The Cleveland Browns are taking on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in preseason Week 3 action, which doubles as the dress rehearsal for the regualr season.
Here we go.
D-Fence Clap, Clap
Tank Carder will miss the entire season after ACL surgery, but he had been beat out for a starting role by Joe Schobert anyway. There are depth issues, but how strong do you believe the starting linebacker group is?
Gerberry: Stronger than in the past, due to the lack of starting spots. With the hiring of Gregg Williams, the “base” defense transitioned to a 4-3 look from a 3-4, thus eliminating the need for the extra linebacker and having someone play out of position. With tackle machine Christian Kirksey, Joe Schobert and Jamie Collins Sr (playing linebacker, not safety), the Browns sport a starting linebacking corps worthy of “best position group” superlatives.
Gilbert: I think this is the best group of linebackers the Browns have had since 1999. Both Christian Kirksey and Jamie Collins are Pro Bowl-level linebackers. Both players are athletic players who produce both in coverage and run defense. Kirksey is a stud in run defense, while Collins is able to cover as well as someone 50 pounds lighter than him. In terms of Joe Schobert, I think his move to inside linebacker was the best move for his career. Even though he played on the edge in his rookie season, he always fit better as a linebacker. His play this preseason has backed that move up and it solidifies a real strength on the Browns defense.
Josh: Although losing Carder somewhat hurts the linebacker group in terms of depth, that’s where a guy like Jabrill Peppers will be so important. Although he will start at strong safety, the rookie can be slotted in as a linebacker at times if needed. With that said, Schobert has looked very good this preseason. He, along with Jamie Collins and Christian Kirksey should make for an impressive group of linebackers.
Bode: A bad beat for Carder and the Browns depth, but Schobert was going to win the starting job. Coupled with Gregg Williams expected to utilize nickel and dime defenses a majority of snaps, and the injury should not hurt the unit a ton unless other injuries accumulate. As it is, Jamie Collins, Christian Kirksey, and Schobert form a dynamic group who can each be moved around into different roles depending upon the need. They are not a dominant unit, but they should be one of the stronger groups on this team.
Scott: Gregg Williams’ system is one where the linebackers aren’t devalued, per se, but are less important than the past several years of Browns suckdome. Jamie Collins and Chris Kirksey are legit. The loss of Carder hurts, and Schobert may be raw, but the sophomore has looked insanely good compared to last season. Factor in that Williams can even slot Jabrill Peppers in as a “linebacker” in certain packages, and I’m not all too concerned about any lack of depth.
With Danny Shelton potentially missing regular season games, who do you think the starting defensive line should be and how even do you believe rotations can/will be?
Gerberry: The ends are set with Myles Garrett and Emmanuel Ogbah starting and Carl Nassib and Tyronne Holmes subbing in. It might be the best set of ends (wink) the Browns have had in years, especially when you consider Nate Orchard has been talked up this summer, possibly increasing his role past third teamer. As far as evening out the rotations, the interior is where questions will be raised. Jamie Meder and Trevon Coley will be the starters, but newly signed Brian Thompson and rookie Larry Ogunjobi are sure to see more snaps than usual.
Gilbert: I think the starting defensive line should be Myles Garrett and Emmanuel Ogbah on the edge with Larry Ogunjobi and Trevon Coley inside. Once Danny Shelton returns, I would play either Coley or Ogunjobi, who ever is playing better, next to Shelton. In terms rotation at defensive end, I would think the four-man group of Garrett, Ogbah, Carl Nassib and Nate Orchard would be a good rotation. Inside, it would a rotation of Shelton, Ogunjobi, Coley, Jamie Meder, Xavier Cooper. Caleb Brantley is losing his footing in the rotation and possibly the roster by missing so much time.
Josh: The Browns have Myles Garrett, does the rest of the defensive line really matter? But seriously, I agree with the rest of the guys in saying that even with Danny Shelton, the middle of the defensive line has plenty of question marks going into the season. Hopefully some guys will step up and secure jobs in the interior of the defensive line in Shelton’s absence.
Bode: Myles Garrett covers up a bunch of holes. I’m expecting Emmanuel Ogbah to start and cause issues from the other end with Carl Nassib used a bunch with them. I’m unsure of what to think about Tyronne Holmes other than being disappointed that Nate Orchard is still third-string on the depth chart. Defensive tackle is still a concern with Danny Shelton out as Meder and Coley are not great options, which might be why Williams has been playing around with Ogbah and Garrett at defensive tackle in some sets. Ogunjobi needs to step up soon.
Scott: Myles Garrett and Emmanuel Ogbah will bookend a group that will largely be based on rotation and scheme. Trevon Coley has surprised, but you would hope to not have to count on him to start. Jamie Meder is the natural fill-in for Shelton, but after that it’s super dicey. Xavier Cooper may not make the team. Caleb Brantley is still injured. Larry Ogunjobi has been invisible.
