A Look Ahead – Browns @ Buccaneers – Preseason Game #3
The third preseason contest is finally here, and the next chapter awaits the 2015 Cleveland Browns. The starters will likely participate a majority of this contest; an improvement in play (overall) is the bottom line. I do not expect the Buccaneers to be a top-tier team this year, so the Browns have got to flex their muscles on Saturday night. Below is my glance into this contest:
Quarterback – Well now that Josh McCown got those pesky interceptions out of the way, he can focus solely on throwing touchdown passes. All joking aside, I simply want to see him continue with his trend this exhibition season of solid play (minus the turnovers, obviously). I believe he can be what this coaching staff needs for this offense, but I would like to see it in action (more than one drive vs. Washington) before I feel better. As far as Johnny goes, continued smart play is all I am asking against the reserves.
Running Back – Are we finally going to see the beginning of the road for rookie Duke Johnson? If the coaching staff wants to utilize him in the regular season, he must provide a solid reason to do so. I understand the running attack has been taking its time to excel, but adding Johnson to his mix should aid their progression. At this point Terrance West seems slightly ahead of Isaiah Crowell in the veteran completion. I am all for the team playing whoever gives them the best chance to win and am eager to see multiple carries of ten yards and more in Tampa.
Wide Receiver – Dwayne Bowe and Terrelle Pryor are the two wide outs I want to see on the field this week. Neither has been active these past few weeks, which has hurt the unit. The emergence of Travis Benjamin and Shane Wynn has put Pryor in a situation where’s he must perform well if he wants to make this team. Regardless of who the signal caller is, the receivers must catch (I am looking at you, Vince Mayle) and run when given the opportunity.
Offensive Line – Speaking of improvement, it would be a relief if the Browns could actually create holes for running backs on a consistent basis. Alex Mack and Mitchell Schwartz have been struggling this exhibition, while the second team looks like a complete disaster (especially Michael Bowie). Instead of running screen and draw plays most of the year, the better option would be to win at the point of attack and make it easier for this offense.
Defensive Line – The guys on the end should put something on film to assure the coaching staff that they can hold their own. This includes forcing running plays to the middle and clogging up areas – causing opposing running backs and quarterbacks to lose yards and/or make poor decisions. I saw a few glimpses of this last week (primarily with Randy Starks and John Hughes), but that must continue against a unit that is not feared in the NFL. A couple of sacks by the Browns defensive line would not hurt as well.
Linebackers – I do not have to worry about the three guys in the middle (but I want to see if Hayes Pullard can join that group); the outside linebackers are where I will focus my attention. Scott Solomon had his issues last week – I want to see him clean this up against Tampa Bay. Rookie Nate Orchard looked a lot better last week than he did in the preseason opener. Slowing down the opposition’s rushing attack is where he needs to display in this game.
Secondary – Health has not been synonymous with the Cleveland Browns’ secondary this year. Hopefully Pierre Desir, Robert Nelson, and K’Waun Williams can get back on the field and shut down Jameis Winston and their passing offense. Justin Gilbert is a huge question mark, so I don’t even know whether I want to see him play or not. I have faith in the safeties, so they do not have to do anything exceptional in this contest (but I would be ok with that if they did).
Special Teams: Is Travis Benjamin truly back to his 2013 form, as a punt returner? I surely hope so, and Saturday is the final opportunity to show his moves in a game against starters. I expect him to break off at least one long gainer. It appears that Travis Coons has the edge as the starting kicker – I envision a few (successful) field goals and long kickoffs by the veteran.