It was a little bit of a mixed bag when it came to the rookies playing their first preseason game for the Cleveland Browns.
First round picks Danny Shelton and Cameron Erving both started the game for the Browns. Shelton started at nose tackle for Phil Taylor who did not play as he continued his injury recovery. Erving started at left tackle for Joe Thomas who was out by coaches’ decision. Thomas’ listed back-up at left tackle, Andrew McDonald, was not available due to a concussion.
Erving looked good with the starting unit, especially in pass protection. When the starters exited, the line play was not up to par all around. Erving certainly deserves a bit of leniency, as he really has not practiced much left tackle in camp. Erving may be learning all positions in meeting rooms, but he has been at right guard for the majority of his reps in training camp.
“I keep an open mind to a lot of things,” said Erving of being moved around the line. “I feel like it’s making me a better player, being able to change my mindset from being a right guard to a left tackle. It’s been pretty good. I haven’t really had any big setbacks as far as going and doing or as far as knowing what’s going on, but I feel like I’ve done a pretty good job.”
Erving also spoke about getting the opportunity to play for the first time as a Brown.
“It felt good,” said Erving. “I can kind of relate it back to when I was in college, when you play that first game, no matter who it is. It was fun. I had a great time. It’s been something that I’ve dreamed of for a long time so just being able to suit up in a Browns uniform, it’s like a dream come true.”
Erving drew a pair of penalties in the game, one for holding and a false start penalty.
Danny Shelton was credited with one assisted tackle, but certainly played larger than that taking on double teams and collapsing the pocket on a few occasions. He along with fellow defensive rookies LB Nate Orchard and DL Xavier Cooper saw time in the first half and performed like rookies in their first preseason game. At times they looked very good—Xavier Cooper had the team’s only sack, and at times they seemed a little lost.
“They was flashing man, they was flashing,” Karlos Dansby told the OBR of the defensive rookies. “That’s what you expect them to do in a preseason game is flash and show promise.”
Orchard registered a pair of tackles and a quarterback hit.
“I thought a lot of guys had great effort” Paul Kruger said. “I had an eye on Nate when he was out there and he had some really nice pass rushes about a second away from getting a couple sacks. I’m impressed, I think the guys are gonna shine.”
Orchard bit hard on the fake hand-off that allowed Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins to walk into the end zone from four yards away at the end of the second quarter. He was very aggressive and the Redskins recognized that and made the rookie pay.
“I saw some guys flying around making plays,” said Mike Pettine following the game. “I thought (DB Ibraheim) Campbell came up, and I saw a couple nice hits. Our guys, if they didn’t know what to do, at least they were doing it full speed. That was good to see. Some of those young guys – we did as best we could to replicate that in the scrimmage. That is still not a real game. You are going against yourself. To go out against another opponent for the first time, you never know how guys are going to react. I was pleased to see that some of those young guys step up and make plays.”
Campbell was credited with five combined tackles.
Tight end E.J. Bibbs carried his impressive camp over to the game catching three passes for 29 yards. Fourth round pick Vince Mayle caught a pair of passes for 28 yards, and Shane Wynn also caught two passes for 5 yards. Wynn also returned a pair of kick-offs for 42 yards, including a 24-yard return. Josh Lenz made one reception for 5 yards.