CLEVELAND — In the week before the Browns preseason finale against the Bears, coach Hue Jackson stressed he and his staff were eager to evaluate his club one more time before the final round of roster cuts.
And in Cleveland's 21-7 loss to the Bears Thursday night, the Browns gave them plenty to consider before this weekend.
In what has been a preseason of highs and lows, this evening's display was no different. Cleveland took an early lead in the first quarter but was unable to sustain such momentum down the stretch.
As promised, the Browns starters played and accomplished what Jackson hoped they would in their final rehearsal before the season opener at Philadelphia next week.
"They got the work in that I wanted," Jackson told WEWS NewsChannel 5. "I thought we started slow though. We have to start a little faster."
While the Browns offense didn't connect on any big plays, it was efficient in the short game. Quarterback Robert Griffin III completed 4-of-8 passes for 53 yards in three series of action, most of which came on quick and precise passes underneath Chicago's coverage.
"It was good to get back out there and get the bad taste out of our mouth from last week because we didn't play the way we wanted to," tight end Gary Barnidge said. "We got out there and got to show them what we could actually do and I'm looking forward to the regular season."
But Cleveland — which has said it wants to be a run-oriented offense — relied on its ground game on this night, opening the game with back-to-back power runs which seemed to double as a tone-setter.
After linebacker Tank Carder recovered a muffed punt, the Browns offense methodically moved the chains behind the legs of Isaiah Crowell, who finished the drive by plowing into the end zone for a 4-yard touchdown late in the first quarter.
"They were just clogging it up. It just took more effort. I just felt like they clogged it up a few times. We just had to keep on working just to punch it in."
The Browns defense, which has spoken of a sense of urgency to round into form, held the Bears to 127 first-half yards and watched several rookies shine on third-down situations. Emmanuel Ogbah and Joe Schobert each recorded sacks while defensive end Carl Nassib continued his impressive by batting down a pass at the line of scrimmage.
"It's easy to tell that we have players that are showing effort, but at the same time, we have to still pick it up. We need some turnovers, and that's what our defense needs to do to be the top defense," second-year nose tackle Danny Shelton said.
"We have to have some turnovers and more sacks. I'm hoping these guys come out with the right mindset the second half and just keep going."
Now, the Browns turn their attention to trimming the roster to 53 members by Saturday at 4 p.m. per league rules.
The Browns take on the Bears in the last game of the preseason.