Editor’s Note: It is our pleasure to introduce you to Jake Burns, who will be writing about the Cleveland Browns for us. We are excited to add his voice to our pages. Join us in welcoming Jake to the WFNY community.
When the culture around your franchise has been negative for more than 18 years, every win matters. The obvious thought made by Browns fans is to scoff at preseason endeavors and label it as meaningless. In the grand scheme, yes, it is as meaningless to the success of the 2017 Browns. Yet, at the same time, it’s monumental.
The Browns sit at 2-0 in the preseason. This is tangible progress, especially when you consider the Browns went 0-4 in last year’s preseason, which served as a precursor for the ensuing 1-15 season that followed. Needless to say Hue Jackson knows that every game matters and not just the 16 regular season games. Before the Browns Week 1 preseason game against the Saints Jackson said, “I do not want to go 0-fer again.” He continued, “I don’t want to feel like that. I don’t think this team deserves that. We need to go out and play good in front of our fans and go win.” So far, so good.
First and foremost the defense, under Gregg Williams, appears real. There are some holes, especially in the interior of the defensive line with Danny Shelton on the mend for three to six weeks, but the difference in athleticism and concept is night and day. Joe Schobert continues to show up sideline to sideline, Myles Garrett will be a force every time he is on the field, and Briean Boddy-Calhoun is proving to be a playmaker on the backend. This defense can keep them in games, and perhaps steal a couple.
Plenty is to still to be determined offensively, which is obvious after their 10-6 victory Monday Night. Little is clear at the quarterback position after two underwhelming performances by both DeShone Kizer (8-13 for 74 yards) and Brock Osweiler (6-8 for 25 yards, 1 INT). The decision was a tough call, and Hue’s position wasn’t enviable. The quarterback play is due to be miserable regardless, but what Hue had to decide if he wanted to ride with Brock’s inevitable mistakes or risk DeShone’s development in the short-term. Jackson made the call that gives them the best chance to win now- DeShone Kizer. The rest of the offense will have to continue to progress. Saturday’s match-up in Tampa Bay will feature the best this group has to offer.
The third game will be a telling factor in the state of the 2017 Browns. The third preseason game is always the one where starters stick on the field the longest. It’s the most important tune up as week one approaches. For the Browns, as crazy as it sounds, it’s their most important game to date in the Hue Jackson era. Winning matters and culture doesn’t change overnight. It’s shaped in off-season workouts; it’s shaped in Training Camp, and it’s shaped in preseason games.
Culture change has to start somewhere, and a 3-0 preseason start would continue to build on the momentum gained thus far. Continue to change the culture, and it’ll change the path of this franchise.