:
my dog barkevious mingo was so excited about that hit by real barkevious mingo she immediately picked up a bone and walked away— Martin Rickman (@martinrickman) August 9, 2013
Maybe good things for Cleveland?
Tavon Austin made no plays, but his college teammate and Rams third-round pick Stedman Bailey had two catches for 27 yards. Fifth-round pick Zac Stacy had just seven rushes for 23 yards, but contributed in the passing game with two catches for 13 yards. Second-year man Isaiah Pead had a fumble for loss, following up on a fumble in one of his 13 touches last year.
Also, Greg Zuerlein continued to show why they call him "Legatron" -- he nailed a 54-yarder and a 55-yarder for St. Louis.