Browns vs. Buccaneers: Q&A with the Dawg Pound Daily


The Buccaneers welcome the Cleveland Browns to town on Saturday night as they face off in the third week of preseason action. This is generally the week that starters play the most in the preseason so its an important game for both teams.

Jameis Winston showed progress in his second preseason game on Monday Night Football against the Cincinnati Bengals, but will he be able to continue the improvement with extended playing time in week 3?

The Browns had a winning record for a while in 2014 before tailing off at the end of the season and missing the playoffs. They signed former Bucs QB Josh McCown in the offseason and expect him to start over former Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel.

We spoke with Thomas Moore of the Dawg Pound Daily to learn a little bit more about the Browns in preparation for tomorrow night’s game.

1. How long can we expect to see Cleveland’s starters on Saturday night?

It all depends on how well things go, especially on offense. Head coach Mike Pettine goes into these preseason games with a set number of plays that he wants to see out of the starters and tries to stick to that, rather than saying they will play a certain number of quarters. If the offense has two long drives to open the game, for example, they could be out midway through the second quarter.

The wildcard is quarterback Josh McCown. With Johnny Manziel out with a sore elbow, the coaching staff has to balance out the reward of giving McCown and the first team offense as much time as possible together under game conditions, with the risk of McCown getting hurt and the team looking at the real possibility of having Thad Lewis start the season-opening game against the New York Jets.

2. Mike Evans played his college ball with Johnny Manziel, but it sounds like we won’t see him Saturday night. What is the feeling among Browns fans when it comes to McCown vs. Manziel?

There is a rational segment of the fan base that understands and accepts that McCown, while certainly not anyone’s first choice as a starting quarterback, gives the Browns the best chance to win come Sundays this fall. Pettine and the coaching staff operate under the philosophy that the best players, regardless of where they were drafted, are going to be the ones getting the most playing time.

Then there is the Manziel Mafia who, despite all evidence to the contrary, believe Manziel should be named the starter immediately. The arguments revolve around the notion that because McCown is not good then Manziel has to automatically be better, or that the Browns must play Manziel to “see what they have.”

The reality is that, while Manziel has shown improvement, that improvement is relative to just how poorly prepared he was last season. Right now, he is simply not ready to be a starting quarterback in the NFL.

3. What Browns players should Bucs fans expect to make some big plays on Saturday night?

Keep an eye on rookies Danny Shelton and Xavier Cooper on defense, and Duke Johnson on offense.

Shelton is going to be a major problem for opposing offenses this fall, and Cooper is showing his knack for getting to the quarterback as he has three sacks through the first two preseason friendlies.

Johnson hasn’t seen the field yet because of hamstring problems, but is expected to play on Saturday. With the Browns looking to bring the running backs back into the passing game, Johnson’s explosiveness could cause some fun defensive mismatches.

4. After starting out strong last year and then fading at the end of the season, do you expect the Browns to make the leap into the Playoffs this year?

The Browns made strides last season and are more talented this year, but the playoffs are still a reach for a team that still has a lot of questions. The biggest obstacle is that they play in the AFC North – the NFL’s Group of Death – a division that sent three teams to the playoffs last season.

Next: Frazier confirms Smith will call defensive plays