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Hue Jackson will ponder playing Browns' starters in preseason finale

Head coach Hue Jackson might play the Cleveland Browns' starters in the fourth preseason game.

That would be a significant and unusual action, as coaches are loath to play the starters in the preseason finale because of the risk of injury.

But Jackson said he would "really think about that" in light of the way the Browns played in a 30-13 loss to Tampa Bay on Friday night.

The Browns fell behind the Bucs 27-3 with six minutes left in the first half and looked outmatched when it was starters vs. starters. Jackson said there is time before the season opener Sept. 11 to get better.

"All of a sudden the sky is falling?" Jackson said with a chuckle. "I don't see that. I don't think the sky is falling at all. I think what you see is a young football team that you're going to see some of that [struggle], especially early until they get well grounded.

"I think, like I said, there were some good things, and obviously there were some things that were concerning. We got to continue to work at it.

"I never said we'd be a juggernaut today, or yesterday."

The Browns have turned over the roster, with 52 of the 90 players either rookies, or first- or second-year players. Only 17 of the Browns have five or more years experience.

This is the building program the Browns have undertaken. The emphasis is on young players, collecting draft picks and growing under a coach they believe in.

That didn't make Friday's game easier to watch, though, as the Browns are trying to put together a team with a new quarterback, new right tackle and new center. The top three receivers caught one pass in the NFL last season, and one will be suspended for four games.

Among the issues in a winless preseason in which the Browns have been outscored 71-31:

  • An offense that has produced big plays, but not consistent drives. Jackson attributed some of the struggles to not running the ball well enough. He pointed out that Isaiah Crowell had some good runs, but "it was nothing sustainable that you can hang your hat on."

  • The play of Griffin, who has come up with big plays but Friday failed to convert five third downs in a row and was sacked five times. He had two big pass plays, but on 12 others he threw for 32 yards. Jackson said Griffin was not holding the ball too long, that the protection simply needs to be better and that the offense as a whole contributed to the sacks. He also had generally positive thoughts on his quarterback. "I thought he did some really good things, under duress obviously," Jackson said. "He continues to find ways to make plays down the field. He's putting the ball in the right spots and putting his eyes in the right spots."

  • The much ballyhooed debut of the team's receiving corps led to two big plays for Josh Gordon, but no completions to first-round pick Corey Coleman. Jackson said the attention might have gotten in Coleman's head. "So much has been said about this great receiving corps we have, but at the same time I think I think they understand you have to prove that on the field," Jackson said. "Sometimes there's a lot of anxiety that can be built up from that."

  • The defense has struggled in every preseason game. Jackson said he hopes some of that goes away when the experimenting with players stops. "I think what is important now is that we really start putting our units together and let them go play together,' Jackson said.