The Atlanta Falcons look to make it two in a row while the Cleveland Browns pursue their first win of the 2016 preseason when the two teams collide at FirstEnergy Stadium Thursday night.
Last Week/Next Week
The Atlanta Falcons opened up their 2016 preseason with a 23-17 victory over the Washington Redskins. The Falcons host the Miami Dolphins next Thursday at 8 p.m. ET. The Cleveland Browns began the 2016 season with a rough 17-11 loss to the Green Bay Packers. The Browns travel to Florida to take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers next Friday, August 26, at 8 p.m. ET.
Atlanta Falcons Offense
The Falcons came out swinging in their opening-week win over Washington, racking up 280 yards passing as backup quarterbacks Matt Schaub and Sean Renfree found holes galore in the Redskin secondary. Schaub, who was originally drafted by the Falcons to back up Michael Vick, played in his original jersey for the first time in 10 years. He was traded to Houston for two second-round draft picks and rose to a Pro Bowl caliber quarterback. He lost his starting job in Houston in 2013 and wound up in Oakland as Derek Carr’s backup the last two years.
Against the Redskins, he connected on 10 of 15 passes for 179 yards. Julio Jones playde just one series and failed to record a catch despite two targets. This allowed the rest of the Falcons’ receiving corps had a chance to shine. The one taking best advantage of that was Aldrick Robinson, the fourth-year man out of SMU. Robinson caught three passes for 118 yards, the longest a 68-yarder. Eric Weems hauledin a 48-yard grab and former Cincinnati Bengal Mohamed Sanu had two catches for 18 yards.
Atlanta Falcons Defense
The Falcon defense stymied Washington to 79 yards rushing on 24 carries, with only one run going for double-digit yards. They had less success against the passing game. They failed to record a quarterback sack or an interception, although only allowing 155 yards through the air. Ahead 23-3 midway through the third quarter, the Falcons gave up a couple of touchdowns late when they were down to their third stringers and unsigned free agents. The best news from training camp is that the Falcons are expecting Dwight Freeney to play a quarter against the Browns. The former All-Pro for the Indianapolis Colts, Freeney was limited to eight games for Arizona last year, but recorded eight sacks as a part-time player.
Cleveland Browns Offense
Just when it seemed like things were finally looking up for Robert Griffin III as a Cleveland Brown, news came down the wire Tuesday that he had filed for divorce. Griffin married Rebecca Liddicoat on July 6, 2013. Their daughter, Reese Ann Griffin, was born in May of 2015, but sources say the couple has been separated for several months. Better news came out of training camp on Monday as Josh Gordon worked out for the first time. In case you’ve forgotten about Gordon’s ordeal, well it is a bit complicated. Because of a host of failed drug tests, Gordon hasn’t played a down in the NFL since the 2014 season, when he played five games. And before you get your hopes up for a big-time 2016, be aware he’ll also be sitting out the first four games of this season due to a drug suspension.
Crunching the numbers, you realize that Gordon has played 35 games in his career and by October of this year will have been suspended for 31. Unfortunately, Cleveland is so limited on offense that they’re willing to wait for Gordon, who caught 87 passes for 1,646 yards and nine touchdowns in 2013. At this point the Browns are rather resembling the guy at the school dance waiting for the pretty girl to come back from the bathroom and dance with him again.
Cleveland Browns Defense
The Browns’ defense was exposed in its rushing defense by Green Bay in the Week 1 loss. The Packers rushed 41 times for 151 yards against Cleveland with seven different players touching the rock. The Browns were better against the pass, allowing just 169 yards and recording two sacks and an interception. However, that performance came against Aaron Rodgers’ two backups, not the man himself, a considerable downgrade.
On special teams, the Browns got a really nice effort from punter Andy Lee, who averaged 51.1 yards per kick with a long of 66 yards and one out of four inside the 20.
Cleveland Browns vs. Atlanta Falcons Prediction
The more Matt Ryan and Julio Jone plays, the less chance the Browns have of sticking around this game. Jones only played one series against Washington and barely broke a sweat. Expect more of them and less of Cleveland.
Atlanta Falcons 27, Cleveland Browns 16