What We Have Learned through Week Three
The Cleveland Browns have now gone through three exhibition games and they have not been the same kind of embarrassment that fans have been accustomed to over the past few seasons. Whether it was the efficient passing attack against the Giants, or the pounding running game over the past two weeks – the offense has displayed an ability to execute. Defensively, the team looks a lot more physical than they were a season ago. Let’s look further into what the Browns are showing.
Running Attack Looks Solid
Both Carlos Hyde and Nick Chubb are making the most of their opportunities on the ground. The duo has been getting chunks of yards in each of the last two outings – which is a great thing to see. Unfortunately there have been multiple zero yards or negative plays, but those will happen in the NFL. The goal will be to minimize these once the regular season begins. I expect a healthy dose of rushing attempts this fall; something that has been only a rumor since Hue Jackson took over. Additionally, Duke Johnson has not received ample opportunities with this offense. The wildcard on offense will be utilized in the coming weeks, especially in the passing game – which can always use another target.
Waiting on Reinforcements
The wide receiver group has not stood out thus far in the preseason. Jarvis Landry made a fine sideline catch early on, but has become a blocker ever since (I am not worried about him however). With Josh Gordon and Antonio Callaway inactive on Friday night, there wasn’t a guy making big plays. The only two of note to haul in passes were C.J. Board and Derrick Willies; one of the two might make the team over the disappointing Jeff Janis. Will rookie Damion Ratley find his way on to the team with a big role? It is trending that way, but the team still needs some reliability in this part of the roster.
I have been excited to see not only that the Browns are putting heat on opposing quarterbacks, but they are doing it with multiple guys in different points on the field. It hasn’t been as simple as Myles Garrett off the edge or Mychael Kendricks blitzing through the “A” gap. Witnessing Carl Nassib, Genard Avery (prior to injury), and B.J. Bello find the backfield gives me faith that Gregg Williams has enough reliable players to accomplish what he wants to. The end result is a nasty defense that makes it difficult for opponents to operate.
Last season was painful to watch the Browns try to cover opponents in the passing game. The addition of Denzel Ward, Terrance Mitchell, and Demarious Randall are a few of the moves to bolster this unit. The Browns are both no longer getting burned nor allowing pitch and catches by the opposition. Granted this is occurring in preseason, but it is still encouraging to witness. I will feel better once E.J. Gaines comes back at cornerback to provide solid depth, but I am not terribly fearful of these guys. At safety, Derrick Kindred and Jabril Peppers are co-existing pretty well at the strong safety spot. It will be refreshing watching safeties being in the right place at the right time for a change.
Conclusion: I continue to feel better about the 2018 Cleveland Browns; I still anticipate six wins by the club (at least at this point) – however they will be in most games and their physical play will be the reason for that. Perhaps the quarterback spot improves to where they can win tight games via solid performances. Looking forward to the opener on September 9th!