Ok, I’ve just got done with my first watch of the Cleveland Browns @ New York Giants preseason game and I’d have to admit that I’m a very happy camper right now. I know we’ve been here before (undefeated in the preseason in 2017) but it’s about the whole package of performances and the roster depth that I’m happy about.

There were positives and negatives in the game, as was expected, so I thought I’d give my quick take on what I saw with regards to them.

Positives

Tyrod Taylor – He was pretty much perfect on the night. He hit all 5 of his 5 passing attempts for 99-yards (19.8-yard avg.) with 1TD and a 158.3 QB rating. What a great opening performance with the starters. Granted, we didn’t see a lot of him in the game but what we did see was very positive indeed. I particularly liked the pass to Jarvis Landry as he was getting knocked on his ass by a Giants defender and the beautifully floated pass over the head of Giants’ LB Alec Ogletree right into the lap of TE David Njoku who then took it to the house. A great start from our 2018 starting QB!

Baker Mayfield – The future of the Cleveland Browns franchise would appear to be pretty good then, huh? Great mobility and passing on the run. Great accuracy and I loved his pocket-presence whilst continuing to keep looking downfield. I liked his pass to TE David Njoku for the TD that was perfectly placed for the TE to go up and get it but out of danger of the 3 defenders — beautiful. I did, however, prefer the vision and ability he showed to get the ball through a lane to Antonio Callaway which the WR took to the house even after being held on his route.

I did rather enjoy watching Mayfield play and if he can continue to grow that level of confidence and skill, things could, at last, be on the up for the Browns when he finally gets handed the keys.

Tyrod Taylor and Baker Mayfield

Antonio Callaway – Even though I definitely still think that this kid is an immature moron, there’s no denying he’s got skills! 3 receptions from 7 targets doesn’t look good on the stat sheet but if you watched the game you should agree that he looks like a very good prospect. His toe-drag to get the completion from a nicely thrown Baker Mayfield on the run-pass was exceptional — it couldn’t have got any closer to being an incompletion. He also got open after being held a bit by the covering defender of the reception he took to the endzone.

Right now, I’m finding the prospect of a Mayfield-Callaway partnership leading the Browns to the playoffs in future years quite exciting — they did look promising together. Having said that, Callaway has a LOT of growing up to do if he’s to even remain in the league.

Rashard Higgins – A player I liked on the quiet from last season and who I’m pleased to see getting attention now. He grabbed 4 of his 5 targets for 66-yards and looked to embarrass the Giants DB covering him a couple of times whilst running his routes. A very promising start from the young guy.

Caleb Brantley – I guess I could be accused of being on a bit of a pro-Brantley mission because I want so badly for an improved interior to the defensive line, but he did look half decent to me in this game…kinda. He got plenty of playing time in the middle of the defensive line and performed ok (ish). No eye-popping stat line for him and he’s going to have to improve by the time the regular season comes along if he wants to stay on the roster. His best play was probably when he got into the backfield and made a tackle on the RB for about a 5-yard loss, which was nice.

I want to see more of him in the preseason to see if he can live up to his potential, but I thought it looked like an average start.

David Njoku – He was only targetted 3 times of which he made 2 receptions and both went for TD’s. Need I say more? One was a pass to him in the endzone and the other was a 36-yard TD he ran in. I liked what little we saw of him on offense as he removed some of the catching worries people were talking about from training camp for me.

I’m not sure I liked seeing him on kick coverage though as he’s surely the starting TE, right? Having said that, he actually looks good on kick coverage plays as he was in and around a lot of the stops in that phase of the game.

Njoku TD vs Giants

OL Starters – The offensive line starters looked mediocre and were without the injured Kevin Zeitler at RG. Spencer Drango stepped in for him at that position and everything looked ok (ish)to allow Tyrod Taylor to do his thang. He was caught for a holding penalty and got embarrassed by a spin move on a play but seems to be the best we have as a backup right now. Zeitler needs to be back for regular season and big improvements need to be made by the whole unit in the run game. The left side of Bitonio and Corbett was brief but with nothing to report — which is a good thing.

Corbett stayed in the game longer than Bitonio which I liked as he’s a rookie and obviously needs more in-game time.

Linebackers – All 4 of the potential starting linebackers got playing time and looked solid. The standout for me was probably the new addition, Mychal Kendricks. He helped himself to a sack and looked good to me. It could be difficult selecting the starters at LB come the regular season if all are fit and healthy and ready to go.

I also liked that James Burgess Jr got plenty of playing time in which he played well as I rate him as a back-up/depth player and hope he isn’t a victim of the other talent they have at his position come the roster-cut time — I doubt he will be.

Denzel Ward – I didn’t see too much of him in the game but I did rather like the big hit he put on the Giants receiver before standing over him and giving him a bit of verbal. Yeah, he got a penalty for it but I really don’t care as I want to see more of that aggression as teams need to know this ain’t the old meek pushover Browns.

I’m sure there are more positives I’ll remember after another watch of the game (more to do with the 2’s and 3’s) but for now, that’ll do.

Negatives

Run Game – There wasn’t much of one in my opinion. I’m pumped to see Nick Chubb this season but he really wasn’t very effective in this game. A lot of that will to be to do with the pretty poor offensive line 2’s he was playing behind, though, as his plays were up the middle where hardly any holes were being created. I’d like to see him with the 1’s at some stage this preseason but his first showing wasn’t at all exciting. His 15 carries for a total of 11-yards wasn’t good but he did catch one pass that he then took a few yards for a total of a 12-yard play which looked nice. I’ve read reports that he isn’t good in the passing game but that one looked good.

I’m still shouting at the TV later in the games as I want to see much more of Matt Dayes. He looked great last preseason and I want him to be given more of a chance at RB instead of just as a kick returner, which I don’t think he’s great at. He did have 3 carries for 13-yards but I really want to see more of him as I think it would be a mistake if they let him go. I guess they wanted to see more of Dontrell Hilliard but please Hue/Todd, give the ball to Dayes in these games!!

Offensive Line – I guess they’re still trying to figure out who’s going to fit in where along the offensive line as far as depth goes. Shon Coleman was penalised for his usual gamely false-start penalty I noticed. I hope they get this unit together as far as depth goes before the season starts.

I’ve put the OL in botht he positive and negative parts of this post but, to be honest, the more I watch the game the more I feel it just needs to go in the negative section for both the starters and backups.

Penalties – 13 penalties for 141-yards! That’s awful! Definitely something that’s going to have to be tidied up before the season starts! We can make the excuses about it being the first game of the preseason and that they’re a young roster, but if this continues we can kiss a couple of wins goodbye.

Overall

Happiness! This was a good showing by some key players who are going to have to perform this year if the Browns are to get to the level of wins most people are predicting them to get.

Tyrod’s looking smooth, Baker’s looking confident and is looking like his skills will be good in the NFL, Callaway looks like he can be a star if he grows up and can stay out of trouble (I’m not holding my breath on that), and the team just looked to have good depth throughout the roster.

The next preseason game is against the Buffalo Bills so expect all the talk this week to be about a Baker Mayfield vs Josh Allen encounter.