AFC North: Cleveland Browns

BEREA, Ohio -- It was a busy day for the Cleveland Browns on Monday.

First they released staring outside linebacker Paul Kruger.

K'Waun WilliamsFrank Jansky/Icon SportswireK'Waun Williams had been struggling in training camp was losing his job to Jamar Taylor.

Then they released last seasons's nickel back K'Waun Williams, who had been suspended the past two weeks for violating team rules.

Then they traded punter Andy Lee, a three-time Pro Bowler. In exchange they received a fourth-round pick in 2018 and Kasey Redfern, a first-year punter.

This just a few days after the Browns traded Barkevious Mingo, a former sixth overall pick to New England for a fifth-round draft pick in 2017.

The overhaul rolls on, with a continued emphasis on future draft picks and young players. Just six players remain in the roster who are over 30 years old -- Josh McCown, Tramon Williams, John Greco, Joe Thomas, Gary Barnidge and Andrew Hawkins.

In exchange for a punter, the Browns received a fourth-round draft pick in 2018 -- a high return. A fourth-round choice matches the highest draft pick a team has received for a punter since 1994, according to ProFootballReference.com.

The last time that happened was 2005, when Carolina traded Todd Sauerbrun to Denver. There have been only five trades for punters since 1994, with Lee involved in two of them.

The deal took place three days after coach Hue Jackson castigated Lee on the sidelines for his lack of effort on a return in Friday's third preseason game. Jackson said after the game Lee made amends with his effort on a later return and the Browns and he would "move on."

Williams was the Browns nickel back the last two seasons, but was losing his job to Jamar Taylor in camp. He was suspended by the Browns for the past two weeks for unspecified violations of team rules. Williams' agent Evan Krakower told Cleveland.com he would appeal the suspension.

"K'Waun was one of my really good friends on the team," Joe Haden said of Williams on Aug. 21. "Just a tough situation. Some people, you gotta really love this to be here. It's a lot of hours, a lot of things you have to put into it, and if your'e not all-in to it then it's no one's place to tell you what you want to do.

"I'm here for K'Waun whatever he wants to do, but we've got to just keep moving on with who we've got here."

Kruger departs because the Browns did not plan to play him every down and the team wondered how he'd react to a reduced role.

His production had dropped from 11 sacks in 2014 to 2.5 in 2015 -- though those numbers were affected by switching him from weak to the strong side. The move angered Kruger and caught teammates by surprise. The remaining Browns outside linebackers have three career sacks, total.

The team tried to address the outside pass rush in the draft by taking Emmanuel Ogbah with the first pick in the second round, so Ogbah figures to get the first chance to replace Kruger. He is listed as the starter on the unofficial depth chart released Monday.

The Browns have asked a lot of Ogbah. In the spring, he was an outside linebacker. In the fall he moved to a down lineman following the loss of Desmond Bryant to injury, and looked good playing there. Now he'll move back to outside linebacker and likely line up with his hand down in pass rush situations.

"I think he'll be fine," Jackson said.

Others who will get a look include fourth-round pick Joe Schobert and Cam Johnson, who spent most of 2015 on the Browns practice squad.

The Cleveland Browns must cut their roster to 75 by 4 p.m. Tuesday (Aug. 30) and to 53 by 4 p.m. Saturday (Sept. 3). Here’s a 53-man roster projection:

QUARTERBACK (3): Robert Griffin III, Josh McCown, Cody Kessler

The top two on the depth chart have had a history with injury, so don't be surprised if Austin Davis returns at some point.

RUNNING BACK (3): Isaiah Crowell, Duke Johnson Jr., Raheem Mostert

Mostert gets the nod as the third back because he's listed as the top kickoff returner. Crowell and Johnson are vital parts of Hue Jackson's offense.

FULLBACK (1): Malcolm Johnson

Not sure if he'll average even 20 plays per game given the multiple formations Jackson uses.

Josh GordonScott Cunningham/Getty Images)Josh Gordon will miss the first four games.

WIDE RECEIVER (6): Terrelle Pryor, Corey Coleman, Andrew Hawkins, Rashard Higgins, Jordan Payton, Marlon Moore

Josh Gordon will be suspended the first four games; his return changes the receiving group. His suspension opens up a spot for Payton. Ricardo Louis heads to the practice squad.

TIGHT END (3): Gary Barnidge, Connor Hamlett, Randall Telfer

Barnidge might not repeat his success from 2015, but he'll be every bit as good a player. Hamlett could be an effective and tall weapon in the scoring zone.

OFFENSIVE LINE (9): Joe Thomas, Joel Bitonio, Cam Erving, John Greco, Austin Pasztor, Dan France, Garth Gerhart, Spencer Drango, Shon Coleman

Whether they admit it publicly or not, there are serious concerns about Erving at center and about the right tackle spot. Nobody has emerged as solid replacements for lost players, and both Erving and Pasztor have had lowlight screen moments.

DEFENSIVE LINE (7): John Hughes, Danny Shelton, Xavier Cooper, Carl Nassib, Jamie Meder, Emmanuel Ogbah, Nick Hayden

This unit lacked depth and impact when training camp started, and although it has a couple of rookies who can contribute, the line still lacks depth and impact.

