The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are coming off a tough last-second loss to the Atlanta Falcons. This weekend, they take on the Cleveland Browns who are much better than their record indicates. The Bucs need a win to get back to .500, so let’s look at the areas where the Browns excel and areas where they can be exploited.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have made a drastic change to their coaching staff after losing their third straight game while allowing more than 30 points in each. Mike Smith has been let go and the linebackers coach, Mark Duffner, has been promoted to interim. The Buccaneers offense looks as explosive with Jameis Winston under center as it did with Ryan Fitzpatrick, but this team will struggle to win based on the offense alone.
The Cleveland Browns are coming off a 1-31 record from the past two seasons, but currently, sit at 2-3-1. They easily could be 5-1 if they had a better kicker earlier in the season. Their offense is young and their defense can be scary, but coming off a game where they gave up 38 points to the Chargers, they have proven susceptible to making mistakes.
The media darling after being the team on HBO’s Hard Knocks featured organization, has improved on all assets from their winless season. They have the top overall pick leading their offense and defense so they should not be taken lightly. Even if their last road victory game was October 2015. Make no mistake, The Tampa Bay Buccaneers need to prepare for a dogfight.
The Cleveland Browns offense is somewhat hard to judge after six weeks. With Baker Mayfield at the helm, the offense has looked different. While I like Tyrod Taylor, Baker Mayfield was and is currently the answer to their offense. The first overall pick is averaging 269 yards per game, 20th in the league, but is ahead of players like Tom Brady, Cam Newton, and Russell Wilson. Mayfield’s biggest issue is turnovers. He has eight turnovers in his four career games. He is prone to mistakes and the Buccaneers should look to capitalize on the rookies mistakes if they want to win the game.
The Brown offensive line is not what they’ve been since Joe Thomas retired. While they are opening holes in the ground game, they have surrendered a league-worst 26 sacks. If the Buccaneers want to slow down the Browns offense, they should try to blitz more. Maybe Duffner will try some new things with the linebackers.
The Run Game
Cleveland Browns have a potential three-headed monster in their backfield with Carlos Hyde, Duke Johnson, and Nick Chubb. The Browns currently rank 5th in the NFL in rushing yards per game, 137.7, and feed Carlos Hyde 20 times per game. Hyde has yet to surpass 100 yards in a game, but he does have 5 touchdowns.
Duke Johnson Jr is the Browns receiving back but can be a threat on the ground if they decide to let him carry it. He’s averaging 5.8 yards per carry and 11.7 yards per catch. The sleeper in the backfield is the rookie, Nick Chubb. The Georgia Bulldog was a highly touted prospect entering the draft but has not gotten a full workload yet. His best game was against Oakland where he had only three carries, but 105 yards and two touchdowns. He’s got play-making ability and if he’s on the field, the Bucs should use caution.
Browns Receiving Threats
While this receiving core isn’t as scary as the Atlanta Falcons, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers shouldn’t take them lightly either. While they no longer have Josh Gordon, they still have Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins, and Antonio Callaway who can all can make plays. Jarvis Landry catches almost everything that comes his way and even though he doesn’t produce the most yards, he usually gets first downs. Callaway shouldn’t be slept on either. The Browns fourth-round pick in this draft could’ve been a first or second rounder if not for off-field issues. He’s got great speed but the Browns have had trouble getting him the ball. In the five games, he’s played in Callaway has 15 catches on 40 targets, 38% of passes thrown his way. The Buccaneers are still dead last in the league in defending the pass.
David Njoku is the Browns weapon people don’t talk about. The best friend of a rookie quarterback is the tight end position and Njoku has produced so far this year. He has 245 yards on 27 catches and one touchdown so far this year. He is coming off his best game of the year against the Chargers with seven catches, 55 yards, and a touchdown. The Bucs still struggle against the tight end position giving up 97 yards per game to opposing tight ends. Look for Njoku to have a good game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this weekend.
The Browns defense has been very inconsistent this season. They have given up 21 points or less in four of six but in the other two have surrendered more than 38. However, while they do struggle to stop some teams, they force a ton of turnovers. So far this season the Browns have nine interceptions and seven fumbles, 16 total, tied for first with the Chicago Bears.
The Browns may be able force some turnovers, but they do surrender yards, 406.5 per game, 28th in the league. The Browns also excel in third-down coverage allowing only a 31% conversion percentage.
Their defense has also struggled with penalties. They have the 11th most penalties, 42, and 5th most yards, 403. Greg Williams is the defensive coordinator. He has a reputation for being very “aggressive”, so the Bucs should be able to get yards on Cleveland’s mistakes.
The key players the Tampa Bay Buccaneers should be aware of on the defensive side of the ball, are Myles Garrett and Denzel Ward. Two of the youngest players on the team have produced the most. Garrett is in the top ten in sacks with five and Denzel Ward is tied for first with three interceptions.
The Browns rank 20th against the pass and 29th against the run. The Bucs should continue using Peyton Barber and then utilizing Winston’s strength, play action. Look for another shootout on Sunday in Tampa.
BROWNS SPECIAL TEAMS
The Browns have had some serious issues on special teams this season. Not as bad as the Bucs in recent years, but they’ve lost games this year with missed field goals. Zane Gonzalez was 2/5 on field goals and 3/5 on extra points. In the games that he played, he left 11 points on the field and in those games the Browns tied and lost by three. Not great.
After week two the Browns have signed Greg Joseph, a rookie from Florida Atlantic, who is 8/9 on field goals and 3/4 on extra points. The one field goal he missed was from 55 yards. He has a game-winner against Baltimore, but the kick was close to missing from 37 yards away. The Bucs should not be afraid of Joseph with the game on the line.
The Browns currently have punted the most times in the NFL. However, they only average 43.5 yards per and a net yardage of 37.7, both in the bottom 20. Britton Colquitt is an average punter. Hopefully, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers see him on the field early and often Sunday.