On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being petrified, how scared are you to watch the Browns cornerbacks this season and why?
Gerberry: 3. Joe Haden needs to prove he can be healthy, but the depth is better than in past years. Jamar Taylor, Jason McCourty and Briean Boddy-Calhoun have all been starter-level corners in the past and, barring injury, provide good depth if teams spread out the defense. Boddy-Calhoun has played well, including the legal pass breakup that might cost Odell Beckham Jr. some playing time, and might push for a spot across from Haden before too long.
Gilbert: 6. I would lower this a bit if Joe Haden looked like his old self, but so far this season, he has not looked good. I feel OK with Jamar Taylor, Briean Boddy-Calhoun and Jason McCourty. But, without a real shutdown corner on the outside, this group still lacks a true No. 1 corner. I do not feel confident in any of these guys to cover the opposing team’s No. 1 receiver. The position has solid depth, but it lacks a top tier talent to lead it.
Josh: 5. If Joe Haden gets back to the way he played a couple years ago, things may be different. But, the Browns’ secondary has so many questions so far. They have talent, but a lot of it is either unproven or coming off an injury. Luckily, the Browns front seven should be able to put enough pressure on the opponent’s backfield, which would then turn into the defensive backs not having to cover their man for a long time. The earlier the defensive front gets in the backfield, the better the secondary will look.
Bode: The hype has out-performed the play for the cornerbacks, which I suppose should be expected when we have recognizable names. I’m hovering right around a “7” because good-Haden isn’t coming back and for all the talk of BBC and McCourty, they couldn’t even beat out Jamar Taylor for a starting spot. The front seven better get pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
Scott: 5. I have faith that Joe Haden will improve off of last season. Jamar Taylor has been a nice surprise. Jason McCourty played very, very well in Week 2 of the preseason. I’m more concerned about the lack of safety help over top, but I believe that an improved pass rush — sup, Myles? — will keep the defensive backfield from being overexposed.
I hear offense is where yards are gained and points are scored
Hue Jackson chose DeShone Kizer to start this week. What do you think of his choice and is there any non-injury chance Kizer doesn’t start against Pittsburgh in Week 1?
Gerberry: The choice is the right choice. Kizer has played his way into starting. He has been head and shoulders better than Osweiler and Kessler in the preseason and has earned the job. If it truly is a meritocracy and the best player gets the job, then the decision should have been an easy one. Jackson has said there is a chance Kizer will not start Week 1 against Pittsburgh, but that would only be the case if he “has a really bad game” Saturday. My money is on the rookie, and I couldn’t be happier.
Gilbert: As I wrote on Thursday, I think it was the right choice to start DeShone Kizer. He outplayed the rest of the quarterbacks and he is the best quarterback in the room. I believe Kizer would have to absolutely blow up for him to get passed for either of the other two quarterbacks.
Josh: I love it. With a very good offensive line, a playmaker like Isaiah Crowell to hand the ball off to, and guys like Duke Johnson and others on the outside, Kizer will have plenty of time to ease his way into each game. In years past I would have been scared for the rookie because they wouldn’t got hurt given how dismal the offensive line was, but that’s not the case heading into this season. Throw the rookie in the fire and allow him to learn and improve by playing, rather than standing on the sidelines.
Bode: Jackson understands the flak he would get to change course on a rookie quarterback after a preseason game. Kizer will be the starter against Pittsburgh- outsdie him getting injured. I still hold firm in my belief that quarterbacks learn the most when they are actually playing, so I’m in full support of Kizer getting the snaps too.
Scott: Been saying since Week 1 of the preseason that it should be Kizer’s job to lose. If he doesn’t get hurt and Hue Jackson somehow goes with another option, it’d be a gigantic mistake, both on the field and from a PR standpoint.
What player needs to step up their game the most to help Kizer out as he learns the NFL?
Gerberry: Can I say a group? The receivers need to step up their game and produce for Kizer to get some help. This is arguably the best offensive line since the Browns have come back, and with a running back corps like Isaiah Crowell, Duke Johnson Jr. playing in the slot and Matthew Dayes providing depth, the receivers need to help their quarterback out. That weight will fall on Kenny Britt, the veteran of the group.
Gilbert: I think Corey Coleman needs to be the teams No. 1 receiver and show it on the field. He needs to be the big play producer who most believed he was coming out of college. His improved play will definitely help the young quarterback because it can give Kizer confidence when he just simply throws a short slant and Coleman takes it for a big gain.
Josh: It’s not just one player, but definitely the wide receivers group. If they play well, get open, and are able to make plays themselves, it’ll be so much easier for Kizer going forward.