LINEBACKER (8): Paul Kruger, Demario Davis, Chris Kirksey, Nate Orchard, Tank Carder, Dominique Alexander, Justin Tuggle, Joe Schobert

See the comment on the defensive line about lack of depth and impact. This could be a very, very long season for the defense.

SECONDARY (10): Joe Haden, Jamar Taylor, Tramon Williams, Charles Gaines, Pierre Desir, Jordan Poyer, Ibraheim Campbell, Rahim Moore, Derrick Kindred, Trey Caldwell

Taylor had a chance to win a job, but the way he played leaves the door open for Williams to start and Taylor to be the nickel. It's just not possible to see Justin Gilbert on the roster. The Browns forced him on the field over and over, and he was, at best, inconsistent.

SPECIALIST (3): K Patrick Murray, P Andy Lee, LS Charley Hughlett

Murray beats out Travis Coons in what seems like a pretty easy decision. It will take Lee a while to live down his non-effort on Tampa Bay's punt return touchdown Friday night.

The Cleveland Browns might look at Josh Gordon's late first-half touchdown catch as a good sign from Friday night's game in Tampa Bay.

But if they let that obscure the other realities from this 30-13 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, they're fooling themselves.

Prior to that touchdown throw, the offense struggled and the defense looked anemic. At certain points, it would have been hard for the Browns to look worse, which is concerning given it was the third preseason game, which by most accounts is supposed to be the most important one.

With the starters on the field, the Browns didn't rush the passer, didn't stop the pass, didn't pass the ball, didn't protect the quarterback and didn't tackle on special teams.

"We sprung a leak in a lot of different places," coach Hue Jackson said.

Were it not for Gordon, they would not have come close to scoring. His 44-yard catch on the first third down of the game set up a field goal, and his acrobatic catch of a 43-yard touchdown late in the half gave the Browns their only TD.

Those two plays accounted for 87 of the team's 163 total yards.

The two plays count, but take them away and Robert Griffin III was 6-for-12 for 32 yards. He was sacked five times. He fumbled once. And after converting his first two third downs on throws to Gordon and Gary Barnidge, he missed his next five -- and was sacked on three of them.

Griffin has been productive in the preseason when he can throw the ball deep to one of the Browns receivers running down the sideline, but the third preseason game did little to prove he's past the pocket passing issues that dogged him in Washington.

"We cant just live by the long ball," Jackson said. "It's good. We're scoring. We'll take that, but at the same time we have to have other elements of our offense show up."

Credit him and Gordon for the deep balls, but at this point of the preseason, it would have been nice to see the offense operate a little more efficiently and the defense at least provide token resistance to Jameis Winston.

This was a bad third preseason game.

"I'm not going to accept this," Jackson said. "We're going to go back to work and fix this."

QB depth chart: Jackson gave Griffin one half, then went right to Josh McCown. There will be no change in this depth chart. Griffin will be the Browns' starter.

Maybe that player could start: The Browns have this receiver who will be suspended the first four games of the season. Guy named Gordon, first name Josh. Guy who's tall, can run like a gazelle, has amazing ability to get balls that are up for grabs and who makes a quarterback better. Jackson probably can't wait for the fifth game.

Who got hurt? Cornerback Justin Gilbert left the game in the second quarter with a concussion. Backup receiver and special teams standout Marlon Moore left in the first half with a hip injury.

When it was starters vs. starters, the Browns looked ... : Brutally overmatched, which isn't good given this is the "key" preseason game. At one point, the Bucs were doing everything they wanted and led 27-3 with six minutes left in the second quarter. Consider these first half stats: Winston threw for 259 yards and two touchdowns. The Bucs had 305 yards to 163 for the Browns. And the Bucs passing game produced 259 yards to the Browns' 98. Big plays to Gordon or no big plays, this was a dud.

One reason to be concerned: Danny Shelton was the 12th overall pick in the 2015 draft, the first of two first-round picks. Though he forced a second-half fumble, he has not been very visible in preseason. Whether that is cause for concern is up for debate, but Shelton has gone two games in a row in which he played in the third quarter. That is not typical for starters.

Protection or decisions? On two third downs in the first half, Griffin was sacked. On both, he had time to throw and either saw nobody to throw to or did not make a decision. Or, according to Jackson, he ran out of time. "We're not holding the ball too long," Jackson said. The concern: That kind of play from the pocket cost Griffin his job in Washington. He has the confidence of his coach in Cleveland, but it would have been nice to see him make a throw from the pocket. His big plays in the preseason have all been on throws when he flung it deep to receivers running down the sideline.

Excitement fizzles: There was a lot of chatter about getting Gordon, Terrelle Pryor and first-round pick Corey Coleman on the field for the first time. Gordon produced on two deep balls. Pryor had two receptions for 15 yards and after missing one third down, complained to the official about a penalty that was not called. Coleman had one reception, but it was called back by penalty. He had two other targets, but did not have a reception. Clearly there is work to be done.

Special failures: It wasn't just the offense and defense that let down. Special teams contributed, as well. The starters gave up a 73-yard punt return for a touchdown in the first half, the backups a 43-yard return that set up a field goal in the second half. This was not a good night for the team.

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Robert Griffin III tried to downplay things, but folks around the NFL will do the opposite.

