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Browns O-line encouraged by Tampa Bay win, know they can be better

John Greco put a twist on a common analogy after Saturday's game at Tampa Bay.

The Browns right guard was part of a group Saturday that opened up some bigger holes in the running game and kept Josh McCown upright enough to move 80 yards on two occasions for touchdowns. It was a step forward for a group that remains completely intact from last season and enters 2015 with some lofty expectations from both within and outside the organization.

"It's a type of thing where it's not like riding a bike, you've got to keep working at it. We will," Greco said. "The backs will be critical on themselves and we're ultra critical on ourselves. There's something we all say we can do better. I think we'll do that."

On the same day Pro Football Focus ranked Cleveland's offensive line as the third-best in the NFL, Browns coach Mike Pettine was asked to evaluate the group after three preseason games. The projected starting five has played together for two and that likely will be it before the Sept. 13 season opener against the New York Jets.

"I felt they did some good things," Pettine said. "Going back looking at the tape, we'd have plays where four guys were on point and one guy was getting beat or maybe getting beat late. It was good for them to play that long of a time, that long together just to get that cohesion that we need heading into Week 1. Film is going to be good to learn from.

"That wasn't a bad front that we went against. (Buccaneers DT) Gerald McCoy, to me, is one of the premier defensive tackles in this league."

The Browns cracked triple-digits in the running game for the first time during the preseason, finishing with 119 yards on 34 carries. Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West each had at least one double-digit run, all of which coming on the scoring drives, and Jalen Parmele rattled off an 18-yard carry behind the second-team group.

One week after Buffalo dropped him three times, McCown was sacked just once, but he took a couple of hits while making throws and was rushed on some others. Cleveland was tied for 13th in the NFL last season with 31 sacks allowed.

"He took some big licks. It's encouraging to see that. That means we've got to do our job to keep him more clean," Greco said. "It's encouraging to see he'll stand in there and hold onto the ball and make a throw and take a shot and find somebody that's getting open. That's encouraging."

The Browns' confidence in the offensive line has been exhibited by the lack of movement among the starting five. First-round rookie Cameron Erving has performed well and handled the responsibility of multiple positions at a high level but has yet to work much with the first team beyond fill-in duty for Joe Thomas at left tackle.

Offensive line coach Andy Moeller has compared Erving to left guard Joel Bitonio because of his quick adaptability to the NFL, but stressed the circumstances in which they joined the Browns were different. Pettine on Sunday emphasized that point.

"I just think that starting five will be difficult to crack so I would say Greco is the leader," Pettine said. "It's not a slight against Cam at all. We're very encouraged with where he is and see him being a big part of what we do."

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