Browns

The Kids Are Alright: Cleveland Browns Preseason Week 3 Winners and Losers

Over the last decade Cleveland Browns fandom has produced so few moments of pride that fans can recall them with near vivid description. There’s the Monday night win over New York. There’s the Phil Dawson stanchion game. There’s even Hue’s first win and the team giving him the game ball. But for many, the game of the last 10 years was the frigid mid-December win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2009. The 1-11 Browns, then under the watch of Eric Mangini, hosted the Steelers on an evening where the 25-mile-per-hour wind chill off of Lake Erie equated to a “feels like” temperature of minus-6 degrees.

The game was won by two Dawson field goals, a touchdown run from Chris Jennings (yeah—Chris Jennings), and eight sacks from the defense. Marcus Benard had two. Corey Williams had two. Brian Schaefering was credited with 1.5 sacks, while Hank Poteat, David Bowens, and Kaluka Maiava rounded out the rest. The Steelers were 10-point favorites heading in, and the Browns were utter garbage, but the next 10 days (this game was of the Thursday night variety) would be consumed with what transpired in front of a national audience.

Benard, at the time, was 24. Maiava was 22. Schaefering was 26, playing in one of the five games he would dress that season. That, however, was where it would end. Bowens and Poteat were 32, and on the waning days of their respective careers. Williams was 29 and overpaid. The rest of the Browns defense, as built by Mangini, consisted of guys like Abe Elam (29), Mike Furrey (32), Robaire Smith (32), and Mike Adams (29). A team that was to be rebuilding, coming off of a 4-12 season, was littered with players approaching or having already turned 30 years of age.

Contrast this with today. Not necessarily today as in Monday, August 28, but today as in present day Browns where the average age of the starting 11 — for lack of wanting to actually do the math — feels like nearly 10 years younger. Myles Garrett? He’s 21. Jabrill Peppers? Also 21. Joe Schoebert? 23. Christian Kirksey? 24, the same as Danny Shelton. Old-ass Jamie Collins Jr? He’s 27.

If we’re going to watch two teams flail in the night as the rest of the NFL runs circles, you’d much rather have the team where the flailing is from inexperience as opposed to too many miles coupled with an immense lack of talent. I remember how much fun it was watching that rag tag group of Browns beat the Steelers, sending Pittsburgh to a 6-7 record. But it’s going to be much, much more fun watching a bunch of kids with incredibly high ceilings already doing work.

WINNER: DeShone Kizer

The numbers — especially the ones rooted in efficiency — were not good. There was a ball along the left sideline that Ryan Smith should’ve picked off and returned for six. A few passes, especially ones across the middle, were thrown just a bit too high. But Kizer, in all senses of the word, won. The kid is the starting quarterback for Week 1.

Everything that appeared to go against Kizer in Week 3 universally falls under the “fixable” category. For every pass that was just a bit off of the sideline, there were third-down passes delivered as if Kizer was on his fourth year in the league. While that Smith ball was one he’d one back come film study, there were others — one to Kenny Britt in the red zone, for instance — that hit receivers square in the hands only to fall to the turf.

When you watch DeShone Kizer, you don’t get the deer-in-headlights vibe like with Brandon Weeden. You don’t get the woefully under prepared and overmatched vibe like with Johnny Manziel. You get the appearance of a kid willing to step into the pocket and sling the ball down the field, opening up defenses, as well as one who plants and drives, releasing the ball quicker than almost any quarterback to wear orange and brown over the last three or four seasons.1 Of his 16 passes, 14 were for more than 10 yards. He’s showing improving chemistry with Corey Coleman. While he won’t remind anyone of Tom Brady on September 11, the Browns could be in a much, much worse situation. Just ask Houston.

WINNER: Hue Jackson

It seems silly to put so much into a 3-0 start, but culture is culture. The Browns just look to be playing so much harder than we’ve come to know over the years, and this starts with Jackson. They’re tackling. They’re not giving up on plays. They’re getting open when things break down. In a word: They look like a real NFL team. Certainly, they’re incredibly young and raw and when live action starts, they may get exposed by older, wiser teams. But it’s tough to not look at these kids and see they’re trending in the right direction. Bonus points to Hue for not wasting any time in naming Kizer as the man for 2017.

LOSERS: Brock Osweiler, Cody Kessler

It wasn’t that long ago where PFF darling Cody Kessler was going to be the starting quarterback heading into Week 1. The Browns did everything in their power to see if they could squeeze any juice out of that $16 million lemon in Osweiler, only to find that Denver and Houston had already taken a tack hammer to it. There’s no doubt in my mind that the front office is trying mightily to move Brock to one of the desperate teams out there, but for as good of a preseason as Kizer has had, these two both took the opposite route. The good news is Kessler will be a solid second or third quarterback. It’s only when he’s starting that your team is in a not-so-good place.