When the Cleveland Browns visit the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Friday night for their third preseason game, the Browns will have Griffin on the field with his full complement of receivers.

Josh Gordon, first-round pick Corey Coleman and Andrew Hawkins will play for the first time this preseason, joining Terrelle Pryor and giving fans and the rest of the league a look at what the Browns could be.

Robert Griffin IIIMark LoMoglio/Icon SportswireRobert Griffin III's deep balls will have some big, speedy receivers to run under them when the Browns face the Buccaneers on Friday.

They won't be together in a game that counts until Week 5, thanks to Gordon's four-game suspension, but the hope is that Griffin and this receiving crew provide the big plays the Browns' offense needs.

Griffin said he wouldn't think in terms of talent but rather in terms of making the right read and throwing the ball to the right guy, but even in talking about that approach he showed the feeling about the potential with the receiving group.

"There's a lot of fish in the tank," Griffin said. "And it's up to us to feed them the right way."

It is an unknown in some ways. The group is talented, but questions need to be answered.

Gordon is coming off a yearlong suspension and has missed 27 of the past 32 games to suspensions. Pryor is trying to move from quarterback to receiver. Coleman is a talented but unproven first-round pick. And Hawkins has averaged 35 catches in his five seasons.

But this is Cleveland, where hope always springs eternal, especially with the Browns … and most especially in preseason.

"We've got a lot of talent on the field," Coleman said. "It's kind of scary. So many guys can do different things."

"I don't want to put bulletin-board material and stuff on there because we're all pros out here," Pryor said. "We're all going to battle. But if you look at just the size and the speed of what me and Josh have, of course, it's somewhat of a disadvantage [for defenses].

"We've got great talent. Corey is coming back. Hawk's coming back. We're starting to get our guys back. So it's exciting."

Gordon talked openly of being a group that can stretch the defense, and of how the deep ball will be part of the Browns' offense.

"We've got the ability and the talent to stretch the field in every direction," Gordon said.

Gordon has received positive reviews since he returned from a quadriceps injury that delayed his reinstatement return for two weeks. Cornerback Jamar Taylor told cleveland.com that Gordon can be "a terror." Joe Haden called Gordon "a freak."

Pryor has done nothing but impress from the offseason through the preseason. Even coach Hue Jackson said the fourth-year player has been "excellent" through camp and preseason.

Coleman had an excellent two weeks of practice before straining his hamstring. The Bucs game will be his NFL preseason debut.

Does all that translate into regular-season success? Time will tell. The Browns' recent history is filled with regular-season disappointment that followed preseason hype.

But with the receivers at least there is a starting point. Add Griffin's ability to throw the deep ball and the Browns' offense becomes much more intriguing with its top players on the field.

"They provide us with some opportunities to do some things that we like to do," Jackson said. "We have a lot of good guys, a lot of different pieces that we can use ... we just have to keep getting better."

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It really should not rank as any kind of deal when a team trades a pass-rusher who had seven sacks in three seasons.

That's what the Browns did when they sent Barkevious Mingo to New England. They traded a pass-rusher who didn't produce.

The deal about the deal is that the Browns whiffed on another first-round pick. Another high first-round pick.

The poor record of the Browns' top picks would make anyone sick. Add in that many were top-10 picks and it's worse.

Since the Browns took Joe Haden in 2010, the first-round picks have gone this way:

  • DT Phil Taylor, 21st overall — Did well for Browns, was recently released by Denver. Will always be "the guy the Browns acquired when they gave up the right to draft wide receiver Julio Jones."
  • QB Brandon Weeden, 22nd overall — Now a backup in Houston.
  • RB Trent Richardson, third overall — Out of the NFL.
  • Mingo, sixth overall — Traded to New England.
  • QB Johnny Manziel, 22nd overall — Out of the NFL.
  • CB Justin Gilbert, eighth overall — Fighting for a roster spot.
  • C Cam Erving, 19th overall — Slated to start at center, but results have been mixed on his play.
  • NT Danny Shelton, 12th overall — Starting nose tackle, but played in the third quarter of preseason game two, which usually is a sign team is concerned with him.
  • WR Corey Coleman, 15th overall — Looked very good in initial practices; just coming back from a hamstring issue.

Barkevious MingoRon Schwane/USA TODAY SportsThe Browns struggled to find the correct position for Barkevious Mingo.

Does losing Mingo matter?

Not much. Ray Horton coached Mingo in 2013; he coached him again. It says something that Horton could not find a spot for him.

Mingo proved to be what the knock against him was when he came out of LSU: Too thin to play in the more demanding NFL. Weight was always an issue for Mingo. This season he supposedly put on 20 pounds, but it never showed on the field, in practice or games.

He was not strong enough to play every down, not talented enough to rush the passer, not skilled enough to play in coverage. When Horton tried him inside in camp, it was a sign the Browns were flailing. He leaves Cleveland with seven sacks, three of them in his first three games, four in his last 43. Somehow the Browns got a fifth-round pick for a player with those numbers.

This regime has no ties to past high picks. Since March, Sashi Brown and Hue Jackson have let two go, via release and trade: Manziel and Mingo.

The remaining ones have yet to prove themselves. Gilbert is fighting for a roster spot. Erving and Shelton will be on the team, but their future in Cleveland probably depends on how they play this season.

