I think I’ll start my run-down of the Browns’ 3rd preseason game of 2017 by saying that I didn’t rate the local Tampa Bay coverage of the game. There were a few things that annoyed me of both visual and vocal entities. Visually I think the director must have been pretty new to it or, perhaps, he/she had a thing for more than one of the Tampa Bay players and that could be the reason the camera lingered on a few of them for too long. It was as if the director got infatuated with the player they had zoomed in on and forgot to cut away to a wider angle once the following play had started. They also lingered on the Browns QB after the pass was away and, apparently, completed on a play that set us up for the TD late in the game – perhaps they’d had enough or were tired, bless ’em. Also, what’s with that big Buccaneers logo on top of the scoreboard graphic at the bottom of the screen? It covered up the field goal kicker and holder on one of the attempts…brilliant!
Vocally, I’d say that the commentators of Chris Myers and Ronde Barber could have done a little more research on the Bucs’ opponents as Ronde tried to tell us that the Browns will be a dangerous offense because they drafted four wide receivers a year ago. Huh?! He didn’t seem to realise that only one of them is decent and the only other decent WR we have is a veteran and wasn’t from that draft class.Chris Myers also went on to tell us that Cody Kessler was still in the game when it was clearly Kevin Hogan, but I guess #6 and #8 do look similar. But even when he corrected himself, he called Kevin Hogan Chris Hogan – I guess they’re all Patriots fans at heart. It was funny listening to him use it as a link to Julien Edelman’s season-ending injury like he meant to do it.
Apparently, it wasn’t much better if you were there in person. Not only did Browns fans have to put up with the bad weather, but also the bad language and cups being hurled at them by the classy Buccaneer fans who were sitting next to or close to young children. Whether this is true or not, I can’t confirm but there were some pretty angry Browns fans in the Facebook groups after.
Right, on to the game itself.
Where do I start? There’s such a lot happening within the Cleveland Browns organisation right now. Let’s start on defense for a change (I’m more offensive minded tbh) and give a mention once again to our shiny new MLB, Joe Schobert. During his playing time, he again looked comfortable in the role of starting MLB and clocked up 4 tackles and 2 assists. Even when he wasn’t in on a tackle or stop, he was never far away and I feel like he’s had a great preseason this year after his 4th round (99th overall) selection in the 2016 draft and has cemented his claim to be the starting MLB come week 1 of the 2017 regular season.
I was also pleased to see that CB Joe Haden had an improved game in which he made some decent tackles and didn’t get beat easily as he did against the Giants last week. I still have concerns about his position within the team as he is no way the player he used to be before his injuries of the past couple of seasons. He’s an expensive player to keep around and will be a cap hit of $14.4 million this year and next, then $10.5 million in his final year of 2019. Yes, the Browns can afford to pay him but they really aren’t getting a good return for their money these days. The Browns need to improve their WR unit, particularly now to help rookie QB DeShone Kizer, and I’ve seen rumours of Allen Hurns of Jacksonville and Jarvis Landry of Miami being, perhaps, available – although Miami HC Adam Gase has shot down any rumours of Landry being available. If there is a good WR available out there, I wouldn’t be shy about offering Joe Haden as part of a deal for him.
Sticking with the defensive backs for a moment, I saw a good showing from the next generation, DB Jabrill Peppers. He had 3 tackles in this game but his best moment came when he intercepted a Jameis Winston pass around the Browns goal line which halted an impressive looking Buccaneers drive that looked like it was going to result in a TD for the home team. Not only did he intercept it but he also brought it out and gave the offense a good starting field position. I would have to say that he didn’t look as explosive on special teams this week, but I still maintain that he’s got great potential to take kick returns to the house.
For me this week, I’d have to say that DE Carl Nassib was in the running for MVP on defense. Every time he’s on the field you can expect to see him putting good pressure on the pocket, getting his hands up to block a pass at the line or chasing down runners who’ve broken through the line. I’m a fan of both him and fellow 2nd year pro DE Emmanuel Ogbah and I’ve been looking forward to seeing Ogbah and Garrett on the same defensive line, but now, well, I’m thinking Garrett and Nassib are the way to go as the starting DE’s to start the season. Nassib got playing time throughout the game this week and looked good no matter who he was up against.
