CLEVELAND -- The 2016 regular season got off to an all-too-familiar start for the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.
Even with Hue Jackson now at the helm of the coaching staff and Robert Griffin III entrenched as the 25th starting quarterback in the expansion era, Cleveland suffered a 29-10 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field, their 17th season-opening loss since returning to the National Football League in 1999.
Here are five things the Browns need to improve heading into their home opener against the Baltimore Ravens at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland Sunday.
The Browns did not convert a first down until the second quarter against the Eagles and struggled to move the chains for the better part of the game.
The Browns converted just 14 first downs, including seven passing and six rushing, but went just two for 10 (20 percent) on third down. Also, the Browns went 0 for 2 on fourth-down attempts, including an ill-advised fake punt deep in their own territory that resulted in a six-yard loss.
With the lack of conversions, the Browns managed just 288 yards of total offense. On Sunday, eight quarterbacks across the league threw for more yards than the Browns gained in total offense against the Eagles.
Despite having an offense in a constant state of flux with ineffective play and off-the-field questions about a former quarterback, the 2015 Browns converted 41.9 percent of their third-down attempts.
Griffin showed signs in the preseason that he was fully recovered from injuries which plagued him in Washington and had moved onto better things after being benched for the entire 2015 regular season. But the first game of 2016 was not a good one for Griffin.
Griffin completed just 12 of his 26 throws for 190 yards with no touchdowns and one interception, and was the Browns’ second-leading rusher with 37 yards on five scrambles outside of the pocket. However, his final run of the game proved to be a costly one.
Running toward the sideline late in the loss, Griffin was pushed from behind into another Eagles defender, who hit the quarterback in the upper torso. Griffin was evaluated on the sideline and finished the game, but is scheduled to undergo further testing today on an injured left shoulder.
Despite trading away three-time Pro Bowler Andy Lee to the Carolina Panthers prior to the fourth preseason game, the Browns found another top-level kicker in Britton Colquitt, whom they signed as a free agent after his release from the NFL champion Denver Broncos.
Colquitt had a good day against the Eagles, averaging 50.2 yards over five kicks, but the coverage was lacking for the Browns, as they allowed 59 yards on four returns, including a 40-yarder from running back Darren Sproles in the first half.
Although defending against a rookie quarterback who was playing for a first-year head coach, the Eagles marched right down the field on their first drive of the 2016 season and took a 7-0 lead over the Browns with 9:50 to play in the first quarter.
On that first possession, first-year signal-caller Carson Wentz completed four of his five passes for 57 yards with one touchdown, a 19-yard over-the-shoulder throw to wide receiver Jordan Matthews along the left sideline in the end zone.
Matthews got behind the coverage of cornerback Tramon Williams and hauled in the scoring pass.
Wentz completed 22 of his 37 attempts for 278 yards and two touchdowns, the latter of which came against the Browns’ top cornerback, Joe Haden.
TIME OF POSSESSION
Teams can score even when they do not have the football, but possession sure makes things easier.
With the Browns able to convert just two of their 10 third-down attempts, they totaled just 288 yards and punted five times. That led to a nearly two-to-one deficit in time of possession. The Browns possessed the ball for just 20:40, while the Eagles maintained control for 39:40.