Going back and ripping draft picks is always easy. A couple of the Browns' picks made sense at the time and didn't work out. A couple were slated for problems from the second they were picked.

Regardless, the bottom line is the bottom line: From 2007 through 2014, the Browns had 10 first-round picks. Three remain on the roster -- Joe Thomas, Haden and Gilbert.

CLEVELAND -- Hue Jackson's breakdown of the two touchdown passes thrown by Robert Griffin III Thursday night illustrated the growth that the Browns coach said he sees in the team's quarterback.

The most encouraging part of Jackson's analysis? Griffin threw from the pocket and made the right decisions.

"The reads were exactly what they needed to be," Jackson said the day after Griffin's good night in a preseason loss to Atlanta. "I think the quality of the throws were excellent."

The first touchdown was down the right sideline for 50 yards to Terrelle Pryor. The second was a 29-yard touch-and-distance pass to Gary Barnidge.

"Obviously it was a heck of a catch by Barnidge and it was a heck of a play by Terrelle Pryor," Jackson said. "[Griffin] threw both balls where they needed to be and [the throws] went to the right people."

Was one throw better than another?

"No, I love them both," Jackson said. "When they end up in touchdowns, I like both of them."

Robert GriffinScott R. Galvin/USA TODAY SportsBrowns quarterback Robert Griffin III had a much stronger second preseason game on Thursday against the Falcons.

None of this certifies Griffin as "back" from a season when he did not play a down in Washington. Sometimes a quarterback looks his best in preseason, and the regular-season defenses Griffin will see will be exponentially more complex than they defenses he's seeing in preseason games.

what Griffin did against the Falcons should not be ignored, either. It was a positive step after a stumbling opener. Against Green Bay, Griffin went 3-for-7 after an initial long pass to Pryor. Jackson especially lamented a goal-line interception in the opener. Against Atlanta, Griffin did not turn the ball over and seemed to make the right decisions as he completed 6 of 8 passes.

"We want to be a dynamic offense that can score, whether it's by land or by air, at any time," Jackson said. "I think we have those kind of players."

Having the players and actually having the plays are different things, though. In the opener, the players did not make the plays. In Game 2, they did.

"That tells me that Robert is growing in what he needs to do and that tells me that our guys are getting in the right spots and creating those opportunities for a big play," Jackson said.

Griffin's rating went from 39.1 after the first game to 110.2 after the second. Passer ratings sometimes can be quirky, but this one accurately reflects how much better the second game was than the first.

This upcoming week will be important, as the Browns will practice twice in Tampa Bay before the two teams play in their third preseason game Aug. 26.

Jackson hopes to get receivers Corey Coleman and Josh Gordon into the practices, and admitted it will be important for Coleman and cornerback Joe Haden (coming back from ankle surgery) to play in the third game.

The third game is probably the last one the starters will play in preseason. Traditionally the fourth preseason game is for younger players. Once this game is finished, the regular-season planning starts in earnest.

That makes it evident how important this week is for Griffin as well.

"Every week is important for Robert," Jackson said. "There's not a week that wouldn't be important for quarterbacks."

BEREA, Ohio -- Joe Thomas has rewarded John Greco.

Sort of.

Last week Greco pointed out that he had received "nothing" from Thomas for being the first individual to appear on Thomas' Twitter Q & As with "some of the most famous people in the world." It's all part of Thomas' debut on Twitter, which began Aug. 9.

Greco is well aware that some radio stations give gift cards to interview subjects, and pointed out what Thomas gave him for helping get the project off the ground: "Nothing."

So Thomas responded to what he called Greco's "well documented weeping and gnashing of teeth." And he did it in perhaps the most Joe Thomas way possible:


Perhaps because of the controversy, there was no Q & A for the second preseason game versus Atlanta.

CLEVELAND -- Robert Griffin III provided needed relief for the Cleveland Browns in their second preseason game.

After a blasť opener, Griffin had a second game full of life. In five first-half possessions, Griffin had two touchdown passes -- 50 yards to Terrelle Pryor and 29 to Gary Barnidge.

Amidst all the discussion about Griffin's skills or lack thereof, one that can't be argued about is his ability to throw the deep ball. His arm strength and touch make that one of his better skills, and he showed that ability on both throws Thursday night in a 24-13 Browns loss.

The 50-yard TD pass allowed Pryor to race past Desmond Trufant for the catch. The 29-yarder to Barnidge down the sideline was a perfectly thrown ball that only Barnidge could catch and only a strong-armed quarterback could throw.

AP Photo/Ron SchwaneRobert Griffin III looked more at ease on Friday than he did last week, throwing two long touchdown passes.

The play required distance and touch. Griffin provided both.

Griffin's performance does not signal he's back to his rookie form, but it was no mirage either. He took needed positive steps from Game 1 to Game 2. He did not turn the ball over, threw and ran well, and scored two touchdowns.

This was a game he -- and the Browns -- needed.

QB depth chart: It would take a front-end loader to upset this depth chart. Hue Jackson commits to a quarterback and stays committed to him until there's no longer a reason to do so. Game 2 had to be a pick-me-up, as Griffin looked good, played poised and showed that he can be effective as a runner and passer. His 132 total yards in the first half were 83 percent of the Browns' offense.

