Eagles at Cleveland Friday Night…we find out more about Brandon Weeden…

This insane preseason schedule leaves us in a weird position of scouting our Opening Day opponent…which means we will be revealing as little as the Browns do. But one thing is for sure—we’ll learn more about Brandon Weeden than the Browns will learn about Mike Vick!

Both teams will look to remain undefeated in the preseason. The Browns are coming of their 35-10 victory in Green Bay against the Packers last Thursday. The Eagles won at Gillette Stadium over the New England Patriots 27-17 on Monday night.

Usually the third preseason game serves as the dress rehearsal for the regular season. Fans attending Friday night’s game should not expect to see a lot of each teams playbooks, though. With these teams scheduled to open the regular season against one another on September 9th, don’t expect either team to show one another much in regard to plays or coverage schemes.

28-year-old rookie Brandon Weeden, QB…6-3, 221, Oklahoma State, drafted in the 1st Round (#22 overall) in the 2012 NFL Draft…

This preseason game will be more about Weeden than anything the Eagles have to prove at this point…

The Browns suffered through a woeful offense in 2011, scoring only 13.6 points per game and finishing 29th in total yards per game (289)…

The QB situation was an endless debate in Cleveland. The team identified four areas that needed fixing: RB, WR, RT and QB. A lot of Browns fans said if you improve the first three positions in that progression, Colt McCoy would be just fine at QB. The organization did not agree.

The Browns first tried to trade up not with Washington but with Indianapolis for the pick that would end up being Andrew Luck.

The Colts rebuffed that effort. Then the Browns tried to acquire the draft pick that would be Robert Griffin III—but could not finish the trade. The Browns then took ex-minor league baseball pitcher Brandon Weeden with the 22nd pick in Round 1.

Weeden’s biggest challenge: Learning a new offense while adjusting from a shotgun-spread to working under center. He will also have a rookie right tackle in 2nd-round draft pick Mitchell Schwartz of Cal— and the same group of receivers from last season who led the league in drops.

So like it or not, Brandon Weeden is my focus of interest in this one…

It will also be interesting to watch the chess match between the coaching staffs, because of their familiarity with one another. Head coach Pat Shurmur, offensive coordinator Brad Childress, and defensive coordinator Dick Jauron all spent time as coaches on Andy Reid’s staff in Philadelphia during his 14-year tenure. While this will come more into play on September 9th, it’s still interesting to see how the familiarity between the coaching staffs will impact Friday’s game.

The big storyline for the Browns in this game surrounds the quarterback position—but just not the starting job—it’s also for the backup quarterback job between Colt McCoy and Seneca Wallace. Both quarterbacks should get their fair share of playing time on Friday night. It’s believed that one of them won’t be on the roster come opening day (following head coach Pat Shurmur’s comments earlier in the week giving a ringing endorsement to Thaddeus Lewis being the third string quarterback). With the first round of roster cuts scheduled for Monday, Friday’s game will be very important for the futures of McCoy and Wallace.

Philadelphia’s head coach Andy Reid will come into this game holding his cards close to his vest considering his team has to play the Browns for real in a little over two weeks. He decided to run a final dress rehearsal this past Monday night against New England, and even though the Eagles came away with a 27-17 victory as a three-point road favorite, he cannot be pleased with the 16 penalties they committed, including a few that extended Patriots’ drives. While the majority of his starters will see little or no action in this game, look for Reid to put a strong emphasis on playing mistake-free ball on Friday night

Michael Vick is most likely done for the preseason after bruising his ribs last Monday night, but that may actually work in the Eagles’ favor in this game. Rookie Nick Foles has gotten the majority of the snaps in the preseason due to an injury to back-up Mike Kaftka as well and has made the most of the opportunity. Through two games, the former Arizona signal-caller has gone 24-for-38 for 364 yards and 4 touchdowns. More importantly, he has shown incredible poise in the pocket and the presence of mind that some veteran NFL quarterbacks do not display. He should split time with Trent Edwards in this game… but will get the start.

Another positive has been the much-improved play of Philadelphia’s defensive front seven. Whether the starters or the backups have been in the lineup, this unit has been able to stuff the run and put a tremendous amount of pressure on the quarterback in both contests.

