So, the worst team from the 2017 NFL season shut out the best team from the 2017 NFL season, huh? Should we read anything into this at all or do we all just say, “It’s only preseason!”
Well, I think we do read something into it but also keep in mind that it is indeed only preseason where playbooks are limited, players are being rested for the slightest niggle and some playcalls look suspect as the teams try things in certain situations.
We also have to take into account, though, that players who aren’t considered starters and definite roster-makers are playing hard and, if certain people are to be believed, a Super Bowl-winning team should have much better depth than a 0-16 team, right? Granted, the Eagles were without 5 key players on offence which is clearly hindering them as they try to put some points on the board.
Anyway, whatever I/you believe about this stage of the season, the fact remains that the Cleveland Browns shut out the Super Bowl champions with their Super Bowl winning QB at the helm 0-5.
So, what did this Browns fan see from this hard-fought defensive struggle?
Running game – You’re not likely to get any “hot-takes” from me about this game as I’m late to the party with this post, but the running game looked really good yet again. All 3 of our backs, Hyde, Chubb and Johnson looked confident and productive. Their stats don’t set the house on fire with excitement but, hey, it’s the preseason and they aren’t playing full games. That 6.4yds-per-carry average of Carlos Hydes looks very nice indeed.
I still say that Hyde and Chubb are our #1 and #2, respectively, with Johnson in on more passing 3rd downs and, even though we haven’t seen it that much, when the regular season arrives Duke in the slot.
So far this preseason the running backs unit is looking like the best unit on offence to me.
Offensive Line – Nothing new here really either. The starters looked decent but the backups didn’t look great. I’m one of the fans who want undrafted rookie Desmond Harrison to turn out to be a steal and possible starter in the league at some time in the not so distant future. After a decent showing last week, I noticed he struggled to work well with his fellow rookie Austin Corbett on the left side of the line by seemingly not blocking the right defenders. Luckily, on the first one I noticed (a stunt), Baker got the pass away quick enough as the defender was bearing down on him and the play ended up as a PI on Jeff Janis. Unfortunately, the second one I saw ended up as Baker Mayfield getting sacked by an untouched defender who just walked past Harrison’s outside shoulder after he’d decided to ignore him and block the player lined up in front of Corbett. Not a good look at all for Harrison nor he and Corbett working together.
Quarterbacks – Certain fans and media people have gone into typical “Let’s chuck our rookie QB straight in as the starter!” and have been calling for Baker Mayfield to get reps with the #1’s.
Now, I’m absolutely a Baker Mayfield fan and I’ve never been so confident in a rookie to become the leader of the Browns, but HE’S NOT READY! Yes, he looked great in the first preseason game against the Browns and then has looked ok in the following two but he got his chance in this third preseason outing after Tyrod Taylor’s wrist injury. Yes, Baker has stated that the game is slowing down for him but after he’d been in with the 1’s for a couple of drives he stated that he needs to get the ball out quicker. This, to me at least, shows he’s not as ready as some desperate people think he is and I think that sitting behind Tyrod for a season (if all goes well) will do him the world of good. What’s the rush?
As I said, I’m a Baker fan but I also love the coolness, confidence and authority Tyrod Taylor has and gives off. He’s the #1 for this season and for him to come back in after that awful looking left wrist injury just made me like the guy even more.
As with last week against the Buffalo Bills, neither QB had amazing games but they did have steady games and Mayfield was put on his ass a couple times, which I think he needed to have happen to him to make him a better player in the long run. I’d rather it happened now behind the 2’s and 3’s rather than in regular season behind the starters. The preseason is his time to be getting his game time experience before he sits behind Tyrod and learns more during the regular season.
Defence – Genard Avery, what a steal in the draft. As I’ve said on numerous occasions before on here, this guy is a pass-rushing titan. He’s such a good complement to Myles Garrett that, as I’ve also stated before, opposing QB’s could be in trouble against these two.
Avery is classed as a linebacker but I’ve seen his best play come from when he’s lined up as essentially a DE in a 2-point stance. Ogbah has been lining up further inside and Avery has been where Ogbah lines up as a standard DE. I would have to say that watching Myles Garrett and Genard Avery collapse pockets and get to the QB’s has been a highlight of this preseason for me.
Garrett looked awesome in this game and just embarrassed the Eagles left tackle Vaitai pretty much all game. Garrett helped himself to 2 sacks, of which one was a safety and Avery had a strip-sack of his own.
The Tweet below shows one of my favourite plays by Avery.
I can’t stop watching this play by Avery. He’s #55, just watch how he totally destroys TE Zach Ertz, RT Lane Johnson and QB Nick Foles in one play! Such an awesome play! Zach Ertz has no idea what’s just hit him and where he is. I wonder if Ertz was the primary target on this play but took so long to realise what had just happened and to get up from it that the play was over. This would have to be my favourite play of the preseason so far.
I doubt we’ll see Avery in the final game of the preseason against the Detroit Lions as he came away from this game with a hip injury. Hopefully, he’ll be ready to go for the week one game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
During warm-ups, free safety Damarius Randall is said to have strained a leg and so Briean Boddy-Calhoun stepped in as FS. He had a very good game and proved his versatility as both a corner and safety. He even managed an interception in this game. He’s a great find by the Browns and his a player who can cover and tackle well.
Another concern I’ve had about the roster has been in the middle of the defensive line. I’ve liked Larry Ogunjobi since he was drafted and am comfortable with him as the primary 3-tech guy. Last season it was Trevon Coley who played in the middle of the line but he’s been out injured so far meaning we haven’t had a chance to see him as yet. This week I was pleasantly surprised with how well Jamie Meder played alongside Ogunjobi and am comfortable going into the regular season with those two as the starters.
As I’ve mentioned quite a few times this preseason, I’ve been wanting Caleb Brantley to step up and improve from his rookie year but that hadn’t happened in the first two games. He did, however, look improved against the 2’s this week and I wonder if he’s suddenly realised he’s on the bubble and needs to work and put some better play on film. He did get a tackle, sack and defended pass to his name this week and didn’t look like the complete pushover he has done previously.
Next week against the Detroit Lions in the preseason finale could see the return of expensive right guard Kevin Zeitler for a few drives. Although this week will likely see most of the starters rested as the backups fight for a roster spot, Zeitler has yet to figure for the team. I really can’t make my mind up about his replacement Spencer Drango as he looks ok but is very slow at getting outside when a play goes there and sometimes can’t get it done when the play goes up the middle.
Zeitler is costing the Browns a lot of money ($60 million through 2021) and so needs to get in and play! With him back, I think the line will find more stability as the other four positions within that unit seem to now have it and are looking ok.
So there we have it. By no means a definitive write-up of the game but it is five days after the fact and, hey, it’s only preseason, right?