Maybe that player could start: Rookie defensive lineman Carl Nassib has this thing he does -- he makes plays. Given opportunities, Nassib takes advantage. He's around the ball, pressures the quarterback and plays a smart game. And he does it after missing the entire offseason. Nassib is quiet and largely unnoticed -- until he plays in games. Consider the third quarter, when on a third down Nassib provided a strip sack that turned the ball over. Nassib sacked Matt Simms, forced the fumble and then recovered.

Who got hurt? Rahim Moore left the game and was evaluated for a concussion on a play in which he was penalized 15 yards. Other than that, the Browns reported no injuries. Receivers Josh Gordon and Corey Coleman were both in uniform, but did not play. Them dressing out might indicate that both will be on the field next week when the Browns practice in Tampa Bay, and perhaps even play in the third preseason game.

A surprise player who impressed: The Browns acquired cornerback Jamar Taylor on the final day of the draft. Taylor was a second-round pick in Miami in 2013 but never worked out with the Dolphins. The Browns hope a change of scenery would help him, and it appears it has. Taylor was active against Atlanta, breaking up a third-down throw and providing tight coverage. Taylor's emergence means he has supplanted K'Waun Williams as the team's nickelback. If Taylor keeps playing like he has been, he could well push for the starting spot held by Tramon Williams.

When it was starters vs. starters, the Browns looked ... : Much better than in Game 1. Griffin had two touchdown passes, and the defense held the Falcons scoreless after Atlanta completed a TD drive on its first possession. A game that started poorly on both sides of the ball turned into a 13-7 lead thanks to Griffin's touch on deep throws and better play from the defense. This was a step forward for a team that needed a positive step after a blah opener.

One reason to be concerned: Late in the first half, Cameron Erving sailed a snap so high over Griffin's head that all he could do was turn and chase it down. This has been a disturbing pattern. In a practice a little over a week ago, Erving had two snaps fly over Griffin's head and two that Griffin had to leap to catch. In the preseason opener, he had two high snaps Griffin had to leap to grab. Griffin might not have touched the errant snap Thursday with a stepladder. In a game that matters, that kind of a snap could be very damaging.

Defensive concerns: Atlanta's first-team offense opened with a 71-yard touchdown drive. In the first half, the Falcons had 234 yards of total offense -- though 75 came on the Falcons' final possession with backups in the game. Griffin's production on offense made the numbers less impactful, but the coaches won't like the numbers. Atlanta eventually ran 79 plays and totaled 498 yards, which shows the oddity of preseason. Atlanta won going away, but the Browns had to feel good about what they saw from Griffin in the first half.

Sweet revenge: Pryor was flagged for a 15-yard personal-foul penalty early in the game after he and Truant got into a tussle. That Pryor later beat Truant for a touchdown reception later made him feel good. "Me and Trufant, we were battling and mouthing back and forth," Pryor said in quotes distributed by the team. "It was good because he hit me on the first play, and it was good to get back at him. I’m a competitive guy."

BEREA, Ohio -- It wasn't exactly a gauntlet, but it was significant.

Cleveland Browns coach Hue Jackson seemed taken back after his team's lackluster debut in the preseason opener against the Green Bay Packers.

Robert Griffin Dylan Buell/Getty Images"I didnt do a good enough job of helping us put points on the board, and thats what we want to do," Robert Griffin III said of his Browns debut.

The second game is Thursday night against the Atlanta Falcons.

"I think normally teams make a huge jump from Week 1 to Week 2," Jackson said the day after the 17-11 loss to Green Bay.

Quarterback Robert Griffin III got the message.

"It just means we as an offense and as a team have to go out and execute better," he said. "I didn’t do a good enough job of helping us put points on the board, and that’s what we want to do. That’s the name of our game. We have to go out and score points."

Preseason is what it is. Plays are limited, defenses are vanilla and offenses usually are working on specific areas of improvement.

The Browns, though, are continuing their never-ending cycle of new coach and new quarterback and new system. Which means while some teams refine, the Browns start anew.

In his two series in Green Bay, Griffin accounted for no points, one interception at the goal line, and 49 of 67 passing yards on one play.

A total of 101 quarterbacks played in Week 1 of the preseason. Griffin's 67 yards passing ranked 47th, his 39.1 rating ranked 90th, his completion percentage tied for 65th.

Preseason is preseason, but no coach wants to see any player squander an opportunity. If a player gets 10 plays, the idea is the 10 plays are the best they can be.

Griffin said he understands.

"Every time you’re out there, it’s a game until you’re not in the game," he said. "That’s the way you have to approach it."

In Green Bay, Griffin started with a deep throw to Terrelle Pryor for 49 yards. After that completion, he went 3-for-7 for 18 yards and an interception. The turnover especially bothered Jackson, who preaches protecting the ball in the red zone.

"We know we can have a better showing collectively as a group and that’s what we look forward to doing," Griffin said.

The Browns had an interesting week of practice following the game. There was one day of fullspeed work followed by two days of half-speed work. Gauging Griffin was tough -- though he added another over-the-fence throwaway on Tuesday.

Griffin talked during the week about having a lot of time before the regular season opener. (But in reality there isn't.

