Cleveland Browns fans feel their expectations rising

(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) /

The Cleveland Browns lost their first preseason game of the year, falling to the Bills 19-17. There were many encouraging signs, but the fans seem to have higher expectations.

The Cleveland Browns ran for 144 yards and two touchdowns.

Our quarterbacks did not throw an interception.

Our starting defense held Buffalo to not one, not two, but three consecutive three-and-out sequences. In doing so, they also knocked Bills starter A.J. McCarron out of the game with what was later revealed to be a fractured collarbone.

In the last two years, a performance like that would have had Browns fans woofing with excitement.

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Yet following some of the fan base on social media last night, you would have thought we lost an actual game — like one that meant something.

Neither Tyrod Taylor nor Baker Mayfield played outstanding. But the Browns seemed content to come into last night with a vanilla, run-heavy game plan. Preseason games are typically glorified scrimmages and this was really the case last night. While disappointing for fans who had to pay to watch the game, I’m sure the Browns view the performances of Carlos Hyde, Duke Johnson, and Nick Chubb as mission accomplished.

There are legitimate areas of concern. The interior line depth on both sides of the line of scrimmage is concerning. Attrition is a factor in every NFL season. Successful teams not only need a “next man up” attitude but actual players who can step in and perform.

The defensive tackle situation should improve greatly when Caleb Brantley and Trevon Coley return from injuries. The offensive line feels a bit different. An offensive line relies on discipline and technique that comes when players know their role. Right now, the Browns seem to be placing a value on versatility while they figure out where players may fit best. Hopefully, that will get sorted out by the time the real season starts.

The Browns also continue to commit way too many penalties. And the penalties always seem to come at the worst moments and kill drives on offense or extend them on defense. In 2016, the Browns were one of the least penalized teams in the NFL. Last year, they rose to about the middle of the pack. This is something to keep an eye on because it does speak directly to coaching.

Which brings me back to the fans. It’s nice to see the fans so excited. But it’s only the preseason. The most important accomplishment for me last night was that the Browns did not have any significant injuries. Losing one of our key starters in a meaningless preseason game would be a momentum killer.

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I’m more excited for a Browns season than I have been in many years. And my own expectations are rising. But I know that we’ll only start seeing what this team will look like on September 9. Until then, my only disappointment will be a significant injury to a key player.

We’re on to Philadelphia!