CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – Regardless of how bad it looked on TV while sitting on the couch Friday night, Hue Jackson did his best to put out the fire Saturday.
You name it – penalties, sacks, big plays and long drives allowed, missed tackled and anything else you can think of – it went wrong in a 30-13 loss to Tampa Bay in what was supposed to be a dress rehearsal that saw the Browns undressed on national TV.
Outside of a few big plays to Josh Gordon, the Browns did not play well in any phase – offense, defense or special teams – raising concerns about just how far the Browns have to go to become competitive again.
“Boy you guys, all of a sudden the sky is falling. I didn’t know that. I don’t think the sky is falling at all,” Jackson said Saturday on a conference call.
While it’s the preseason and you can throw the box scores and statistics in the trash, some disturbing trends defensively are emerging: long drives, blown coverages, missed tackles, big plays and a lot of points allowed.
“Am I concerned about some things? Absolutely,” Jackson said.
But they are things he is confident that his coaching staff can fix them.
With the Week 1 opener in Philadelphia 15 days away, it sure seems like there is an awful lot to fix in such a short amount of time.
“I don’t feel like there’s too much work to be done,” Jackson said. “I think sometimes when you watch a game like that and you go, ‘Oh, wow. Nothing’s going well,’ but I think we all know that it’s just 1 player here or 1 play there or 1 miss here or 1 missed opportunity there that makes you feel that way.”
Jackson is trying to instill a winning culture while rebuilding from the ground up and it’s not going to be easy.
“I never said we were going to be a juggernaut today or yesterday,” Jackson said. “We’re going to keep working at this thing, and when the games start being played here in a couple weeks, that’s when we’ve got to be at our best.”
Jackson touched on other topics:
– Robert Griffin III was 8 of 14 for 119 yards including a 43-yard TD to Josh Gordon.
“He did some really good things under duress obviously,” Jackson said. “Obviously, he continues to find ways to make plays down the field, and he’s putting the ball in the right spots and putting his eyes in the right spots. He took some hits last night that were unfortunate. We always want to do a better job of protecting our quarterback. He stood in there, kept his poise and made some plays. But I just think he’d be the first to tell you as a unit, we’ve got to play better, and it’s just not him.”
– Center Cameron Erving is playing up to expectations and he doesn’t feel the need to replace him. “I think Cam’s doing a lot of really good things. He’s a young player who’s ascending who I think is going to be a tremendous football player for us,” Jackson said.
– Austin Pasztor will also remain at right tackle.
“I think Austin did some good things,” Jackson said. “It was unfortunate that he had a holding call. I think we can help him that way by doing certain other things to help him, but I thought he did some other good things in the run game and I think he did some other things pretty good in the passing game. It was unfortunate he got that holding call on him, and he has to get better fundamentally that way.”
– The pass protection isn’t as bad as it looks and the offensive line isn’t solely to blame.
“I think everybody thinks it’s pass protection. It could be other things,” Jackson said. “I’m not going to get into all of those, but just know we did not function as a passing team in those areas last night. It’s not just the line. I’ll be the first to tell you that. Sometimes receivers need to be in the right place. Sometimes guys get rerouted and all of a sudden you might have to hold the ball a little bit here and there and sometimes the line has to strain a little bit more, but for a passing game to work, it’s not just the line. Everybody has a part of that – the quarterback, the line, the receivers. Everybody plays a role in that.”
– Danny Shelton’s playing time Friday night was not a reflection of Shelton or because the coaches wer unhappy with him.
“Nothing is going on with his playing time,” Jackson said. “We just gave him more playing time in situations – they didn’t have a goal line snap; they were still playing in their three-wide system. There are times in nickel that we play him, and there are times that we don’t so it’s not so much his playing time. I just think he was out there in certain situations with a group. We are evaluating and trying to see what is going to be the best fit for all of our guys.
“I think Danny did some good things and improved in some areas last night. Again, I will keep saying, as a football team, we have to get better across the board.”
– The Browns came out of the game with just 2 injuries: cornerback Justin Gilbert has a concussion and receiver Marlon Moore has a hip-pointer.