Browns postgame notebook: Veteran WR Burleson makes his case for roster spot

Signed as an unrestricted free agent this past spring, Burleson has been hampered by injuries but looked good in Thursday night's preseason game.

Ken Blaze/Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

CLEVELAND — Veteran wide receiver Nate Burleson did what he could to state his case with regards to making the Browns final roster.

The question is was it enough?

After sitting out the entire preseason thus far, Burleson was suited up for the first time in the preseason and went into the game in the second quarter with Johnny Manziel at quarterback.

Burleson admitted this week, despite being a 12-year veteran, he needed to be on the field in order to make the team.

Burleson made the most of his first reception as he caught a short sideline route after Manziel scrambled and turned it into a 27-yard gain to the Bears’ one-yard line on third-and-10. Manziel hit Jim Dray for a touchdown on the next play.

Burleson caught an 11-yard pass from Manziel on the next series, but it was negated for an illegal formation. He had one other target that fell incomplete.

Burleson was signed as an unrestricted free agent this past spring but has been hampered by injuries since signing. He underwent surgery on his hand in May and missed the OTAs and June minicamp.

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On Aug. 7, Burleson injured his hamstring and didn’t return to practice until this past Monday. With the season long suspension of Josh Gordon, they were counting on Burleson to stabilize the receiving corps.

Among the young receivers that the Browns have to choose from, Taylor Gabriel had two receptions for 38 yards on the first series and Willie Snead had three catches for 75 yards. Charles Johnson had one reception for 19 yards and Marlon Moore caught one pass for 13 yards.


Good Finish: The Browns starting offense had one series and it was a good one. QB Brian Hoyer led the Browns on a 13 play, 85-yard drive to open the game.

Hoyer was 6-of-8 for 69 yards on the drive, including a long pass of 21 yards. His rating was 100.5. Rookie WR Taylor Gabriel played with the first team and caught two passes on the drive for 38 yards. WR Andrew Hawkins had one catch for 13 yards, WR Travis Benjamin had one for 9 yards and TE Jordan Cameron had one for 8.

"It was great to get out there and just move right down the field," Hoyer said. "We said tonight wasn’t about them. It was about us. Regardless of who’s playing for them — they were nameless and faceless opponents — we just wanted to go out and make everything about us. It’s good to go down and have an 85-yard drive and just execute and get in the end zone."

Tate Time: RB Ben Tate carried the ball just three times for 8 yards on the first team offense’s first drive, but his final carry capped the 85-yard drive with a touchdown.

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"It felt good," he said. "It’s a preseason game so it really doesn’t count. At the same time, it felt good for the offense to finally get in a rhythm."

Tate used the score to practice jumping into the Dawg Pound, but is looking forward to doing it when it counts.

"Honestly, it felt good to jump in the Dawg Pound, but I can’t really wait to see what it’s like during the season because I know there aren’t a lot of guys here right now," he said. "I really can’t wait until the season to jump into the Dawg Pound. That’s what I’m excited about."

Crowell Shines: RB Isaiah Crowell made the most of his opportunity as he rushed for 102 yards on 13 carries, including a 23-yard run and a 48-yard touchdown run. Earlier in the week, Pettine said that RB Dion Lewis had the edge for the third RB position.

Many felt Crowell would be put on the practice squad but with his showing he might have to be kept on the 53-man roster.

Lewis had two carries for 9 yards, while RB Terrance West had six carries for 13 yards and a fumble.

Grossman’s Debut: QB Rex Grossman played his first game with the Browns and was 4-of-8 for 80 yards, with a long pass of 37 yards.

Sack Men: LB Barkevious Mingo shot through and recorded a sack on QB David Fales for a 13-yard loss in the first half.

"It felt good. I can’t take total credit for it," Mingo said. "The guys set me up great, and I just came in and made the play that was given to me."

Mingo had the only sack until LB Jamal Westerman and LB Tank Carder sacked Fales with just under 11 minutes left in the game.

Mingo thinks the defense played better as a unit.

"We came out and did our jobs either with games or however else we got there," he said. "We keyed in, focused in. Everybody wanted to get back there and wreak some havoc, and at the end of the day, I think everybody accomplished what they set out to do."

Johnny Time: QB Johnny Manziel played the second quarter and the first series of the third quarter. His final three series of six resulted in 13 points, a touchdown and two field goals. He was 6-of-17 for 83 yards with a touchdown to TE Jim Dray. He also rushed four times for 55 yards. His rating was 71.4.

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"Falls into the category of Johnny being Johnny," Pettine said. "A couple of those plays were no, no, no, yes — but that’s what he does. That, to me, is what he brings to the table. He just needs to get more comfortable in his reads, take the easy throws that are there. He’s certainly shown why he has the reputation that he does."

For Starters: The starting lineup for the Browns was: Offense:WR –Andrew Hawkins; LT Joe Thomas; LG Joel Bitonio; C Alex Mack; RG John Greco; RT Mitchell Schwartz; TE Jordan Cameron; WR Miles Austin; QB Brian Hoyer; RB Ben Tate; FB MarQueis Gray. Defense: NT Ahtyba Rubin; RE Phil Taylor; LE Armonty Bryant; OLB Paul Kruger; Mike LB Karlos Dansby; Will LB Craig Robertson; OLB Barkevious Mingo; CB Justin Gilbert; CB Leon McFadden; FS Tashaun Gipson; SS Donte Whitner.

The Bears did not play their starters on offense or defense.

Tough Times Continue: A couple of young defensive backs, including top pick DB Justin Gilbert struggled against the Bears. DB Leon McFadden had 37- yard penalty on first series on pass interference. He was also beaten on a third-and-8 on a14- yard pass from QB David Fales to RB Shaun Draughn.

On the second series, McFadden was beaten on a 32-yard pass play by WR Josh Bellamy. McFadden had an illegal contact penalty that was off set due to a roughing the passing penalty on DB Tashaun Gipson.

Gilbert missed a tackle on WR Santonio Holmes and he went 32 yards for a touchdown. Later, he was way off Bellamy, who caught a pass and moved the ball to the Browns 10.

Captain Please: OL Joe Thomas, DB Donte Whitner and LB Karlos Dansby were the captains for the game. Whitner and Dansby joined the Browns this season as unrestricted free agents.

Old Friends: Only one player on the Bears played for the Browns, WR Armanti Edwards. Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker was the Browns defensive coordinator.

Six Sit it Out: Six players were ruled out before the game due to injury: DL Desmond Bryant (wrist), DB Pierre Desir (knee), DB Joe Haden (foot), LB Eric Martin (concussion), DB Buster Skrine (thumb) and DB Isaiah Trufant (knee).

Bryant walked through the press box and said he was hoping to be ready for the opener.