Even though the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had some of their starters missing from this one, including both of their starting WR’s Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson, it was clear to see that the Browns defense played very well again for the third time this preseason. DC Greg Williams seems to be getting the best out of them already and things actually look good for us fans of the team. I actually look forward to seeing the defense play now instead of sighing and slumping down in my seat waiting for the onslaught of the opposing offense. Whether this continues into the regular season when offensive gameplans go into full swing remains to be seen but so far, the Browns defense has looked impressive and that’s all we can go off after all the changes it’s gone through.
Right then, offense, and I guess, as usual, it’s all about the QB’s. This week HC Hue Jackson announced that rookie DeShone Kizer will be the team’s starting QB. This comes as no surprise to me as, to be honest, he’s the best we have by a long way and it was the only choice Hue had, really.
For a few weeks now, I’ve been championing second-year pro, Cody Kessler and saying that, if Kizer didn’t get the nod, then it should be Kessler that comes in to manage the first couple/few games then have another look at it a few games in. After his performance this week against the Bucs, I finally saw what a lot of other people have been saying – Kessler isn’t actually that good. *embarrassed face*
He looks ok of timing plays where he just slings the ball to a set place at a set time, but when he has to think about it he looks completely lost and either throws it away or goes down for the sack. People have been criticising his arm strength but I don’t think that’s that much of an issue as he’s clearly been working on it during the off-season and has completed some nice mid-long range passes, but I do now worry about his ability to make good decisions when the heat is on and the games really matter. I imagine he’ll play in the 4th preseason game but he might actually come in after Kevin Hogan as he hasn’t looked too bad and has earned a chance to play with and against better players (although I doubt many starters will be playing this week for any team). I’d like to see both Hogan and Kessler get a lot of playing time in week 4 of the preseason just to see if my change of mind is totally warranted.
DeShone Kizer looked a lot better than his stats would suggest. I get the impression he was told to go long in the latter stages of his playing time this week, perhaps as a way to test the receivers, maybe, maybe not but he certainly was chucking them long after his good start to the game. I particularly liked the play that looked as though it was done and Kizer was going down. He got out of harm’s way and went off looking like he was going to run for some yards himself – as he’s already shown he’s capable of doing – before slinging a brilliant pass on the move to a well covered Corey Coleman. Like I say, he showed better than his stats suggest as he went 6 of 18 for 93-yards and 1 interception.
The running game looked pretty much the same as it has been doing so far this preseason as they did what they had to. Nothing fancy from projected starter Isaiah Crowell as he went 40-yards on 11 carries. He doesn’t inspire me that he’s destined for great things but I guess he gets the job done as the workhorse back. Duke Johnson is the more flashy guy in my opinion, and he showed it this week as he broke free for 37-yards on one of his runs before fumbling on a play a little later. I like Duke Johnson but I really like the look of 7th round draft pick Matt Dayes so far. This week he only went 13-yards on 3 attempts but I hope we see a lot more of him in preseason week 4 as he battles Terrence Magee for that #3 spot on the roster.
Another positive on the offensive side of the ball was that former high 1st round draft pick, WR Corey Coleman looked like the high pick he was before breaking his hand last season. He snagged 4 passes for 66-yards and looked good doing it. I hope he stays healthy this season as the Browns currently are short of quality at the WR position with only he and Kenny Britt looking like NFL starters.
Week 4 of the NFL preseason is a game in which we won’t see many, if any, definite starters play, as it’s usually the final chance for the fringe players to state their final claim for a roster spot. For me, I want to see more of QB’s Kessler and Hogan as well as RB Matt Dayes this week. I also want to see more of the receivers the team has behind Coleman and Britt. None of the others have stood out to me as being worthy of a roster spot despite Ronde Barber thinking we’ll be dangerous because of how many we drafted.
Oh yeah, the Browns won 13-9 to go 3-0 for the preseason, by the way, like it matters.