The Cleveland Browns entered the third week of the preseason with a 1-1 record after losing against the Buffalo Bills last Friday. This week’s game showcased the first team players, as starters on both sides of the ball saw extended playing time. Unlike the first week where the offense shined, there were more takeaways — both good and bad — from the defense this week. Several players stood out and played well, but there are still several areas needing improvement. The team played decent overall, especially considering they were playing against last season’s top team. Here are my biggest takeaways from the Browns’ third preseason game — a 5-0 win over the reigning Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles.
1. Myles Garrett shines
It will be amazing to see what @MylesLGarrett accomplishes before it's all said and done. He is primed to have one hell of a career. #Browns #PHIvsCLE
— Armchair Browns (@ArmchairBrowns) August 24, 2018
Myles Garrett shined against the Eagles. He finished the game with three solo tackles and two sacks, and there were many more plays in which he didn’t get the tackle, but was responsible for a sack or tackle for loss. His powerful bull rush gave the Eagles offensive linemen fits all night and he was regularly able to collapse the pocket. In just his second preseason, Garrett’s growth is visible. Expect him to be a leader on the Browns defense this year.
2. The DBs still struggled.
While Garrett and the defensive line were effective in pressuring Eagles quarterback Nick Foles and stopping the run game (for the most part), the secondary was exposed as an area needing further improvement. When Foles had time to throw, receivers were able to gain plenty of separation for easy completions and additional yards after the catch. Foles finished the game completing 13-of-17 passes for 127 yards and Nate Sudfield completed 11-of-21 passes for 72 yards. Ultimately, the performance showed that unless the defensive backs can improve, much of the Browns pass defense will rely on the success of its pass rushers. While they have individuals who excel in that area, it cannot be Cleveland’s only way of disrupting an opponent’s passing game. Even with phenomenal play by the Browns front seven, the defense will still be liable to give up huge chunks of yards if the secondary does not improve.
3. That being said…
Foles is picked off by Jamie Collins trying to force a throw into tight coverage. #Browns have now forced two picks and two fumbles. Unbelievable. Now, it's time to see how Taylor runs the 2-minute offense #CLEvsPHI #DawgPound #NFL
— Armchair Browns (@ArmchairBrowns) August 24, 2018
Even with lackluster play on the backend of the defense, the Browns managed to do what they have consistently failed to for as long as I can remember: limit penalties AND win the turnover battle. While the team has finished close to the bottom in these two categories for several years (or are we into decades now?), they managed to do well in both on Thursday night. Although it was just a preseason game, it was still the first game I can recall in a long time where penalties didn’t screw the Browns over AND they had more takeaways than their opponent. Cleveland finished the game with one (1!) penalty for five yards, while the defense forced two fumbles (Genard Avery strip-sacked Foles and Terrance Mitchell forced a fumble on Eagles running back Matt Jones, which were recovered by Emmanuel Ogbah and Larry Ogunjobi, respectively) and two interceptions (Briean Boddy-Calhoun, Jamie Collins Sr.). The offense only turned the ball over once, an interception by Baker Mayfield. If the Browns can focus on continuing the positive turnover trend into the regular season, they will be in a great position to win some games.
4. Injury scares
There is no arguing that injuries have helped contribute to the Browns’ endless quarterback carousal and horrendous record of the past several seasons. Simply put, star players need to stay healthy so the team doesn’t have to endure endless change at key positions. Unfortunately, that seemingly happened to Cleveland on Thursday as Tyrod Taylor went down early in the game with a left wrist/hand injury. After going to get checked out, he later came back to the field and returned to the game to finish out the first half. Additionally, rookie cornerback Denzel Ward had to leave the game with a back injury. If the Browns can avoid further injuries, they should be able to maintain consistency and dodge some of their past woes. However, it should be noted that several players have missed the preseason due to injury and may return next week in the team’s final game before the regular season. It will be interesting to see how these players look, considering they’ve missed significant and valuable playing time.
5. A quick note — no offense
In the Browns’ first game, the passing game dominated. Last week the rushing attack stepped up. On Thursday the offense was altogether lackluster, but the running backs were the group that stood out the most. There were a handful of long runs throughout the night, while the passing was never able to get into a good rhythm. While it is good knowing the team has the potential to excel in both the passing and running game, the Browns will surely hope to find a more balanced, and certainly a more consistent, attack on the offensive side of the ball.
In 2017, Cleveland lost several games by less than 10 points. The defense did well enough in many of those games to give the team a great chance of winning, but the offense was never able to capitalize on those opportunities. Regardless of how well the defense plays, the Browns will still need to find a consistent attack that puts enough points on the board to secure some wins.