The Cleveland Browns preseason is down to one game left. The so-called dress rehearsal for the regular season took place Thursday night in front of a national television audience at FirstEnergy Stadium. If the Browns want to become a winning team in 2018, shutting out the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles will go a long way toward that goal even in the preseason.
Gregg Williams’ defense pitches a shut out in a game that resulted in no touchdowns for either team. The Browns beat the Eagles 5-0. If you look at just the score, you would think the Cleveland Indians beat the Philadelphia Phillies in a baseball game. Nope, it was a preseason NFL game.
“Good win for our football team and the organization,” head coach Hue Jackson said. “Our guys worked hard. What a dominant performance by our defense. I can’t say enough about the performance of those guys tonight. There are a lot of guys that I thought played some really, really good football.
It was a good win for the Browns, but there are still things that didn’t go quite according to the game plan. So exactly what went right and wrong? Here is the preseason game number three edition of the Cleveland Browns good, bad and ugly.
Browns Defense – The dress rehearsal went flawlessly for the Browns defense. A shut out in front of a national television audience. Williams’ guys turned some heads and raised a few eyebrows across the nation. Four turnovers in the first half, two fumble recoveries and two interceptions. The second interception by Jamie Collins inside the ten yard line eliminated a potential Eagles touchdown drive and a halftime deficit. Four sacks in the game. Only 263 yards of total offense allowed. Those numbers will win you games in the regular season.
The @Browns defense is looking NASTY.
FOUR turnovers in one quarter the against the SB champs 😯 pic.twitter.com/RY8wLM3qMJ
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) August 24, 2018
“We could not get these like this a year ago,” Jackson said. “That is good football in that way. We are winning the turnover battle, and that is what I have harped on with our football team that you have to do. Our defense is finally getting them. Now, hopefully, we can become ballhawks in that way. We have to go take the ball away. We have to get the other quarterback of that team down as often as we can. That is playing good defensive football.”
“You have got to be hungry,” safety Briean Boddy-Calhoun, who recorded one of the two interceptions said. “If you want to win in this game, you have got to take the ball away and keep them in check on offense. Every single day in practice, we emphasize this. In the secondary, we try to get two or three per day, and we know the key to winning is taking the ball away. We know we have got to get better at that.”
Myles Garrett – So Browns fans finally get to see what a healthy number one overall pick in 2017 looks like. Myles Garrett was a force on the edge for the entire first half of the victory. Garrett recorded three tackles in addition to two sacks and two quarterback hits. That’s very solid numbers for a defensive end in just one half of an NFL game. Let’s not forget Garrett also scored the eventual game winning points. His safety on Nick Foles got the Browns on the board 2-0 in the first quarter. Garrett touched Foles with a knee on the ground after the Eagles quarterback picked up a fumbled snap. It took a replay challenge by Jackson to get the safety, but Garrett knew he recorded the safety in real time.
“I saw that he was down on a knee so I was just making sure to touch him,” Garrett said. “I knew that I didn’t have to pounce on him to get the sack.”
Fewer Penalties – Penalties have really hurt the Browns in the first two games this preseason. 20 penalties combined entering Thursday game. 22 total penalties after game three. Only two penalties whistled on the Browns, one those was negated because of an Eagles penalty on the same play.
“That is something that I have been harping on with our football team,” Jackson said. “We have to get better at and they did that.”
Injuries – Football is a vicious game. Consequently, injuries will happen. You don’t plan for both your starting and backup quarterbacks to leave the game with injuries though. That’s exactly what happened. The good thing both Tyrod Taylor and Baker Mayfield appear to be fine. Taylor injured his left hand in the first quarter. X-rays were negative and he returned in the second quarter.
Mayfield was checked out for a possible concussion after his head collided with right tackle Shon Coleman in the second half. It ended Mayfield’s night but the team is not going to risk further injury to their quarterback of the future.
“I was good. Yeah, good to go,” Mayfield said. “I did all of the stuff on the sideline. They got a call from upstairs to review it based on the video. That is just how it works. Nothing serious. Doctors are doing their job.”
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) August 24, 2018
The other first round pick also suffered an injury Thursday night. Cornerback Denzel Ward left the game early in the first quarter due to a back injury. He’s expected to go for an MRI but it appears the injury is not serious.
“We will go through the night, get him checked out and will know more about that tomorrow,” Jackson said. “We will do everything we can just to make sure, but we will definitely do the imaging and report just to make sure we know everything that is going on with his back.”
Fellow cornerback Damarious Randall was a late scratch due to a knee injury. The knee locked up in pregame warm-ups. Right tackle Chris Hubbard left for a short time in the first quarter but returned.
“It was a leg for a second, but (Hubbard) is a tough son of a gun,” Jackson said. “He went over there, shook it out and said, ‘Coach, I am ready to go.’ Put him right back in. He will be fine.”
Four Passes from the Eagles 1-Yardline – First and goal from the Eagles’ one on the Browns second offensive series of the game. Touchdown right? Well not on first down. Second down same story. Third down, sorry not this time. Fourth down, not even close. Consequently, the Browns best offensive drive of the night results in no points. In the regular season, that can cost you a win or two.
After running the football for 55-yards on the drive, offensive coordinator Todd Haley calls four consecutive pass plays. Two of them led to Jarvis Landry pleading for defensive pass interference calls to no avail. The third should have been caught by sixth round pick Damion Ratley for a touchdown. The last ended with Taylor suffering his hand injury after hitting the ground on an incomplete pass to Landry. The offense ran the ball down to the one, could you at least give the running backs a chance to punch it into the endzone. Nick Chubb did that successfully on fourth down against the Buffalo Bills. So why not try it again versus the Eagles?
So with the victory, the Browns improve to 2-1 this preseason. Cleveland makes the short drive to Detroit on August 30 to face the Lions to wrap up the preseason. Expect the starters to see little to no action. This game will be all about the players looking to get the final spots on the 53-man roster.
Scott Piker is the Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage Browns. So follow him on twitter @ScottPikerSport