Browns @ Buccaneers – Preseason Game #3 Preview
After a few joint practices in Florida, the Browns and Buccaneers hit the field on Friday for the ever-important third preseason game of the 2016 schedule. I expect the heat and humidity help with the Browns’ conditioning for the regular season. Last year, this contest was one of the few highlights of the orange and brown’s season; as they made Jameis Winston look like the rookie he was. However, they have improved vastly since then – will a new man in charge (in Tampa) help or hinder this development?
Quarterback: It’s time for Robert Griffin to take what he did last week and continue to grow in the Hue Jackson offense. He should see time under center from the start into the third quarter; I figure we should witness a majority of the route tree on display. Hitting those receivers either on point or in stride is vital at this point of the year – which he has excelled at thusfar. As far as the reserves are concerned, I just want to see Cody Kessler continue to improve (he has a long ways to go). Josh McCown is a reliable veteran and needs minimal participation to be prepared for the regular season.
Running Back: Will the running game feature Isaiah Crowell with a dash of Duke Johnson mixed in? Will it be vice versa, or should Browns’ fans expect another guy (a.k.a. Raheem Mostert) to join this stable and knock off one of the incumbents for playing time? Consistent, long gainers ought to be goal for the Cleveland Browns – as this part of the team performed better against Atlanta, but still needs work to get to its capabilities. I really feel that Mostert will continue to push for playing time and would not be surprised to see him make the most of his opportunity in Tampa.
Wide Receiver: Terrelle Pryor continues to be the darling of this season’s exhibition season at wide out. I would feel a bit more
comfortable if Corey Coleman can throw his hat in the ring for this honor – as the rookie has been battling an injury for a few weeks. I anticipate he will see a few opportunities and should come down with multiple receptions in this contest. This is Rashard Higgins’s chance to really push for playing time this fall. The rookie has more upside than some veterans, and he has shown an ability to pluck the ball in mid-air and make a move or two on defenders.
Tight End: This contest could be the decider among Connor Hamlett, Randall Telfair, and E.J. Bibbs to see who makes it at tight end (behind veteran Gary Barnidge). They each bring something different to the table; Telfair appears to have a leg up as he is the only guy who is willing block defenders. With the fullback position far from locked down (especially with Malcolm Johnson disappointing) – would Bibbs get the nod over Hamlett as he has lined up in the backfield more than his counterpart? I anticipate a few nice receptions by this group in Tampa.
Offensive Line: Well, the starting rotations could come to an end after this matchup – or Hue Jackson could continue to tinker with the five up front. Cameron Erving is slated as the starter at center; he has been inconsistent in his play but showed improvement last contest. Meanwhile, Austin Pasztor still appears to have an edge over Spencer Drango at right tackle (however Drango was no slouch when on the field). I would be overjoyed if Pastzor can wall off defenders crashing off their left edge – as it means that he is keeping the signal caller’s right side clean.
Defensive Line: I’m all for Ray Horton putting the three best guys upfront – regardless of how they joined this franchise. Jamie Meder has been exceeding expectations and the undrafted veteran might have found his way to becoming a starter. Would it be at the expense of Danny Shelton or Xavier Cooper? That is a big question, as Meder (as well as all defensive linemen) appears to perform better against the run as opposed to being a pass rusher.
I don’t really have a gauge at this point for Nick Hayden and hope he can come out in this contest and prove his worth. Stopping the run has been an obvious weakness for this franchise for the last couple of seasons (and this year so far). Changing this starts now; as the “new” attitude (and willingness) must be apparent by all watching this game against the Buccaneers.
Linebackers: Ok, how are the Browns going to get to opposing signal callers this year? Nate Orchard and Paul Kruger are expected to get a majority of blitzes off the edge this campaign, but what should we anticipate from the two rookies? Emmanuel Ogbah and Carl Nassib have flashed this preseason the way a former first-rounder was expected to (who shall remain nameless). Provided this continues, I would like to see Horton utilize these athletes to confuse quarterbacks – a sneak
peek in this game would be welcomed.
Stopping runners from getting to the third level should be a key focal point for the inside linebackers of the Cleveland Browns. It would appear that this is not a great challenge for Chris Kirksey, Demario Davis, and the other guys as the Bucs do not feature a fearsome rushing attack. Therefore, actually stopping running backs would be nice and building off of his would be excellent.
Secondary: I do not feel great about the cornerbacks for this team. Joe Haden is the only reliable one, but recent injuries leave me wondering. I want someone (whether it’s a young guy like Charles Gaines or Tracy Howard or a veteran like Tramon Williams) to blanket Mike Evans Friday night. Jameis is young and still learning; the Browns might want to bait him into mistakes.
Is Jordan Poyer the center fielder (at free safety) that many feel he is capable of being? The youngster has not had many chances at intercepting passes nor making plays in the middle of the field, but something tells me this could change during this meeting. It would appear that the nickel back role is Jamar Taylor’s to lose – it would be a great story to see the Browns rehab the career of a perceived disappointment. He ought to be standing out, for all the right reasons.