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Preseason Week 2: Thursday Night Football

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Cleveland 35, Green Bay 10

Browns

With Trent Richardson likely not playing until week 1, Montario Hardesty remains the starter in Cleveland’s backfield. Aside from and opening carry fumble, Hardesty continued his solid play getting north and south with excellent vision and tough running. He also managed to pick up short yardage conversions three times including a 1-yard touchdown plunge in the early 2nd quarter. Currently unselected in every mock draft, Hardesty is certainly worth a late round flier, and a must handcuff to Richardson.   Brandon Jackson replaced Hardesty in the Cleveland backfield, but was a nonfactor.

As promised quarterback Brandon Weeden is now the entrenched starter in Cleveland. Weeden hooked up with Josh Gordon early but quickly made it a point to find wide receiver Greg Little. Little is a replica of Anquan Boldin with noticeable size and power while displaying excellent run-after-the-catch ability finishing the game with four receptions for 45 yards. We should also note that Little remained on the field, while Gordon rotated with Josh Cribbs. I believe whoever leads the Browns in targets will make for a good late round selection as a possible mid-WR3. Using this game as an indicator, that player appears to be Greg Little.

The other highlight worth mentioning for the Browns was kicker Phil Dawson converting three field goals from 52, 53 and 47. He did miss a 56-yarder before half-time.

Colt McCoy also played well in a backup role leading the Browns down the field for a touchdown. McCoy will likely be in another team’s jersey come Week 1 of the regular season.  

Packers

On the Packers' first series Aaron Rodgers missed a wide open Jordy Nelson for a touchdown after badly beating Browns' shutdown cornerback Joe Haden.  Rodgers went right back to Nelson two plays later for a 20-yard score, despite the blanket coverage by Haden. Looks like the Rodgers-to-Nelson connection will continue. Despite the quick touchdown the Green Bay passing attack still appears remiss without Greg Jennings and Jermichael Finley in the starting lineup. Both are dealing with mysterious concussions as no timetable has been provided for their return.

It’s worth mentioning that Rodgers once again displayed his athleticism picking up a number of critical first downs with his legs, the reason he is ranked slightly above Tom Brady.

Alex Green opened the game at running back in the absence of James Starks (turf toe). My initial reaction was “Green’s performance was forgettable”, although I was surprised to learn postgame that Green had average 4 yards per carry. It’s worth noting that Marc Tyler entered the game as the 2nd stringer, but was equally unimpressive. No Packers running back is recommended in what looks to be a developing RBBC upon the return of Starks and insertion of Cedric Benson.

The Packers 2nd string offense struggled mightily with Graham Harrell under center. Randall Cobb made an appearance having a strip fumble on his first reception. Harrell threw two interceptions, one of which resulted in a pick-six for the Browns on the opening drive of the 2nd half.  Wide receiver Jarrett Boykin was able to boost Harrell’s production in the 4th quarter making a few awesome receptions. Green Bay simply cannot roll the dice with Harrell as their backup.

Cincinnati 24, Atlanta 19

Bengals

One word describes Andy Dalton, solid. He just continues to take what the defense gives him while not making stupid mistakes. Dalton connected with wide receiver AJ Green early in the game for a 50-yard touchdown bomb, torching Falcons' cornerback Asante Samuel. Dalton should be viewed as high end QB2, but AJ Green could challenge to become the a WR1, a mid WR2 at worst. Both players look to have a very bright future together.

Jermaine Gresham was also involved in the first team offense showing excellent run after the catch ability producing 25 yards on his lone reception. However, Gresham appeared hobbled after a slight hyperextension of his right knee. Gresham was seen on the sidelines wincing, but was not taken to the locker room. He likely won’t play during the remainder of the preseason. Given the proper time to recover, Gresham remains a good use a late round selection. Donald Lee filled in nicely in Gresham’s absence.  

Although not considered serious, BenJarvis Green-Ellis was absent due to soreness in his foot, a situation we will monitor in preseason Week 3. Backup Bernard Scott was also held out while dealing with a hand injury giving way to fullback Brian Leonard. As expected, Leonard ran like a fullback with zero agility but downhill power picking up short yardage situations. Cedric Peerman filled in as the Bengals 2nd string RB, but did nothing worthy of recognition.

Falcons

Identical to Week 1, Matt Ryan came out throwing early and often making great decisions keeping his focus downfield in the face of pressure. The Bengals defense played well enough to stifle the Falcons passing game early. As the Falcons struggled Ryan went right back to his security blanket, Roddy White. Soon after Tony Gonzalez got into the action, opening up the defense and allowing Ryan to work the ball to Julio Jones.   Jones had a questionable drop off his fingertips but came right back with a nice catch in tough coverage. This is clearly a throwing offense as Jones, White, Gonzalez and Ryan all have excellent fantasy value.

Turner continues to portray horrible effort being stuffed for minus-3 yards on three carries. He appears to have a complete lack of desire to gain tough yardage which could be a repercussion of the meaningless preseason games. Jacquizz Rodgers came in relief and once again looked to be the superior runner (although not that difficult) gaining 35 total yards on seven touches. Third stringer Antone Smith also had a number of solid runs. The Falcons have emphasized repeatedly throughout the offeseoan they intend to limit Turner’s carries while transforming to a pass oriented offense. Turner’s ADP in the late 3rd round would classify him as a “bust” candidate.