Well, let the quarterback controversy begin in Cleveland…again. More on that later.
I know everyone, including me most years, says preseason wins don’t matter. But for a team who narrowly escaped not winning a single game last year and in the midst of a complete overhaul, this 20-14 win against the Saints was an important one, even if Drew Brees didn’t touch the field.
At a very 10,000-foot level I was pleased with how the Browns played in terms of attitude and approach. The defense played well, especially second year LB Joe Schobert, and when your backups are making 4th and goal stops late in the 3rd quarter of the first preseason game and jumping around with excitement when they do, you know how bad the team wants to turn things around. The Gregg Williams affect is in full force. What is evident though is the Browns still lack a potent offensive attack (this line was written before Kizer decided to begin his ascension into every Cleveland fan’s overly optimistic preseason heart).
Starting QB Brock Osweiler’s arm looked strong and the ball came off his hand nicely, but the problem was the ball ended on the grass on all of his throws over 10 yards. To be fair, he absolutely pinpoint dropped a ball to Kenny Britt in the corner of the endzone in the 2nd quarter that would have been a TD if Britt remembered to drag his second foot. Overall Osweiler was 6/14 for 42 yards, no TDs or INTs, and a QB rating of 50.3.
The heir apparent to the position, DeShone Kizer, came out under center for the second half. He had a nice presence in the pocket and we saw that big arm he is known for when he connected on a 50-yard toss early in the 4th to set-up a 1-yard TD rush. The game never really seemed too fast for him, which as a rookie is a great sign; he has that clock in his head telling him when to get out of the pocket and make a nice run or let the ball go that Cody Kessler still lacks. His throws got crisper and he seemed to be more and more comfortable as the game progressed. And then he decided to mount a 4th quarter game winning drive capped off with another 50-yard bomb that could not have been handed to his WR in a better spot. He ended the night 11/18 for 184 yards, 1 TD and no INTs.
Top pick Myles Garrett may not have made a big impact on the stat sheet, but he was able to bull rush the Saint in front of him and nearly get to Chase Daniel on a few occasions. The kid showed the wheels and strength you’d expect from the #1 overall pick. As he adjusts to the NFL game and learns a few more tricks from Joe Thomas expect him to show up on that stat sheet in a big way sooner rather than later.
Cameron Erving still appears absolutely lost on the field. He started at LT in place of Joe Thomas who generally sees limited preseason action at this point in his career. In the first series alone Erving was flagged for a false start and later a hold after getting absolutely dominated off the line. As a former 1st round pick in his third season, it is frustrating to see him still struggling.
While we still may not know exactly how he will fit into the defense, Jabrill Peppers looks reeeeal good returning the ball. He is fast off the catch and ran through a couple defenders before finally being taken down on his first kickoff return of the night. And on a punt return late in the 1st quarter he almost made it to the only-the-kicker-to-beat part of the field before being tripped up.
This year’s 7th round pick out of NC State RB Matthew Dayes also played well. He was a nice change of pace from Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson, ran without fear, and made some great cuts to get downfield in a hurry after being handed the ball.
Less than a month until the games count for real, let the countdown begin.
Now, the competition for who the guy will be commanding the huddle when the Browns take the field Week 1 got a whole lot more interesting during tonight’s 4th quarter.
Such is life as Browns fan.