The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have not been a top level team in some time. They have struggled on both sides of the ball and have had a ton of turnover in leadership.
The Cleveland Browns have had those same struggles but for longer and with seemingly lower lows and few highs.
Coming off an exciting offensive showing in Game 2 of the Preseason, Browns fans were expecting something special with Josh Gordon and Corey Coleman joining Terrelle Pryor as the Browns formed a Big Three at the WR position.
Instead, disappointment and "same old Browns" is alive and well in Cleveland. Thankfully the Cleveland Cavaliers title takes a sting out of the struggle.
On to my 4 Downs:
First Down: Gordon Seems Fine, Back
While the Browns offense struggled as a whole, Gordon looked great on his two catches in his return. He looks like a power forward or big OLB running through a secondary full of smurfs. His body control, speed, length and hands were all present and accounted for.
What will be most interesting is whether Gordon's still a freak going across the middle where he used to just separate from defenders and destroy their pursuit angles with just a few strides. With Pryor and Coleman taking care of some of the deep work, Gordon across the middle will have a ton of value.
Sadly, many Browns fans could not enjoy Gordon's night as they could only focus on his impending 4 game suspension.
Second Down: Defense Shows Little
In my 4th and Go preview, I wondered whether a few defenders could impress from the backend of the roster enough to make the team and give fans hope. Instead, Jameis Winston picked everyone apart and the defense showed little hope at least in terms of results.
The true hope was found in two rookie defenders: Emmanuel Ogbah and Carl Nassib. While Winston was able to step up in the pocket, due to a lack of interior pressure, Ogbah and Nassib were constantly getting the pressure needed on the outside. We have to be careful with our evaluation since the Bucs were down three starting linemen but, overall, getting a pass rush is exciting.
The middle of the defensive line and the secondary are the biggest concerns for the Browns. While Danny Shelton continues to get criticized, deservedly so, Jamie Meder, John Hughes (in his first game back) and Xavier Cooper are not able to do enough to either stop the run or push the pocket on the pass at this point.
The secondary is befuddling. Top CB Joe Haden returned but may never be what he once was (or what fans thought he was) while Justin Gilbert showed some signs of building confidence while still struggling most of the day. The secondary wasn't big enough, quick enough or skilled enough to cover while Winston slid into open areas to buy time.
The Browns defense is dependent on the development of the young guys to keep the team in the game. Not sure if that happens this season but the team has to be careful not to impact their confidence too much.
Third Down: Ray Horton?
The main, and maybe only, reason I had confidence in the Browns' hiring of Horton was that he was a desired candidate. Hue Jackson wanted Horton while the Titans were trying to keep him on board.
Some Browns fans thought pleasantly on his time with the team, recalling him helping Barkevious Mingo get to the QB and some regular pressure on the QB. I remember every third and medium to long Horton sending the house while leaving the secondary 1 on 1 and the middle and shallow routes wide open for easy pitch and catch.
We all only have a one year sample from his first time around, and three Preseason games this time, but Horton may be a big mistake by Jackson, seemingly one of few.
Fourth Down: Fly Crow Fly
While much of the offseason talk at the RB position was about Duke Johnson breaking out or Isaiah Crowell's horrible social media post, Crow's on the field work looks much improved. The undrafted back out of Georgia and Alabama State has looked like a different back.
Crow has a 4.1 yards per carry average which is fine but when looking at his run so far, it is more impressive. The Browns' line has struggled with run blocking. Unlike years passed, instead of falling down, Crow has found lanes and made the most of the plays. While fans care about final stats, making something out of nothing is what good backs do.
Duke has looked good but has gotten limited chances out of the backfield while Jackson feeds Crow. The Browns offense was supposed to be focused on the run game but the development of Griffin and the Big Three has changed that perspective.
Crowell and Johnson will still be important going forward and it looks like the Crow is ready to fly.
What are your 4 thoughts from Game 3?null