Preseason Week 3 continues with the Cleveland Browns at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The third week of the preseason is generally considered a “dress rehearsal” for the NFL season, and starting positions and important roles can be won and lost this week. PFF’s analysts have all the important position battles and players to watch for each team below:
Coverage by: David Neumann
Position Battle: DeShone Kizer/Brock Osweiler, QB
- Quarterback has been the battle to watch in Cleveland this preseason, and by getting the start in the all-important third preseason game Kizer has an opportunity to bring that battle to a close. After an impressive debut that saw him excel under pressure, Kizer struggled against the Giants. His overall grade of 41.0 was the fourth-worst of the week among 80 qualifying quarterbacks, and he was unable to repeat his success under duress. On six pressured dropbacks, Kizer went 1-of-4 for nine yards while taking two sacks.
- Osweiler, on the other hand, has been unable to seize the job after posting poor overall game grades of 49.8 and 53.4 while getting the start in both of the Browns’ preseason games so far. Even when kept clean in the pocket, Osweiler has been unable to find success, as his 43.3 passer rating on 21 dropbacks without pressure ranks 77th out of 81 quarterbacks with at least 16 total dropbacks this preseason. He’s not expected to play against the Bucs, and at this stage it appears only a disastrous effort from Kizer would give him any chance to claim the starting job.
Players to Watch:
- Joe Schobert, LB — A season-ending knee injury to Tank Carder means Schobert will open the season as the Browns’ starting middle linebacker. Schobert has impressed through two preseason games, earning 79.4 and 83.9 overall game grades, the latter of which was the sixth-best among linebackers last week. It’s in the passing game where Schobert has stood out. Schobert has recorded a pair of sacks in just nine pass-rush snaps and his 85.3 coverage grade against the Giants was the second-highest given to a linebacker this preseason.
- Jabrill Peppers, S/PR — Peppers has been solid defensively during the preseason, where he’s aligned as a deep safety on 42 of 44 snaps thus far. It’s as a returner, however, that he’s made his greatest impact. On five total returns (1 KR, 4 PR), Peppers is tied for the second-highest overall return grade this preseason.
- Myles Garrett, ED — With starters expected to play into the second half, Saturday’s game in Tampa offers the most extended look we’ll get of the No. 1 overall pick before the regular season begins. Garrett has looked good through 37 preseason snaps, earning 80.7 and 80.6 overall game grades in the first two weeks. On 23 pass-rush snaps, he’s lined up exclusively on the right side of the defense, recording three quarterback pressures.
Coverage by: Bill O’Brien
- For the second week in a row, Rodgers came into the game behind Doug Martin but had a limited role by handling just three carries for four yards along with one catch for two yards. Rodgers has performed well in pass blocking by not allowing a single pressure thus far on six pass block snaps. Sims operated as the passing back among the starters last week and has a clear advantage in the race for playing time as the Bucs’ passing back. Last week, Sims only logged two carries for six yards, but still has posted the highest yards after contact per attempt among Bucs running backs with 2.80 yco/att.
- Barber carried the ball nine times Jacksonville Jaguars last week leading the Bucs with 42 rushing yards. It was a successful game for Barber as he posted the highest overall grade among Bucs running backs last week with a grade of 74.4. Operating as the last running back in the game for the Bucs, McNichols led the team in carries with eleven carries for 32 yards. The rookie has ranked second among Bucs running backs in yards after contact per attempt at 2.15 yco/att.
Players To Watch:
- DeSean Jackson, WR- The Bucs made a splash signing in free agency this past offseason by bringing in Jackson after he spent last season with the Washington Redskins, where he led the NFL in deep passing yards with 579 yards. Jackson has only seen five targets so far this preseason, but with the starters likely to play more this week, the speedy receiver figures to see more targets against the Cleveland Browns.
- O.J. Howard, TE- Howard played well in his second professional game posting an overall grade of 78.3. As noted in PFF’s First Round Rookie Review from preseason Week 2, the former Alabama tight end spent the majority of his snaps blocking, but did see three targets and converted the targets into two catches for 28 yards.