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Keys to Victory: What we're watching vs. the Buccaneers

For the first time this preseason, the Browns hit the road for what's considered their dress rehearsal game against the Buccaneers.

Here's what we'll be watching in Florida.

1. DeShone's debut: In naming DeShone Kizer the Browns' starting quarterback for Saturday night's game against Tampa Bay, head coach Hue Jackson said the rookie "keeps passing every test" thrown at him since training camp opened last month and "there's still another one to pass" this weekend. "Here we come this Saturday night against a good defensive football team in Tampa on the road and in the heat," Jackson said. "There are a lot of different elements he's going to have to deal with. Again, here's another opportunity, but he has been knocking down everything I have put before him."

Indeed, Kizer — the former Notre Dame star whom the Browns drafted in the second round of this past NFL Draft — has completed 19-of-31 passes for 258 yards and a touchdown through two preseason games. Armed with a strong arm and big frame, Kizer has also showcased his mobility, rushing five times for 35 yards and a touchdown.

To be certain, the Buccaneers defense should offer the youngster his toughest challenge to date. In wins over the Giants and Saints, Kizer has yet to exclusively face a first-team defense, though he did go head-to-head against New York's starters Monday night.

Jackson said he's confident the 21-year-old will rise to the challenge.

"In my mind, this young man is going to go play extremely well. My job is to help him do that and create the right environment for him to go and do that with the rest of the offensive football team," Jackson said.

"There's nothing in my mind that says he is not going to do well. I expect him to do well, our organization expects him to do well and his teammates expect him to do well."

2. Extended action: Jackson says the Browns first-team units will play at least one half Saturday night, which means we'll get to see what Cleveland's defense — which has shined through two preseason games — looks like against a Buccaneers offense that stands to be among the league's best with quarterback Jameis Winston, wide receivers Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson and rookie tight end O.J. Howard.

So far, the Browns have gotten the best of their opponents. Through two games, they've recorded five takeaways, seven sacks and surrendered an average of 266 yards. Against the Giants, the Browns allowed just 212 yards, including less than 100 at halftime. "Our guys on defense are battling," Jackson said after that showing. "Not that our guys on offense aren't – I think our guys on offense are battling, too – but I think our guys on defense are making plays, making stops and are doing things really well that helps our football team win."

Under new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, the seemingly reinvigorated group has played with an attitude since OTAs.

"As we go on, I feel like everyone is getting more and more comfortable," said second-year cornerback Briean Boddy-Calhoun, who had an interception Monday. "You see a lot of guys on this defense making plays, not just me. This defense is allowing us to play fast and play confident.

Boddy-Calhoun added: "It's a whole different energy with the whole team." 

3. Depth on the DL:With the release of veteran Desmond Bryant and a knee injury to Danny Shelton, we'll get a good look at who's poised to step up on the interior of the Browns defensive line. Look for Jamie Meder and former practice squad member Trevon Coley to take plenty of snaps this weekend in addition to Larry Ogunjobi, the team's third-round pick this spring. Keep a close eye on Coley, who has been one of training camp's biggest surprises, emerging as a starter after having going undrafted in 2016.

Williams also made it clear earlier this month that the Browns will rotate as much as possible on the defensive line in order to keep players fresh.

The unit — which includes starters in Shelton, Emmanuel Ogbah and the No. 1 overall pick Myles Garrett — has looked promising while mixing and matching players in the trenches. Also, recently-converted defensive end Nate Orchard — who shined in the team's preseason debut before missing Monday's game against the Giants — could return to action. 4.  Pecking order at WRs: As the Browns curate their 53-man roster, there's still uncertainty at who will step up at wide receiver behind starters veteran Kenny Britt and former first-round pick Corey Coleman.

"I'm really talking about after those guys," Jacksons said. "Who's going to be third, fourth, fifth and sixth? What is that and what is that going to look like, how do we see those guys and what can they bring to our football team?"

Against the Buccaneers, we should have a better idea, and there have been several bright spots from the likes of Ricardo Louis, Rashard Higgins and Jordan Payton, all of whom Cleveland drafted in 2016. The same goes for other young receivers such as Rannell Hall, Jordan Leslie, Mario Alford and Richard Mullaney. The Browns finished 30th in total offense last season and 28th in passing offense.

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