Griffin and the Browns play Game 2 vs. Atlanta, then head to Tampa Bay next week for two days of joint practices with the Bucs. Game 3 will be Friday, Aug. 26. The preseason finale, when the starters typically sit out, is the following Thursday. Griffin and the offense need to show something in these next eight days, which will include two games.

The season arrives like a freight train. Which is why Jackson made it clear he hopes to see significant improvement from the first to second game.

For his quarterback and his team, Cleveland Browns coach Hue Jackson took the bad with the good after a disappointing preseason opener Friday night.

Jackson said quarterback Robert Griffin III did some good things for a guy who hadn't played in a year, but he lamented Griffin not taking better care of the ball.

Jackson made it clear that despite what TV analysts said about Gary Barnidge not completing his route, the responsibility for a goal-line interception at the end of the Browns' first drive was Griffin's.

"Obviously when we're in the scoring zone, one of our goals is to make sure we're always taking care of the ball," Jackson said Saturday on a conference call. "Be very team-protecting. Sometimes, as we always say, you gotta just say uncle, throw it away, throw it somewhere else and give us another chance to call another play."

Robert Griffin III Jeffery Phelps/AP PhotoHue Jackson has preached ball security, especially near the end zone, to Robert Griffin III.

Griffin's throw from the 21 was intended for Barnidge at the goal line. But Griffin led Barnidge across the goal line, and he could not get there. NFL protocol calls for the quarterback to take the blame, and this play could be an instance of that. However, Griffin threw the ball to Barnidge when there was a linebacker underneath and a safety on top.

"I need to do a better job of coaching both of those guys," Jackson said. "I think Robert is an extension of me, and I think he'll be the first to tell you that he's got to take that ball and not throw it down the middle of the field in that situation.

"Again, until you really know guys can you, lead people into places where you want to lead them to ... I think it was a little too soon to try that."

Jackson said the 49-yard completion to Terrelle Pryor to start the night was something to build on, and he added that Griffin stood in the pocket when the protection was not ideal. He also lamented a botched handoff between Griffin and Isaiah Crowell on the first play after the completion to Pryor.

"Obviously we can't have a fumbled snap the second play of the game, and you never want to see the turnover," Jackson said. "But I thought he stood in the pocket and looked real relaxed, kept his poise and tried to make some throws downfield."

As he assessed his team, Jackson tried to stay positive, but at times lapsed into concerns -- especially on offense.

Griffin can't turn the ball over.

The protection wasn't what the coach wanted.

Timing on pass plays needs to improve.

The run game can be better.

The right side of the line needs to play better.

There were positives, especially from some of the Browns' draftees. Defensive linemen Carl Nassib and Emmanuel Ogbah played very well.

As for rookie quarterback Cody Kessler running out of the back of the end zone, Jackson said he has to help him with better playcalls.

"It's twofold," Jackson said. "He has to learn or make sure he takes care of the call, and we have to make sure that he's ready for that call. It goes both ways."

Quarterbacks who go backward never fare well.

Those who go backward in the end zone wind up in the land of embarrassment. Or in the land of "That's so Browns," places that might in fact be the same.

At some point that "so Browns" moniker will be retired. But it certainly won't happen on a night when a quarterback runs out of the back of the end zone.

Cleveland Browns rookie Cody Kessler threw a touchdown pass on his first attempt in Friday night's 17-11 preseason loss to the Green Bay Packers, but then ran behind the end line on his next play, giving Green Bay a safety and providing plenty of chuckles for anyone watching.

"I've never seen a play like that," said Packers safety Kyler Fackrell, who was on the field for the play. "I think he was obviously just trying to get the ball off and the other outside linebacker, Reggie [Gilbert], was putting on really good pressure and didn't allow him to work outside of him and forced him back."

The Packers' end zone had another line behind the one at the back of the end zone. Kessler said he thought he had room because he had not crossed the second line.

"When I was rolling back I saw that second line behind the end zone and I thought I had room," Kessler told the media in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

It wasn't until the officials called out a safety that he looked down and realized his mistake.

"I've got to [have] more awareness on that," Kessler said. "I've got to see that. The fact that I looked at the second line and kept thinking I had more room is still on me. It's not an excuse. I got to do better."

Said coach Hue Jackson: "We're going to grow from that, too. It was his first opportunity. It's unfortunate, but again, I'm going to take responsibility for all of these things. I have to coach this group better."

Dan Orlovsky had one of the more notorious instances of a player running out of the back of the end zone, and he did it in a regular-season game his Lions would go on to lose by two at Minnesota in 2008.

Kessler's came in his preseason debut, which took a bit of the sting away -- though a snarky internet will no doubt share video of the play to the point of overheating.

The fact that Kessler was sacked for another safety later in the game only added to the insult.

"I can't think of any time that I've seen that [two safeties]," Mackrell said. "It was pretty crazy."

Green Bay Packers reporter Rob Demovsky contributed to this report.

Robert Griffin III didn't embarrass himself Friday night in the Cleveland Browns' 17-11 loss in the preseason opener at Green Bay, but his first period of play will hardly put him on the road to Comeback Player of the Year.

Griffin had the same mixed bag in the game that he has shown in practice.

He started with a 49-yard completion to Terrelle Pryor down the sideline -- a play made possible by a veteran push by Pryor to create separation. That was Griffin's highlight, though, as the drive ended with an interception at the goal line and the next drive against Green Bay backups went nowhere.

