Four takeaways from Cleveland Browns' preseason

CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Browns completed their preseason schedule with a 21-7 loss to the Chicago Bears at FirstEnergy Stadium on Thursday night, and went 0-4 in exhibition games under first-year coach Hue Jackson.

As the Browns prepare to trim their roster down to the league-mandated 53-man limit over the weekend, here are four takeaways from the preseason as the team gets ready for the regular-season opener against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday, September 11.


QUARTERBACK PLAY NOT NO. 1 CONCERN

For most of the 18 years the Browns have been back in the National Football League, quarterback play has been a question mark, but the signal-callers will not be the top concern for the offense as they get set for the regular season.

Starting quarterback Robert Griffin III completed 22 of his 38 passes for 313 yards and three touchdowns with one interception during the preseason. Additionally, Griffin rushed for 40 yards on five carries when forced out of the pocket and displayed discretion when it comes to utilizing the slide and avoiding big hits.

Backup quarterback Josh McCown completed 19 of his 37 attempts for 191 yards with one interception during the preseason.

OFFENSIVE LINE MUST IMPROVE

The Browns came into the 2016 season knowing they would have to replace two starting offensive linemen after the departures of three-time Pro Bowl center Alex Mack (Atlanta Falcons) and rising right tackle Mitchell Schwartz (Kansas City Chiefs) in free agency.

But the process of replacing Mack and Schwartz has proven difficult for the Browns in the build-up to the regular season.

The Browns allowed 17 sacks in four preseason games, and six of those came against Griffin. Of those six sacks Griffin took, five were against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ top defense in the third preseason game, widely considered the dress rehearsal game for the regular season.

TERRELLE PRYOR HAS DEVELOPED AT RECEIVER

Former Ohio State Buckeyes/Oakland Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor attempted to make a position change to wide receiver during training camp last season, and initially, made the 53-man roster despite being injured for most of the practices.

But now that he is healthy, Pryor is making a positive impression on Jackson and the Browns’ coaching staff.

In front of 42,310 fans at Ohio Stadium, the first-team offense was able to move the ball during the Orange and Brown Scrimmage, and despite playing without first-round pick Corey Coleman, Griffin utilized his skills in getting the team into the end zone. And on one of those trips to the end zone, it was Pryor who out-jumped a defensive back and hauled in the touchdown from Griffin.

Since that scrimmage, Pryor turned five catches into Browns-best 122 yards and one touchdown in four preseason games.

DEFENSE CONTINUES TO BE PROBLEMATIC

The Browns had one of the worst defenses in the NFL in 2015.

Under the guidance of first-time defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil, the Browns allowed 27.0 points, 379.2 yards and 128.4 rushing yards per game, all of which ranked 27th or worse in the NFL during the 2015 season.

Although the Browns invested heavily on the defensive side of the football in the 2016 NFL Draft, the same problems that plagued Cleveland in 2015 again reared their ugly heads over the four games in the exhibition season.

The Browns allowed their opponents to convert 90 first downs, go 33 for 69 on third-down attempts and four for five in fourth-down situations. The Browns’ four opponents, the Green Bay Packers, Falcons, Buccaneers and Bears, totaled 1,497 yards, including 602 on the ground.

Cleveland’s defense ranked 23rd in points, 32nd in yards and 31st in rushing yards surrendered in the preseason.


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