The Browns fell to 2-1 on the preseason after losing a 13-12 barn burner to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Baker Mayfield was off this week, but he’ll be perfectly fine come Week 1 and there’s definitely no reason to lose faith in him. Obviously, there wasn’t much offense in the game with the Browns totaling 141 yards, but the special teams and defensive units looked fantastic in the loss. While there is clearly plenty the Browns need to work on and clean up before the regular season, there were still some good things, and, as always, there were a few players who stood out in Week 3.
After the last couple years of putrid special teams, the fans should be thrilled with how the unit played as a whole throughout the game. They played great on punts, kicks and the rookie specialists shined. On the first two punt returns of the game, the Browns drove the Buccaneers blockers so far back that they were able to knock over the punter each time, which led to a couple of extremely mediocre punts. If the Browns can find ways to do that consistently, it will help them tremendously with winning the field position battle, which will give them a huge boost on both sides of the ball. They also consistently made plays on the kickoff team as well allowing a mere 18 yards per return, which is a terrific thing to see.
The rookie specialist got all the reps in this game and they absolutely did not disappoint. Kicker Austin Seibert was perfect from the field, which I’ll touch on more soon, and punter Jamie “The Scottish Hammer” Gillian and his Mike Clevinger-like flow looked great as well. Gillian had a busy night with six punts for an average of 48 yards, a long of 54 and three of his punts landing inside the 20. Gillian has proved so far to be a capable punter and he’s making a case to be on a team whether it’s the Browns or another NFL roster. Overall, Cleveland looked incredible on special teams all night; they already look improved on offense and defense on paper, so a significant improvement on special teams as well will lead to a magical season in Cleveland.
Ladies and gentlemen, I believe we finally have a winner! Austin Seibert might have finally separated himself as the starting kicker with a perfect 4-4 performance. He accounted for all 12 points and this game should give him plenty of confidence heading into the final week of the preseason. At this point, it’s definitely the draft pick’s job to lose and hopefully he will continue to play well like this. The Browns lost a few games because of kicking and one could even make the argument that that’s why they missed the playoffs. Seibert showing ability to kick that 54-yard field goal was such a great sign and should be a massive sigh of relief for Browns fans everywhere. The Browns are so desperate for a consistent kicker and Seibert might just prove to be the guy they’ve been looking for.
Vernon was finally on the field for an extended period of time and he didn’t disappoint against one of the better right tackles in the NFL. Vernon flashed the scary potential of this dynamic edge-rushing combo finishing with two sacks. One of the sacks was probably the play of the night for Cleveland and it was one of the most dominant pass-rushing moves we will see all year as he just ran over tackle Demar Dotson and crushed Jameis Winston in the backfield right before Myles Garrett would have leveled him from the opposite side. Olivier Vernon showed that he should flourish opposite of Myles Garrett and the duo will be a major threat to opposing teams wreaking havoc in opponent’s backfields all year long.
Joe Schobert has been a key piece of the Browns defense the last couple years and that will continue this year. Schobert should have a huge year with the new acquisitions to the defensive line because it should allow him to run freely from sideline to sideline and make plays. His biggest weakness is shedding blockers, but he won’t have to worry about that as with this defensive front and he can utilize one of his biggest strengths, shooting gaps to make plays. Schobert was everywhere in Week 3, which was enough to draw constant praise throughout his playtime from the announcers. The former Pro Bowl LB should have yet another great year in the middle of the defense finishing toward the top of the league in tackles while being one of the top cover linebackers in the NFL barring any missed time.
The Browns have clearly been desperate for help on the interior defensive line behind stud starters Sheldon Richardson and Larry Ogunjobi since they reportedly went after both Gerald McCoy and Mike Daniels. Devaroe Lawrence, however, is the one who has answered the bell by having three-straight strong efforts in the preseason with this most recent game being his best. He shined in Week 1, but it seemed like he was unblocked sometimes. In this game, though, he was shedding blockers and living in the backfield.
Sure, he’s getting one on ones because of all the talent around him, but that’s what he’ll face in the regular season and he’s proving to be extremely productive finishing with two sacks and three total tackles on the day.
With the emergence of Lawrence, the Browns don’t have to be so desperate to find someone that can give them quality snaps when Ogunjobi or Richardson need a break. At this point, Lawrence is looking close to a lock to make the final roster cuts and he has a chance to carve out a nice role in this defense during the season.