On the interception, Griffin threw as if he expected Gary Barnidge to cross in front of a safety, but Barnidge kept running up the field. Coach Hue Jackson gave nobody any slack, saying he had emphasized avoiding turnovers, and his team had one in the scoring zone.

"We have to always be a team that takes care of the ball," Jackson said.

"That's on me," Griffin said. "I'm the quarterback. I have to make sure we are not hurting ourselves with penalties or turnovers."

The turnover short-circuited a drive that had reached the Packers' 21-yard-line -- and it came against what was mainly the Packers' starters. But with the Packers' backup defense on the field, Griffin and the rest of the starting unit got nothing done. Griffin missed three of four throws -- one when he threw a screen pass that would have gone nowhere into the ground, another when he badly overthrew Taylor Gabriel at the sideline on third down.

The Browns will find positives in Griffin's play, but his rating was below 40 -- he botched a handoff that could have been a turnover and got little done against the backups. Some of his reads were quick-hitting plays, on others he appeared to focus on one receiver.

The work continues.

Robert Griffin IIIAP Photo/Mike RoemerBrowns QB Robert Griffin III faced his share of pressure from the Packers in Friday night's preseason game.

QB depth chart: Nothing will change with the top two spots on this depth chart. Jackson committed to Griffin when he named him the starter. Griffin had good and bad moments in his two series. Josh McCown threw a touchdown pass, but had it called back because he crossed the line of scrimmage as he ran left to avoid a rush. The most noteworthy development on this unit was that Austin Davis took the third-team reps ahead of rookie Cody Kessler. Kessler's first throw late in the third quarter was a 10-yard touchdown pass to Rashard Higgins on a back-shoulder fade, but on his next dropback in the end zone, Kessler ran past the back line for a safety. It brought some chuckles from players on the sideline, but not from Jackson. Kessler later was tackled in the end zone for another safety.

Maybe that player could start: Pryor did start, and on the first series of the game had receptions for 49 and 8 yards. The deep throw came on the game's first play, the short catch converted a third down. Making the receptions was impressive enough for a quarterback in his second season trying to convert to receiver, but the way Pryor did it was more impressive. On the deep throw, he created separation with a late push, and on the short throw he caught the ball falling down. Receivers Corey Coleman and Josh Gordon did not play for the Browns, so when they return the competition will increase. But Pryor is doing nothing to hurt his cause.

Who got hurt? Pryor went for X-rays on his left hand after the game. Running back Isaiah Crowell also had X-rays on his shoulder. Jackson said he thought neither situation involved a serious injury. Backup receiver Rannell Hall twisted his left ankle when his leg was caught underneath him as he was tackled. Hall, who had been having a good camp, was taken off the field on a cart. The Browns played the game without Coleman (hamstring) and Gordon (quad). Davis also left the game because of concussion-like symptoms after he took a nasty hit trying to scramble.

Two players who impressed: Rookie defensive lineman Carl Nassib had been quiet in practice, but in the game he was anything but. Nassib correctly read a screen pass and was able to spin and chase down John Crockett before he could break free for a big gain. On back-to-back plays later in the second quarter, Nassib stopped a run after a short gain, then sacked Packers quarterback Joe Callahan. It was an impressive debut for a guy who did not practice at all during offseason work. Defensive lineman Emmanuel Ogbah also was impressive. He played a down end, played with force, and ran well. The Browns had to be pleased with both of their high draft picks on the defensive line.

When it was starters vs. starters, the Browns looked ...: Sloppy. A penalty on a punt gave the Packers a first down. A dropped kick after a safety turned the ball over to Green Bay. Griffin and Crowell missed connections on a handoff, putting the ball on the ground. Griffin and Barnidge missed connections at the goal line, which led to a Green Bay interception. A Griffin third-down throw sailed well over the head of Gabriel at the sideline. Those kinds of miscues led to these being the first words out of Jackson's mouth as he spoke to Channel 5 in Cleveland at halftime: "We've got work to do."

One reason to be concerned: Center Cam Erving is being given the first chance to replace Alex Mack, and he had missed about a week after bruising an elbow in practice. But he was pushed back on a play, missed another block, and at times seemed to struggle. Erving is an important a player in the center of the line. The Browns need him to be better.

First-game yards: First preseason games shouldn't be overemphasized. But the expectation of every coach in every game is that players make the most of the chance they are given. Here is a sampling of quarterbacks who played this weekend in their team's first preseason game and their total passing yards: Dan Orlovsky -- 164; Matt Moore -- 122; AJ McCarron -- 125; Matt Schaub -- 179; Nate Sudfeld -- 89; Carson Wentz -- 89; Ryan Griffin -- 148; Luke McCown -- 143; Jimmy Garoppolo -- 168; Derek Anderson -- 93; Ryan Mallett -- 91; Brandon Allen -- 138; Bryce Petty -- 93; Mark Sanchez -- 99. Griffin had 67 for the Browns, 49 coming on one throw. Josh McCown had five, giving the Browns' top two quarterbacks 72 combined yards. Meanwhile, Green Bay's Callahan threw for 124 yards with one touchdown. Callahan is Green Bay's third quarterback, an undrafted free agent from Wesley College.

