From the first snap to their last together as a unit, Cleveland’s defensive line did nothing short of dominate the line of scrimmage in Friday’s preseason game at Tampa.
Browns coach Freddie Kitchens doesn’t dispute that point. He just isn’t ready to celebrate it because he doesn’t want it to be an out-of-the-ordinary occurrence.
“Every time they go out, that is what I expect and they expect it out of themselves,” Kitchens said after Monday’s practice. “That is where I want their expectations to be. I want to keep our expectation on that and not everything else around us from that example.”
In their first preseason appearance with a completely healthy and intact first-team defensive line, the Browns collected five sacks while the starters played Friday in Tampa. Veteran end Olivier Vernon had two of them, including one on the opening series that directly preceded one by defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, the other new Pro Bowl addition to the defensive line. Pro Bowl end Myles Garrett was spelled by Chris Smith after the opening series, but the group didn’t relent, forcing the Buccaneers into four three-and-outs and rushing quarterback Jameis Winston’s throws on nearly every passing down.
“When you are a linebacker and you get back into your drop and as soon as you get to your landmark, you turn around and the quarterback is on the ground and you just jog back to the huddle every play, that makes you feel better,” linebacker Joe Schobert said. “You feel like you are in much better shape when that happens instead of chasing receivers around all play if they can’t get the quarterback down. Live, in person and right behind them, those guys can really get after it.”
Check out photos from practice on August 26, 2019 by team photographer Matt Starkey
Devaroe Lawrence added two sacks in the second half to give the defensive line five of the team’s seven sacks on the night.
“We feel like you have to have four guys who can get after the passer,” Kitchens said, “and I think those guys can.”
-- Kitchens said he hopes rookie kicker Austin Seibert's confidence is boosted after Friday’s performance. The fifth-round pick connected on a 54-yard attempt -- 3 yards longer than his longest make during his college career -- and made his three other attempts to finish a perfect 4-of-4.
Kitchens has been matter of fact when describing the kicking competition, which has seen its share of ups and downs since the start of camp.
Veteran punter Britton Colquitt served as the holder on all four attempts.
“We do not give excuses for missed kicks,” Kitchens said. “You either put them through the upright or you did not. There are no real excuses for it so whoever the holder is, the ball needs to go through the uprights.”
-- Kitchens said he respected Colts quarterback Andrew Luck’s stunning decision to retire Saturday.
Kitchens first met Luck years back at the wedding of Jim Dray, a former tight end under Kitchens with the Cardinals who now serves as a Browns quality control assistant. Kitchens and Luck talked at the team’s joint practices in Indianapolis, when Luck watched from the sidelines while recovering from a foot/ankle injury.
“I think if that is what he wanted to do, I respect what he wanted to do and if his heart was not in it, he needed to,” Kitchens said. “I know the Indy people do not like to hear that, but that is fact. He has to be happy with himself first and foremost. If that is what makes him happy then that is what he needed to do and I am happy for him that he had the strength to do it.”
-- Kitchens, who called plays in last year’s preseason finale while serving as the team’s running backs coach, said he hadn’t yet decided if he’d put the play-calling in someone else’s hands for Thursday’s preseason finale.
“Seems like I need the practice, too,” Kitchens joked.