CLEVELAND-- The Browns stated goal this off-season was to stop the run. After finishing 32nd last year in the NFL in rushing defense, the Browns added veteran Randy Starks and top picks Danny Shelton and Xavier Cooper.
However, the first and second team defense gave up 94 yards on the ground in the first half and as a team had given up 142 yards on the ground through the first three quarters, finishing with 153.
Shelton and Cooper each had one tackle, although both were noticeable in their time. Shelton pushed the middle and Cooper had the Browns lone sack.
“Missed tackles, missed assignments,” Karlos Dansby said. “Let guys get a 10-yard here, a 12-yard run there. It starts to add up over the period of the game.”
Mike Pettine said he’s not concerned after one preseason game.
“We did some good things,” Pettine said. “I’ll be able to see as things will pop up on the tape.”
The rushing defense had a chance on 4th-and-one and gave up an 18-yard by Alfred Morris from the 36 to the Browns 18. However, after that the defense stiffened and forced a 33-yard field goal.
“I think we had a lot of good plays,” Paul Kruger said. “It’s good for guys to experience success. More so, I think we have a lot to clean up. I think we came out strong. We just let a couple plays get away from us.”
Despite not being able to make the stop on fourth down, Tramon Williams thought the defense did a good job for the first time out.
“I thought we did a good job of getting off the field,” Williams said. “A lot of times on third down if you can’t get off the field, that’s when guys score touchdowns. I thought we did a good job getting off the field. I thought we showed a lot of good things just as a whole on defense. I’m excited about it. We just have to keep getting better.”
Gilbert Starts, Struggles: CB Justin Gilbert started at left cornerback in place of DB Joe Haden, who was held out listed as a hamstring injury. Haden was held out of the scrimmage in Columbus last week, as well. However, Haden has been practicing.
Gilbert had a rough start as he gave up a first down on a third-and-five to Ryan Grant. He then was beaten bad on a deep route by WR Pierre Garcon, but Garcon dropped the pass from Robert Griffin III, who was open by about 10 yards. Pettine said there was an obvious communication breakdown and he wasn’t ready to blame Gilbert on the play.
Gilbert missed a tackle on a short pass that resulted in a 22-yard pick up
Gilbert also returned the first kickoff for 26 yards. Gilbert finished with one tackle.
Moore Forced Out: WR Marlon Moore had to leave the game with a rib injury and did not return. At halftime, Moore was listed as questionable to return, but the press box updated his status in the third quarter and he did not return.
Moore had a big play on the Browns first punt as he forced a fumble by PR Andre Roberts, which was recovered by DB Johnson Bademosi at the Redskins’ 36, setting up the Browns second touchdown.
The X Factor: Rookie DL Xavier Cooper sacked QB Kirk Cousins for an 8-yard loss with 1:14 left in the first half. It was the only sack the Browns had. LB Christian Kirksey led the Browns with six tackles and a tackle for loss.
Erving Starts: First-round pick OL Cameron Erving started at left tackle in place of OL Joe Thomas, who sat out due to a ‘coach’s decision’. Thomas had his ankle rolled on earlier in the week by DL Danny Shelton, but was declared to be fine. He was given a scheduled day of rest on Tuesday and Pettine said they might hold Thomas out of the game, but not because of the injury.
Receiving: With WR Dwayne Bowe and WR Terrelle Pryor sitting out with hamstring injuries, veteran WR Brian Hartline was the top receiver in his limited time. Hartline caught three passes for 30 yards, including a 14-yard completion that set up Manziel’s 12-yard touchdown run. WR Travis Benjamin caught two passes for 10 yards, including a two-yard touchdown. Rookie TE E.J. Bibbs had three catches for 29 yards.
Hartline grew up in Canton and played at Ohio State was playing his first game with the Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium.
“It was special. I think it is special for the 2015 Browns, and on a personal note, it was special for me,” Hartline said. “It was a great honor and privilege to be out here in front of these fans. You can feel the passion. We are excited for this year.”
Rookie fourth-round draft choice, WR Vince Mayle caught two passes for 28 yards, including a long of 23 yards, while rookie WR Darius Jennings had two for 28 yards, also.
Connor and Thad: Besides McCown and Manziel, QB Connor Shaw came into the game third and was 5-of-10 for 64 yards and a 70.4 rating. He was sacked twice. QB Thad Lewis was 2-of-4 for 15 yards with an interception and a 19.8 rating. He was sacked twice.
Not Much Room: The Browns wanted to run the ball but their top two backs had eight carries for 16 yards, including the longest run being a five-yard carry by RB Isaiah Crowell on his first carry. Crowell finished with four carries for six yards, while RB Terrance West had four carries for 10 yards.
18 Sit Out: The Browns had 18 players that were held out: DB Joe Haden (hamstring), OL Joe Thomas (coach decision), WR Dwayne Bowe (hamstring), WR Terrelle Pryor (hamstring), DB Robert Nelson Jr. (hamstring), RB Duke Johnson (hamstring), RB Shaun Draughn (hand), DB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (knee), TE Randall Telfer (foot), DB De’Aunte Saunders (calf), RB Glenn Winston (knee), LB Barkevious Mingo (knee), FB Malcolm Johnson (shoulder), OL Joe Madsen (concussion), FB Luke Lundy (concussion), OL Andrew McDonald (concussion), DB Pierre Desir (hamstring) and DL Billy Winn (knee/ankle).
My Captain: The Browns captains for the first preseason game were OL Alex Mack, DB Donte Whitner, LB Karlos Dansby and WR Andrew Hawkins
Former Browns: Former Browns QB Colt McCoy and OL Shawn Lauvao returned to play in FirstEnergy Stadium. Ironically, both players were selected by the Browns in the third-round of the draft in the same year.