What RG III said: Griffin had this comment about his play, as provided by the team after halftime: "Our operation was smooth getting in and out of the huddle, getting the plays and making the calls. We had a few mistakes, but overall, I thought it was good for us to get out and go against another team. We look forward to getting back on the field during the next preseason game."

If Robert Griffin III's attempt to resurrect his career were a marathon, he'd be on Mile 3.

Griffin has done what he can with the Cleveland Browns to this point, but the hard work and uphill climbs are still ahead. Like any marathon runner, Griffin takes it step by step.

Robert Griffin IIIAP Photo/Ron SchwaneRobert Griffin III opens the next chapter of his career Friday when the Browns open the preseason at Green Bay.

To get to this point, Griffin had to earn the starting-quarterback job. He was officially given that last week, though by every appearance it was his from the beginning of training camp. (Now comes the next step: playing well in preseason games, which builds confidence for the regular season.

"I’m really eager to see our whole football team against a different opponent," coach Hue Jackson said, "but obviously, to watch our quarterback under duress when it’s tough, when the other team is really coming after you."

It is in practice games that Griffin can take a step toward showing he has improved in an area that needed the most growth: the ability to drop, read, process and react to a defense. To this point, he has performed against a defense he understands. Now he goes against teams that will try to confuse him.

If he had any failing in Washington, it was that he demanded the Redskins make him into a pocket passer, and he then never performed well enough from the pocket to keep his job.

When the Browns signed Griffin, he vowed he could play in any kind of offense, including pocket passing. Griffin has the ability to run, but eventually in every game a quarterback has to make a throw from the pocket with the defense doing everything it can to prevent that throw.

Griffin's training-camp work peaked when it mattered most -- he looked good in two scrimmages last Friday and Saturday, with even backup Josh McCown saying Griffin had thrown the ball better those couple days than he had all camp. (But Griffin -- and the team -- followed with some "dog day" practices Tuesday and Wednesday, with too many balls on the ground and not enough plays.

In Friday's preseason opener at Green Bay, Griffin will be without two of the Browns' top receivers. Veteran Andrew Hawkins and first-round draft pick Corey Coleman both are sidelined by hamstring issues.

That does not change Griffin's goal.

"It’s to go out and execute," he said. "That’s always the goal. Any time you strap it up, you want to go win a game. Regardless of how long we play or whatnot -- that’s up to coach -- when we’re in there, we’ll be ready to go."

Generic stuff, but at this point the approach is more or less generic. Griffin did not play a down in 2015, and his career plummeted from being the second overall draft pick in 2013 to being a free-agent signee with the Browns, whose quarterback woes in recent years are legendary.

"Since he’s been here, he’s been a true leader," tight end Gary Barnidge said. "He’s embraced it."

Barnidge admitted, though, that the offense remains a work in progress.

"Everybody is learning,' Barnidge said. "It’s a new offense for everybody."

The Browns do not bring a product to Green Bay polished by experience and years of working together. They bring a new coach, a new offense and a new quarterback.

Steps forward merely head toward the finish line, which the Browns hope is a productive offense led by a rejuvenated quarterback on opening day, Sept. 11 in Philadelphia.

BEREA, Ohio -- Wide receiver Corey Coleman, the Cleveland Browns' first-round pick, will not play in Friday's preseason opener in Green Bay due to a hamstring issue.

Coleman got off to an excellent start in training camp but hasn't worked since last Friday's scrimmage. Coach Hue Jackson said he will not risk Coleman aggravating an injury that is not believed to be serious.

"It's my job to make sure that our players are OK," Jackson said after Wednesday's practice, held between claps of thunder.

Coleman's play had been one of the bright spots of camp, and though him missing one game does not ring alarm bells, it has to be mildly disappointing to the Browns that he can't play.

Jackson, though, said he would be careful with players dealing with strains or pulls because he wants them healthy when the games matter most. Wide receiver Andrew Hawkins also will miss the game with a hamstring issue.

"I’m going to be very cautious with our players," he said Tuesday. "Not just with him but with any of them that have, whether it’s these soft tissue injuries, hamstrings, whatever all those things are. We’ll make sure that we always do the right thing and make sure that we get our guys ready to play.”

Jackson noticed that Terrelle Pryor was laboring some in Wednesday's practice, and the coach pulled him. The receiver watched was was left with ice wrapped on his right calf.

"He’s willing to fight through it because guys want to have those opportunities that they’re getting, but at the same time, I have to be smart enough to tell a guy, ‘Hey, we need to back you down,'" Jackson said.

Jackson said he does not expect Pryor to miss much, if any, time.

As for breaking down the playing time, Jackson said he and the coaching staff would divvy up the time when they meet either Thursday or Friday.

Traditionally in preseason openers, the starting quarterback plays one quarter. Robert Griffin III, though, is a new quarterback in a new system and on a new team.

The only hint Jackson gave about playing time was that he hoped to see all four quarterbacks: Griffin, Josh McCown, Austin Davis and Cody Kessler.

That might indicate Griffin would get the traditional one quarter, though Jackson cautioned the way the game plays out could affect the decision.

"We’ll let that play itself out," Jackson said. "I want to get them all of that experience. I think they all need to play. I think they all deserve to play."

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