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Cleveland Browns: 3 takeaways from loss to the Bills

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Running game, first-team defense were sound, but struggles highlight the issues with team’s depth.

NFL: Buffalo Bills at Cleveland Browns Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

It had to end at some point.

The Cleveland Browns dropped their preseason home opener to the Buffalo Bills on Friday night, the club’s first preseason loss since Sept. 1, 2016.

Here are three quick takeaways from the game.

The running game was sound

A week after struggling to move the ball on the ground against the New York Giants, the Browns made an effort early in the game against the Bills to run the ball.

And it was fun to watch.

The Browns put up 164 rushing yards, averaging 5.1 yards per carry, with the main trio of Carlos Hyde, Nick Chubb and Duke Johnson combining for 144 yards and averaging six yards a carry.

Hyde and Chubb each had a touchdown run as well.

While the backs got the stats, head coach Hue Jackson also acknowledged the play of the offensive line, according to clevelandbrowns.com:

“You start popping a few runs, and you start running a little bit more because the guys are starting to come off the ball. That is a good thing. This past week, we put our guys under the chutes, and they started getting after it a little bit. I saw that drill show up in the game tonight, which is a good thing.”

If the Browns can run the ball that way during the regular season, and stay committed to it during games, this offense is going to be a fun one to watch.

The passing game? Not so much

While the running game thrived, the passing offense took a step back against the Bills.

Quarterbacks Tyrod Taylor and Baker Mayfield combined to finish just 11-of-20 for 97 yards. They didn’t turn the ball over, which is nice, but they also struggled to keep the offense moving consistently after the opening drive.

A trio of dubious offensive pass interference penalties did not help the cause, and the pass blocking was less than ideal at times, especially from the second unit, which are areas that need taken care of, as quarterback Tyrod Taylor told clevelandbrowns.com:

“Some stuff that we can be better, but I still think that we are able to do some of the things that we wanted to do. The last drive that I was in, penalties kind of hurt us. We were in the scoring zone. That is two weeks in a row that we have had penalties that have taken us out of the scoring zone. That is something that we have to clean up.”

The Browns emphasized the run game last week in practice and it paid off. Hopefully they can keep doing the same with the passing game to balance out the offense.

The first-team defense was dominant

The best performance of the night came from the first-team defense, which completely dominated the Bills offense and quarterback A.J. McCarron.

Defensive end Myles Garrett was causing all kinds of problems, defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi had a sack, linebackers Genard Avery and Mychal Kendricks were a nuisance, and the secondary was sound.

Things started to fall apart once the second- and third-team units got into the game, which took some of the shine off the night, but the top line is starting to show off its potential, as Jackson told clevelandbrowns.com:

“I thought the communication was really good with the defensive players within the first unit. That part was really good. When you see other things that go on in the second half with the other units, we have to continue to iron some of those things out. Some of those players are going to be playing for us.”

The game highlighted the fact that the talent level has certainly increased for the Browns as the new guys are blending well with the second- and third-year players that have built the foundation.

But it also showed that there is a pretty significant drop off when the starters are not in the game, which given the inevitable injuries that hit teams during the regular season, presents a problem.

The Browns next preseason game takes place on August 23 at 8 p.m., when they host the Philadelphia Eagles at FirstEnergy Stadium.