Browns: 4 things to monitor in 2nd preseason game

Posted at 6:20 PM, Aug 18, 2016

Browns staff writer, Andrew Gribble lists four things to watch during the Browns 2nd preseason game, which is set to kickoff tonight at 8 p.m.

After last week's opener to Green Bay and then three days of training, the Browns have focused more on teaching, Gribble reported. 

Hue Jackson has acknowledged that he not only wants to make the team physically tough but also healthy for the season's opener at Philadelphia on Sept. 11. 

1. Establishing drives

In last week’s opener, the Browns offense made a handful of big plays but wasn’t able to generate much in the form of consistency. Six of the team’s possession, including one that began with just 7 seconds left in the first half, featured three or fewer plays. Just three of the team’s 11 possessions went for more than six plays.

The biggest victim/culprit in the brief drives was the Browns running game, which didn’t have much of an opportunity to establish itself against the Packers. Jackson thought there were big yards left on the field.

“I have a high expectation for our running game,” Jackson said. “We had a couple opportunities to make some things happen that we kind of didn’t get done. Those are the learning things that I’m talking about for our guys. They know when we try to do certain things that the opportunity is there so we just have to make sure that we follow through and execute at a high level and good things happen.”

With Joe Thomas dealing with a back injury, the Browns may or may not have their full first-team offensive line against the Falcons. Still, there’s optimism that the group can be more productive after a full week of practice with healthy versions of Cameron Erving and John Greco and another week of Austin Pasztor at right tackle.

“Definitely some stuff to work on,” left guard Joel Bitonio said. “The first group got maybe 11 plays so we didn’t really get into a huge rhythm. On some of the runs, there was a chance.”

2. Stopping the run

The Browns’ first-team defense surrendered 28 yards on five consecutive carries to open last week’s game. From that point forward, the unit surrendered 10 more yards while stopping the Packers twice on third down (A running into the punter penalty extended the drive, but Green Bay came away with nothing.)

The Packers finished with 151 rushing yards but averaged just 3.7 yards per attempt.

Asked what the Browns need to improve with their run defense, new inside linebacker Demario Davis expressed confidence the team will work out the kinks and find faster exits from the field.

“Just continue to do what our coaches are asking us to do, being able to get off blockers, just having 11 guys to the football, getting downfield, tackling well,” Davis said. “We continue to do those things, we’ll be OK.”

3. Eliminating the big mistakes and taking the next step

Jackson came away frustrated last week with the kind of plays that get teams beat. Whether it was the fumbled kickoff, multiple safeties or an interception inside the red zone, it was too many for the coach’s preference.

The opportunity to play 60 clean minutes of football presents itself tonight.

“I think normally teams make a huge jump from Week 1 to Week 2,” Jackson said. “We all understand that the speed of the game is a little bit different, the intensity of the game is much different than practice. What I’m looking for is the execution in all three phases to be better – offensively, defensively and special teams.

“There is some improvement that we can do in all three phases, and we will do that.”

4. More snaps for the rookies?

Rookie defensive linemen Carl Nassib and Emmanuel Ogbah led the Browns, respectively, in snaps played in the preseason opener, but that sort of playing time wasn’t universal for the Browns’ big rookie class.

Depending on the circumstances of tonight’s game, that could be in for a change against the Falcons.

For one, first-round rookie Corey Coleman could be back in action after missing last week’s game with a hamstring injury. Quarterback Cody Kessler is one step closer to playing time as Austin Davis deals with a concussion. Tight end Seth DeValve has been active at practice after missing a significant amount of time with a hamstring injury. And the three other drafted wide receivers could be in store for more snaps in the wake of Rannell Hall’s season-ending injury and the hope of Cleveland getting more offensive opportunities against the Falcons.

“I think I need to do a better job of making sure they’re out there a little sooner, but again, the game kind of dictated otherwise,” Jackson said Sunday. “They didn’t have a lot of plays in the first half and didn’t have really, truly a lot in the second half. We hope to have more snaps so those guys can go out and compete a little more.”