Bode: Shon Coleman. It will be imperative to give Kizer time as he learns the speed of the NFL, and Coleman is the current weak link on the offensive line. He also might hold the keys to Crowell being successful, which would in turn help ease the pressure off of Kizer.
Scott: Going to deviate from the question a bit and go with Hue Jackson. I’m hoping he learned his lesson regarding the run game, and bailing on it way too quickly at times last season. If Kizer is forced to throw 35-40 passes a game, it’s not going to end well. The play-calling has to suit the personnel just as much as it does the scoreboard.
Do you expect starting a rookie quarterback to change the offensive play-calling?
Gerberry: A bit, but not much. The Browns game plan was never going to be slinging the ball around the field to a bevy of different receivers. Johnson was going to provide a few new wrinkles, and there’s no reason to think that will go away with Kizer under center. The plan should be to pound the run with Crowell and Dayes and even Kizer himself on some college style rollouts, much like we saw in the Giants game on Monday.
Gilbert: Yes, I believe Hue Jackson alluded to Kizer’s ability opening up the playbook. He is athletic enough to do some dual threat plays like zone read or quarterback designed runs. I also think Jackson will allow Kizer to audible if need be because that is just the best way to run an offense. If the quarterback sees something in the defense, he should be able to change the offense to better play against that look.
Josh: Yes. He seems like a smart enough kid that he can do things like that beginning Week 1. Then again, it’s up to Hue Jackson and company to trust him enough to allow him to do so. Considering they gave him the starting nod, it seems as though they do.
Bode: Early in the season, I think there would be drastic changes to the offensive play calling. Just thinking back to Dak Prescott and Russell Wilson’s first few games or way back to Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger. Limiting the audibles and reads (while not taking them fully away) and trying to have other playmakers carry the load early is the prescribed path to developing a rookie quarterback.
Scott: I would hope so. I would also hope there’s enough trust in him to let him audible when needed, which has not been the case with past coaching staffs and young Browns quarterbacks.
Des Bryant was outright released this week. What other surprise cut do you think could happen before the 53-man roster is released?
Gerberry: Shouldn’t be much of a surprise due to the fact that he has struggled since being drafted, but Cam Erving could see his name removed from the 53-man roster. Unable to keep up at center, Erving has moved to right tackle but has been usurped by Shon Coleman. Injuries, his own included, might keep him around, but it would not be a shock to see him looking elsewhere for a job elsewhere.
Gilbert: I can see Caleb Brantley getting cut because he has just simply not been able to get healthy and show anything on the field. I think Cody Parkey may get released because of the emergence of Zane Gonzalez. Brock Osweiler and Joe Haden are two big name veterans that could be the huge cuts that no one sees coming.
Josh: Brock Osweiler. Cutting him and eating that contract wouldn’t be fun, but if he’s not going to start, he may be a distraction in the locker room.
Bode: Caleb Brantley could find himself Vince Mayle’d even if injuries have limited his ability to impress coaches. Spencer Drango and Jordan Payton might gain some attention, but the biggest shock that could legitimately happen is Nate Orchard. As noted above, Orchard is still third string on the depth charts and there are only a limited amount of roster spots for defensive lineman. He probably makes it on, but his spot is not assured.
Scott: I echo Mike in saying Caleb Brantley, though that wouldn’t be much of a surprise given that he hasn’t seen the field. If Nate Orchard manages to make the team, it will make it very, very tough to keep him on the 53-man. Danny Shelton’s injury may be a blessing in disguise if you’re Brantley, but the kid would definitely be on borrowed time.
The kicker competition has been quiet. Do you think Cody Parkey has any chance of unseating Zane Gonzalez?
Gerberry: No, Parkey struggled almost all last year and Gonzalez has been good this preseason, trying and making for only field goal Monday. Parkey made an extra point, which are no longer freebies, but to give Gonzalez the only chance should give some clue as to where they are headed into the regular season.
Gilbert: No. Zane Gonzalez is the kicker for the Cleveland Browns. The talent gap between Parkey and Gonzalez is wide. I do not think Parkey has a chance.
Josh: No. Parkey will be another guy who will be cut as well.
Bode: Question was listed purely because I don’t think people realize just how good Zane Gonzalez was last year. He has a monstrous leg that will be a weapon in the kickoff game as well as for hitting field goals.
Any other thoughts?
Gilbert: The youth has just been fun to watch this preseason. The feeling I get watching these young guys has been different than past years. There is hope and excitement with the young players.
Josh: 3-0. Whether it’s the preseason or not, seeing a 3-0 record next to the Browns would be cool.
Bode: We’re almost there. College football starts this weekend.
Scott: Two players to watch, for me, this week are Kenny Britt and Corey Coleman. I’d also like to see a little more Duke Johnson in the slot. Let’s do this.