It was a bit of a rough night at times for the Cleveland Browns on Friday as they faced the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in their third preseason game.
The offense looked out of sorts, even with the starting offensive line, quarterback Baker Mayfield and running back Kareem Hunt together on the field for the first half. Mayfield finished 10-of-26 for 72 yards and the Browns failed to get into the end zone.
The starting defense, however, looked very good as the Browns shutout the Buccaneers in the first half and recorded five sacks on Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston.
The absolute best news of the night is that the Browns did not suffer any major injuries.
Here are four takeaways from the game.
The offensive line is not ready
The Browns played what we will presume is their starting offensive line for the entire first half and it was not pretty.
Mayfield may have “only” been sacked one time, but he also took a nice shot to the ribs on one pass play, was hit on the arm on another pass play (always a good way to break a finger or hurt an elbow), and rarely had a clean pocket to work from. The Browns also were just 1-of-9 on third downs with the starters on the field.
Olivier Vernon making plays on defense, but the Browns also felt the absence of the player traded for him.— Kevin Cole (@KevinColePFF) August 24, 2019
Kevin Zeitler was the No. 1 guard by PFF's pass blocking efficiency metric, now replaced by journeyman Eric Kush pic.twitter.com/ntUwCPsATN
The effort left head coach Freddie Kitchens less than pleased, according to ohio.com:
“I promise you it gets corrected, one way or the other. We had people around the quarterback all day, too. It wasn’t just one position or one anything. Execution wasn’t there, and that’s the whole group. That’s not the quarterback, that’s not the receivers, that’s not the offensive line, that’s not the tight ends.
“We had inopportune penalties. ... That’s unacceptable. It’s not going to be acceptable, and we’ll figure out why it happened — bad technique, bad execution, bad plays, bad play call. It could be any damn thing.”
Whatever the problems are with the offensive line - and it is clear that those problems reside at left tackle, right tackle and right guard - the Browns have just two weeks of practices to figure it out before the season opens on September 8.
The defensive line is scary
It may have been a rough night for the starting offense, but it was the exact opposite for the starting defense, especially the defensive line.
The front four of Myles Garrett, Olivier Vernon, Sheldon Richardson and Larry Ogunjobi gave everyone a preview of what’s to come and it had to be unsettling for any opposing offensive linemen who will face the Browns this season.
Vernon picked up a pair of sacks, Richardson had one (even if it should have gone to defensive end Chris Smith) and the rest of the defense made life uncomfortable for Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston.
"The Cleveland Browns' Pass Rush" - A horror movie coming this fall. @Browns— NFL (@NFL) August 23, 2019
: #CLEvsTB on @NFLNetwork
Watch on mobile: https://t.co/Gbvyv2FEyq pic.twitter.com/WGLpxcT7D4
It was the kind of effort that should help make Browns fans feel a bit more comfortable that if the offense struggles at some point this season, the defense can be there to pick them up.
The rookie kickers do what they needed to do
In a bit of a surprise move, Kitchens had rookies Austin Seibert and Jamie Gillan handle the kicking duties exclusively and the pair came through on the evening.
Seibert was a perfect four-of-four on field goals with a long of 54 yards, earning a small bit of praise from Kitchens, according to clevelandbrowns.com:
“Pretty good, huh? I like that. I like it a lot. That’s what he’s supposed to do, though. I just want to know what we’re getting when they cross the white line. From a skill position to a kicker, to an offensive line, to a DB, to a corner. I just want to know what we’re getting, and we’ll make adjustments from there.”
Right. Down. The. Middle.#CLEvsTB pic.twitter.com/7KTRxJGL04— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) August 23, 2019
Gillian punted six times for an average of 47.8 yards per kick, while also dropping three kicks inside the 20-yard-line, which is always nice to see.
Whether or not their performances against Tampa Bay were enough to seal a roster spot for either Seibert or Gillan remains to be seen, but they certainly did nothing to hurt their cause.
That’s a wrap (for the starters)
The Browns will close out the preseason on August 29 against the Detroit Lions, but fans will not see any of the Browns starters again until the season opener against the Tennessee Titans, as Kitchens told cleveland.com:
“Not a chance. Not even remotely possible.”
That might be the best takeaway of them all.
What do you think Browns fans? What did you like - or not like - about the team’s performance against Tampa Bay?