The Cleveland Browns have plenty of work to do if they want to run the ball and stop the run. Washington ran all over the Browns in pulling out a 20-17 preseason win Thursday night, and the Browns' run game was near nonexistent. Browns general manager Ray Farmer said before the game that the team was eager to see what the young backs could do. What the Browns saw was not very encouraging, as the team totaled 45 yards rushing compared to 153 for the Redskins.
QB depth chart: The Browns couldn’t have scripted a better possession for Josh McCown, who continues to have a firm hold of the starter’s job. McCown looked very comfortable and composed, completing all five of his throws for 33 yards and finishing with a 2-yard TD pass to Travis Benjamin. Johnny Manziel showed his elusiveness can be a good thing, but overall he had a mixed night. After a three-and-out, Washington gave the Browns the ball back at the 36 by fumbling the punt return. Manziel completed passes to Brian Hartline and Isaiah Crowell before scampering through a wide-open middle for a 12-yard TD. This third-down run was wise; the Redskins gave him a gaping opening up the middle. On the night, Manziel had five possessions, one TD, three first downs and completed 7 of 11 passes for 42 yards. His touchdown scamper was impressive, but his longest throw was 14 yards, he was sacked once, had a pass knocked down and fumbled one snap.
Maybe that dude could start: Tight end E.J. Bibbs continues to impress. Bibbs got a lot of time at both tight end and fullback, and played into the fourth quarter. After one short throw from Manziel, Bibbs made a couple of tacklers miss and was able to turn a no gain into a 5-yard gain. The coaching staff has been high on Bibbs since the offseason, and he showed why. It may be a long shot that he moves ahead of Gary Barnidge, but Bibbs continues to do a lot right as he pushes for a roster spot.
Who got hurt? The Browns started the game with a list of 18 players who would not play, including OT Joe Thomas, CB Joe Haden, RB Duke Johnson and WRs Terrelle Pryor and Dwayne Bowe. The list grew longer by one as the night went on, as WR and special-teams maven Marlon Moore left with a rib injury.
A surprise -- who looks amazing: The Browns need someone to be their place-kicker, and Carey Spear helped his cause. Spear made a 47-yard field goal in the third quarter and converted his extra point. The Browns have two first-year players competing. Spear got the chance on the long field goal and took advantage.
Rookie watch: Cameron Erving started the game at left tackle in place of Thomas -- getting some serious playing time at the position -- and did nothing that was noticed until he was called for a false start on third down in the fourth quarter. ... Danny Shelton played plenty at nose tackle, and was active -- but in the first half when Shelton was on the field, the Redskins ran for 94 yards and averaged 5.5 yards per carry. ... Defensive lineman Xavier Cooper might have had the best play by a rookie with a sack of Kirk Cousins that highlighted his quickness off the ball.
When it was starters vs. starters, the Browns looked: Fine, and fortunate. McCown led a touchdown drive as the first-team offense scored on its only possession. But the first-team defense was lucky as Pierre Garcon dropped a deep pass from Robert Griffin III that would have been an easy touchdown. Garcon had gotten past Justin Gilbert and Tashaun Gipson and would have walked into the end zone. Gilbert told the Northeast Ohio Media Group he was at fault for letting Garcon free, but he added "the rest of the night was flawless by me."
One reason to freak out: The Browns made improving the league’s worst run defense an offseason priority. The results were poor, as the Redskins totaled 153 yards rushing and averaged 4.1 yards per carry. Manziel was the Browns' leading rusher with 14 yards; no back had more than 10 yards. A team that wants to stop the run and run the ball needs to do better. A first preseason game is what it is, but it also can set a tone for what is to come.
Gilbert struggles: Gilbert started at cornerback with Joe Haden out, and struggled. Gilbert was beat for a 9-yard gain and conversion to Ryan Grant on Washington’s first third down, then later on a 21-yard throw to Grant. Gilbert also appeared to be badly beaten on a deep throw to Garcon, but Garcon dropped the sure touchdown. Gilbert missed a tackle, seemed late in some coverage and simply did not play like the eighth overall pick in the 2014 draft.
Touchdown help: The touchdowns the Browns scored in the first half were both helped by Redskins gaffes. On McCown’s first drive, Chris Culliver was flagged for pass interference, a call that Culliver clearly did not appreciate. That penalty gave the Browns 35 yards on their 75-yard touchdown drive. Manziel made a nice run for a 12-yard touchdown, but that 36-yard drive was set up by the Redskins fumbling a punt return. The flip side: Good teams take advantage of the mistakes opponents make.
Keep him away from Cleveland: Cousins might want to have a clause written in his contract that he plays only against the Browns. Cousins’ ability to run play-action bootleg offense seems to perplex the Browns. In a 2012 regular-season game in Cleveland, Cousins completed 26 of 37 passes for 329 yards and two touchdowns. Thursday night, he was 12-for-14 for 154 yards with a touchdown run -- and 17 points.