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Browns Notes: LB Christian Kirksey on defense vs. Bucs — 'That is not a team that we want to be'

Inside linebacker Christian Kirksey was feeling pretty good about the defense after two practices last week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Then the Browns were waxed 30-13 in the “dress rehearsal” preseason game Friday night

Inside linebacker Christian Kirksey was feeling pretty good about the defense after two practices last week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Then the Browns were waxed 30-13 in the “dress rehearsal” preseason game Friday night, allowing 259 passing yards to Tampa Bay’s Jameis Winston in falling behind 27-10 at halftime.
“That is not a team that we want to be,” Kirksey said Sunday on a conference call. “It is definitely frustrating, but this week, we are just striving to get better. It is still preseason so we are not going into panic mode, but we definitely have some things to clean up.”
He believes it starts with third down. The Buccaneers starters, who totaled 305 yards and 14 first downs, went 5-for-9 on third down to extend scoring drives.
“We were on the field for way too long,” Kirksey said. “We have to get off the field and definitely eliminate some of the passing gains. We have to be more sound in our drops and more sound in our coverage.”
The lack of a consistent pass rush, particularly from the starters, also plagued the Browns against the Bucs, putting too much stress on the secondary. But Kirksey remains confident, especially in coordinator Ray Horton.
“We have some great pass rushers,” he said. “Right now, we are evaluating different guys and we are putting different guys out there. We are just trying new things.
“Ray, he is like a mad scientist. He is ridiculous when it comes to putting guys on the field and putting them in the best position to make plays. I think that is what he is going to do with our pass rushers. He is going to find some pass rushers, develop some pass rushers and we will be fine.”
Coach Hue Jackson said Saturday it’s time for the defense to settle on starting units and rotations and build chemistry, as the regular season is set to start Sept. 11 in Philadelphia.
“I believe in all of our guys and I believe in this defense and this scheme,” Kirksey said. “I believe we will be fine. We are just trying to put as many playmakers on the field as we can and see what players do best and try to get them to do their best on the field.
“We are still developing guys. I just believe Ray has a master plan and that he will develop everyone into being the best player they can be.”
CENTER OF ATTENTION
Center Cameron Erving, the No. 19 pick last year, had a dismal rookie season and continues to experience growing pains after moving into the starting lineup following the departure of Pro Bowler Alex Mack. Erving allowed a sack Friday night when he didn’t handle a stunt by the defensive line.
“He’s improving,” left guard Joel Bitonio said. “The one thing with Cam is every week you are going to get his best effort. He is definitely not afraid to play hard and play with energy and kind of bring that mentality to the team.
“But I think technically he is still improving. He is still technically learning how to play center in the NFL. But the effort is there, the decision-making is even better. Every game, you can see an improvement, you can see things where you’re like, ‘Man, that’s a really impressive play he made.’”
HE’LL BE MISSED
Kirksey was saddened to see outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo traded to the Patriots last week for a fifth-round draft pick next year. Mingo was the No. 6 pick in 2013 but was in danger of not making the roster.
“It was tough to see your brother go, especially me and Mingo, we built a relationship since I first got to Cleveland,” Kirksey said. “He is a good guy. Whenever you see good guys leave, that is definitely something you struggle with, but it is part of the business.
“I’m happy I got a chance to sit there and I said my goodbyes to him. That is still my friend and I wish him the best. He is going to another great organization, and I believe he’ll do well there. I just wish the best for him.”
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com. Like him on Facebook and follow him @scottpetrak on Twitter.

Browns writer for The Chronicle-Telegram and The Medina Gazette. Proud graduate of Northwestern University. Husband and stepdad. Avid golfer who needs to hit the range to get down to a single-digit handicap. Right about Johnny Manziel, wrong about Brandon Weeden. Contact Scott at 440-329-7253, or email and follow him on and Twitter.

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