July 23, 2016

Partly sunny

Browns: Injuries only downside in 24-6 preseason victory

CLEVELAND — Quarterback Brandon Weeden kept rolling, running back Trent Richardson got his first taste of the preseason, tight end Jordan Cameron flashed his vast potential and coach Rob Chudzinski improved to 2-0 in meaningless games.

But unlike the opener, the 24-6 victory over the Detroit Lions on Thursday night was marred by injuries to key members of the Browns.

Cleveland Browns running back Trent Richardson gets hit by Detroit Lions strong safety Glover Quin after a long gain in the first quarter of a preseason NFL football game Thursday in Cleveland. (AP PHOTO)

Right guard Jason Pinkston (ankle), No. 2 running back Dion Lewis (ankle), top draft pick Barkevious Mingo (ribs), rookie kicker Brandon Bogotay (groin) and No. 2 tight end Gary Barnidge (shoulder) left for the locker room and didn’t return to the game. The severity of the injuries wasn’t immediately known.

But injuries happen in the NFL, and they couldn’t nullify the fact that the Browns’ starters outplayed their counterparts for the second straight week. Weeden played into the second quarter and led three scoring drives that totaled 17 points. The starting defense forced three straight three-and-outs to open the game and allowed only a field goal.

“The defense came out and played great in the first half,” Chudzinski said. “We got some things done on offense as well.”

Weeden backed up his strong opening effort, even after Chudzinski turned up the heat during the week when he called the quarterback competition “still close.” Weeden wasn’t fazed and overcame a shaky start to go 8-for-12 for 117 yards, two touchdowns to Cameron and a 137.8 rating.

“It was a good start for us,” Weeden said. “We have to keep building off of it and continue to build and go forward.”

Weeden is 18-for-25 for 229 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions, no sacks and a staggering 139.8 rating in two games and six drives. The first-team offense has scored 27 points.

Weeden was helped by the season debut of Richardson, who missed all of the 2012 preseason. Richardson played two series, rushing six times for 33 yards (5.5 average) and a long of 17. He caught a pass for no yards.

“It was good to get him out here,” Chudzinski said. “He took a couple hits and delivered a couple as well. Just to get some nice game action will help him down the road.”

Richardson took a big shot from Lions defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh near the sideline after one run. He got up no worse for the wear after fighting a sore shin earlier in camp.

“I feel real good, especially being out there with my team,” Richardson said. “The offense, defense and special teams, everybody is out there doing big things.
“I’m happy to be out here in front of Cleveland Nation and Browns Nation.”

Cameron joins Weeden, Richardson and receivers Josh Gordon, Greg Little and Travis Benjamin as young playmakers that are being counted on to take big steps this season.

The Browns didn’t draft a tight end because they wanted to see if Cameron could develop into the down-the-field and red zone threat they desire. He looked the part against the Lions.

Cameron had three catches for 42 yards, including a long of 27. His touchdowns came on 10- and 5-yard passes. He had to leap for the 10-yarder down the seam and was able to land inside the end line.

“He had a heckuva night,” Weeden said. “He had some great catches down there, some tough catches and I know he has that in him. He has a ton of ability.
“I’m excited to see him play as well as he did tonight and hopefully we keep that rolling. He’s going to be a huge asset for this offense.”

The next couple of days will be about the injuries — their severity and who will fill any voids that need to be filled.

Pinkston, who had replaced Shawn Lauvao (ankle surgery), suffered a right ankle injury that had him pounding the ground less than a year after blood clots ended his season and threatened his life. Rookie Garrett Gilkey, a seventh-round pick from Division II Chadron State, filled in.

Mingo, an outside linebacker, ran into the locker room after hurting his ribs but didn’t return. His action against the Lions came on special teams. The Browns have depth at outside linebacker, but are expecting big things from Mingo, who impressed with his motor against the Rams.

Lewis hurt his left ankle after a catch in the third quarter with the second-team offense. He gained 42 total yards in the first half and had become the No. 2 back after Montario Hardesty missed much of camp with a hamstring injury and then had arthroscopic knee surgery Thursday.

Brandon Jackson and fullback/tailback Chris Ogbonnaya are next in line behind Richardson.

Bogotay was supposed to do all the kicking against Detroit, a chance for him to win or lose the job. But the groin injury sidelined him, and veteran Shayne Graham kicked the extra point after Jackson’s 14-yard catch-and-run in the fourth quarter.

Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, playing without No. 1 receiver Calvin Johnson, played almost the entire first half. He went 11-for-16 for 74 yards and a 78.6 rating.

The most entertaining moment of the second half was a fan who ran onto the field and dropped his boxer-briefs. He was knocked down twice by Lions running back Joique Bell but got up and ran all the way to the other end of the field before being subdued by police.

The Browns will hit the road for the final two preseason games. They are at Indianapolis on Aug. 24.

Contact Scott Petrak at (440) 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.