Monday, August 31, 2015
Cleveland Browns defensive tackle Jamie Meder sacks Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Mike Glennon in the fourth quarter. John Kuntz, Northeast Ohio Media Group
Terry Pluto's scribbles
August 31, 2015
Scribbles in my notebook the day after the Browns' impressive 31-7 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Florida:
■ Quarterback Josh McCown talked about how the Browns should ''bottle and save'' parts of the game. He especially meant the first quarter, during which Travis Benjamin ran a punt back 53 yards for a touchdown. And Charles Gaines picked off a pass from a frenzied Jameis Winston to set up a field goal. And the Browns had an 80-yard touchdown drive chewing up 16 plays and9:37.
■ Watching what the Browns did to Winston gives you a taste of what McCown dealt with last season in Tampa Bay. The Bucs' offensive line was rated one of the worst in the NFL by websites such as profootballfocus.com and Football Outsiders. The No. 1 pick in the draft, Winston was sacked three times. He was hit three other times. The rookie from Florida State played only 2½ quarters and threw the ball reasonably well when he had time — but that was not very often.
■ The Browns recorded six sacks in this game. Desmond Bryant was seemingly unstoppable early on. He was credited with 1½ sacks. On another play, he hit Winston's arm as the quarterback threw a pass. Paul Kruger, Danny Shelton, Chris Kirksey, Karlos Dansby and so many others had very good days. I love how Dansby stopped running back Doug Martin on a third-and-1 play in the second quarter. The veteran linebacker delivered a jarring tackle for a 1-yard loss to force a punt.
■ The preseason is so hard to judge, though. Last Monday, Tampa Bay soundly defeated Cincinnati, 25-11. The Bucs looked great in that game and terrible this week. For Browns fans, the good thing to remember is that both coaches treated the first half and part of the third quarter as a tune-up, with most of the starters remaining on the field.
■ The Browns' strong pass rush helped the secondary. Veterans Joe Haden and Tashaun Gipson played their first preseason games of the season. They were on the field for only 10 snaps, as the coaches wanted to limit their exposure. Pierre Desir got hurt (concussion). Justin Gilbert (hip flexor) didn't play. Charles Gaines had a big game until he left with a hamstring injury. But the secondary played well despite all the missing players.
■ Valley Forge product Jamie Meder had another sack and five tackles. The 310-pound defensive lineman has had an extremely strong camp. If he doesn't make the Browns, he should find a spot on another roster. The former Ashland University star is impressive.
■ Coach Mike Pettine talked about the defense being ''turned loose'' to ''go out and go hunting'' in terms of putting pressure on the quarterback. The Browns did just that for the first time in this preseason.
■ McCown's final numbers for the preseason: 29 of 38 passing (76 percent), with three TDs, two interceptions and a 92.8 rating. He will not play in the fourth game.
■ I don't want to hear McCown talk about being ''a competitive guy'' and wanting to ''lower my shoulder'' when running for a first down. The Browns' quarterback situation is scary in terms of depth. Johnny Manziel (sore elbow) is out at least for the rest of the preseason. Connor Shaw (thumb surgery) is out for several months. The last thing the Browns need is their 36-year-old quarterback trying to prove some type of point against his old team by taking needless chances running the ball. And remember, this is the preseason.
■ McCown took three very hard hits when running the ball in Tampa. He was hit two other times after throwing a pass. That happens. Quarterbacks will be smacked when trying to make throws from the pocket. And Pettine was correct in saying the pass protection had some problems. It did in Tampa as well as last week when the Browns faced Buffalo.
■ Pettine half-joked that McCown is ''foolish'' for some of the runs. But I don't think the coach liked it. McCown did miss five games last season with a thumb injury.
■ Thad Lewis was very solid in relief, completing 4 of 5 passes for 66 yards. He ran for a 7-yard touchdown. He had the team organized. Lewis will play a lot in the final preseason game in Chicago on Thursday. He is the backup right now, and the Browns need to get him ready, as they aren't sure when Manziel's elbow will allow him to play.
■ The backs still didn't run very well. Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West were a combined 53 yards rushing in 15 carries. Duke Johnson carried the ball once for 4 yards. He suffered a concussion later in the game. So the rookie from Miami is out again. He had missed most of camp with a hamstring injury.
■ Taylor Gabriel caught four passes, and the second-year receiver drew raves from Pettine. The coach talked about how Gabriel knew all the plays from the different receiver spots. He praised Gabriel's excellent hands and route running. ''He's one of our most consistent players,'' Pettine said.
■ Travis Benjamin has had an outstanding camp as a receiver. He leads the team with seven catches in the preseason. It was a relief to see him return the punt for the touchdown, because he looked confident catching the ball, which was not the case last season.
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