The “dress rehearsal” for the Cleveland Browns takes place Saturday night as they travel down to Tampa Bay to battle with the Buccaneers.
While the defense looks to be ready for the regular season, the offense still needs some work.
DeShone Kizer will get the start at quarterback as he continues his ascent in the Browns organization. The second round pick out of Notre Dame was thought by many to be a project and wouldn’t be ready to start this season. However, he’s continued to look and get better as each week progresses.
It also helps that both Brock Osweiler and Cody Kessler couldn’t put a firm grip on the starting position. Kizer is clearly the best option at football’s most important position and as long as he doesn’t completely fail, he will be the starting quarterback for the regular season opener against Pittsburgh on September 10.
Kizer will have left tackle Joe Thomas protecting him when Thomas makes his first snaps of the preseason. The future Hall of Famer has sat the first two games as he should stay well rested for the regular season to keep the streak of nearly 10,000 consecutive snaps in tact.
Hopefully running back Isaiah Crowell will be back from his groin injury to give Kizer a strong running game to lean on. Crowell missed Monday’s game against the Giants but coach Hue Jackson said he should play on Saturday night.
The Buccaneers defense has a lot of potential to be one of the best in the league. Led by Gerald McCoy who will not play on Saturday, they’re young and aren’t afraid to get physical. With McCoy out, watch out for guys like Noah Spence, Robert Ayers, Kwon Alexander and Lavonte David.
As for the defense, they’ll be in for another tough matchup this week. They stepped up to the challenge against a high powered Giants offense but they’re possibly facing an even greater offense in Tampa Bay’s.
Led by quarterback Jameis Winston, this Buccaneers offense can lead this team as far as they want to go. A strong running game with Doug Martin and a deadly combination of receivers like Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson and rookie tight end OJ Howard has the Buccaneers fan base thinking playoffs and maybe even a surprise Super Bowl run.
A young offensive line that is growing and improving could be in for a tough night facing a defensive front led by Myles Garrett who got his first sack as a pro on Monday night. Danny Shelton is still out with a knee injury but guys like Jamie Meder and Trevon Coley to fill the inside effectively.
Joe Schobert has been a force at the linebacker position and now that he has the starting role with Tank Carder’s season ending injury, expect him to take full advantage of his opportunity.
The secondary is in for a tough matchup against those playmakers at the wide receiver and tight end positions. If the pass rush can cause havoc for Winston, Joe Haden and Jason McCourty will have the opportunity to shut down Evans and Jackson and maybe get one of Winston’s erratic throws for an interception.
This is the one preseason game that everyone pays attention to and you get a good sense of what the team is going to be in the regular season.
The Browns and Buccaneers met in the dress rehearsal game last year and the Buccaneers offense torched the Browns defense for 27 points in the first half and their defense got to Robert Griffin III five times and if it wasn’t for Josh Gordon’s two big plays, fans wouldn’t have been hopeful Griffin was going to resurrect his career.
I’m hoping Kizer continues to show his growth as a quarterback against a tough Tampa defense. If he makes mistakes, he’s a rookie and there’s been no perfect rookie quarterbacks in this league. Kizer and coach Jackson should rely on the running game to help set up this offense and to make Kizer feel as comfortable as possible on the field.
As for the defense, keep building on the momentum you’ve created. You showed you can stop a high powered offense on a national level, show it again against another strong offense in Tampa’s. Bring the pass rush and make Winston feel uncomfortable from the start and force him to make bad decisions that you can capitalize on and give the offense something to work with.
And like I’ve been saying and will keep saying, “Just Win Baby!”