Cleveland head coach Pat Shurmur will undoubtedly come into this game with a very vanilla game plan as well, but he still has a number of issues to work through on both sides of the ball considering he is trying to rebuild a team that has not won more than five games in each of the past four seasons. The Browns are off to a solid start with straight-up road wins over Detroit and Green Bay, but they have to be concerned over the fact that their first-team offense has scored just one touchdown so far.

The Browns where hoping to support Brandon Weeden with a running game that featured their other first-round pick, Trent Richardson, but it appears he will miss both games against Philadelphia with an injured knee. Cleveland has some injury concerns on defense as well, with linebacker Chris Gocong and defensive lineman Phil Taylor most likely done for the year.

Philadelphia will probably rest a good number of its starters on both sides of the ball for this game. However, they will still have a highly motivated Foles at quarterback to go along with a number of equally-motivated defensive linemen and linebackers that are fighting for a spot on a very deep and talented roster. Look for Foles to once again move the Eagles’ offense no matter which players are around him, and look for the Eagles’ defense to make life miserable all night long for whoever is behind center for Cleveland.

I see this as a “fun” game for our fans to root for your favorite longshots and dark horses to make this Eagles roster… We’re looking for young guys who can finish in this one—finish blocks, finish tackles, finish routes, and finish runs…

R.I.P. to a Hall-of-Famer…

One of the greatest Eagles of them all… Steve Van Buren…

Steve Van Buren, the square-jawed Hall of Fame running back who led the Philadelphia Eagles to NFL titles in 1948 and 1949, has died. He was 91. The Eagles said Van Buren died Thursday in Lancaster, Pa., of pneumonia.

The former LSU star, nicknamed “Wham-Bam” for his quick and punishing running style, joined the Eagles in 1944 as a first-round pick. He led the NFL in rushing four times and finished his eight-year career with 5,860 yards rushing and 77 TDs.

The five-time All-Pro player was selected to the NFL’s 75th Anniversary Team in 1994, and was the first Eagles player elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

“I’ve seen them all — Jim Thorpe, Red Grange, Bronko Nagurski,” Greasy Neale, Van Buren’s coach with the Eagles, told the Philadelphia Daily News in 1957, “but he’s the greatest.”

The 6-foot-1, 200-pound back sustained a leg injury in training camp before the 1952 season and retired as the NFL’s career rushing leader. The Eagles later retired his No. 15.

“On the field and off, as a player, a leader and a man, Steve Van Buren embodied the finest characteristics of our city and our sport,” said Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie in a statement on the team’s website. “He was a friend and an inspiration to generations of fans, and the model of what an Eagle should be.”

Van Buren set the Eagles’ single-game rushing record with 205 yards against Pittsburgh in 1949, and is second in team history with his 77 touchdowns. He also holds the club record for most consecutive games with a rushing touchdown with eight in 1947.

“Watch those old films and you know that Steve Van Buren was something special,” Eagles coach Andy Reid said in a statement on the team’s website. “He was special in person, too, humble about his own accomplishments and encouraging to others. His memory will be with Eagles fans for as long as this team takes the field.”

One of his most memorable plays came in the 1948 NFL championship game, played in a driving snowstorm at Shibe Park. He scored the only touchdown of the game on a 5-yard run in the fourth quarter and the Eagles beat the Chicago Cardinals 7-0 for the franchise’s first title.

Nearly a year to the day later, this time in mud and torrential rain in Los Angeles, Van Buren ran for 196 yards and the Eagles beat the Rams 14-0 to become the first — and only — team to shut out opponents in consecutive championships.

Van Buren was born in La Ceiba, Honduras. His parents died when he was 10, and he moved to New Orleans to live with his grandparents. He failed to make his high school football team as a sophomore, but played well enough as a senior to earn a scholarship at LSU. With the Tigers, Van Buren was used primarily as a blocking back until his senior season, when he led the nation in scoring with 98 points and rushed for 847 yards.

Van Buren is survived by three daughters and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Thomas Jackson

About Thomas Jackson

Jax Sports Media has been reporting on NFL teams in the mid-Atlantic region since 2006. Thomas Jackson is its senior writer. Tom started covering the Philadelphia Eagles for the MVN Network in 2007. In 2009 he joined the Bloguin Network. He now also covers the Baltimore Ravens.