WINNNER: Myles Garrett

Twenty-three more snaps, four more quarterback pressures with one of them registering as a hit. Most NFL quarterbacks release the ball quickly, but in the event the Browns find themselves against one who hesitates for even a second, No. 95 will be there waiting.

WINNER: Jabrill Peppers

I know I should be most excited about Garrett, but man is Jabrill Peppers fun to watch. Most interesting, however, is Gregg Williams using the rookie as a free safety in 35 of the 37 snaps he was on the field—and the kid thrived. We know he can play in the box, helping the run. There are even rumors of Williams using Peppers as a linebacker at times. It’s pretty cool, however, that Williams is using preseason as if Peppers was a pitcher in the NFL, working exclusively on pitches rather than attempting to replicate regular season action, putting Peppers deep — in total — 77 out of 81 snaps. Even cooler: It’s working.

WINNER: Corey Coleman

The kid caught balls in tight windows, he pulled a fantastic double move for a first down (video above) and even elevated his Odell Beckham Jr.-like frame along the sideline to make a spectacular grab on third down. It feels like forever ago when we thought Coleman had his coming out party, one which was quickly derailed by a broken hand. On Saturday night, Coleman showed why the Browns took him with their first pick last season, and is quickly setting himself up for a solid sophomore season.

WINNERS: The HBT

Any time Garrett, Peppers, and Coleman are listed among the winners, it’s a huge boost for the current front office. Hitting on first-round picks shouldn’t be as hard as previous regimes have made it appear, but the fact that these three play makers are making plays at such an early age speaks very, very well for not only their process, but their future as a collective unit in making this team competitive once again.

LOSER: Duke Johnson

This may sound over simplistic, but you simply cannot fumble the ball in the red zone. Kizer had mustered a nice drive to stretch the lead to two scores, but a textbook handoff resulted in the Buccaneers obtaining possession. Rookie quarterbacks need help. Fumbling scoring opportunities is the opposite of help. Plus: Matthew Dayes.

WINNER: Joe Thomas

Go watch the Kizer-to-Coleman video above one more time, but focus on Joe Thomas. He engages his man who attempts a variety of moves to shake his way to the quarterback—with no avail. Even the pass that was eventually picked off, Thomas appears to lift his man completely off the ground while his legs flail in the air like he was jumping off a high dive. No. 73 is a wall with legs, and we’re lucky to have him.

LOSER: Kenny Britt

Please don’t be Dwayne Bowe please don’t be Dwayne Bowe please don’t be —

  1. I’m willing to make an exception for Brian Hoyer here. []

  • jpftribe

    Loser: Crowell. Horrible. Like cut him horrible. Left 3-5 yards on each play he touched the ball, and likely a whole lot more by stumbling through open holes. Look like he had a 150 lb boulder chained to him when he was able to keep his feet. Couldn’t outrun pulling lineman downfield who were hitting their blocks.

    Winner: Hue. For hiring Williams. His shtick might get old with a vet team, but seems like exactly what this young and naive defense needs.

    I’m sold on Kizer. WR’s, not so much.

  • mgbode

    the Browns could be in a much, much worse situation. Just ask Houston.

    Oh, you mean Deshaun Watson looking terrible. Whew. Yeah, Watson has been wretched and the Warren Moon comparisons in the local media (no, seriously, there were) are not aging well.

    For anyone interested, here is a Watson thread detailing such:

    https://twitter.com/Brickwallblitz/status/902189429724459008

  • RGB

    WINNER: Hogan. C’mon guys. You can’t tell me he’s not beating out Osweiler and Kessler.
    LOSER: Care Bear. I know he didn’t play, but I assume he spilled the Gatorade jug, or something.
    WINNER: Peppers. If he can lock down a traditional FS spot, that’s a huge upgrade for the secondary, since it appears we don’t need extra help stopping the run.

  • mgbode

    Me everytime I’m reminded the Browns drafted Jabrill Peppers

    https://media.giphy.com/media/iXmF48FlrGuTS/giphy.gif

  • mgbode

    Let’s just assume Crowell has been told to not get injured as his No. 1 priority in the preseason.

  • Pat Leonard

    Winner: Seth DeValve – 4 targets, 4 catches for 57 yards. A quietly good performance from him.

    Winner: Chris Kirksey – led the team in tackles, seemed like he was everywhere, and collected a sack.

    Winner: Defensive ends – Garrett had another solid showing and there were sacks from Ogbah, Holmes, and Nassib. Nobody wants to be sent home.

    Loser: Wide receivers not named Corey, Rannell, or Leslie. Running backs not named Matthew, Terrence, or Kevin.

  • Pat Leonard

    Winner: Seth DeValve – 4 targets, 4 catches for 57 yards. A quietly good performance from him.

    Winner: Chris Kirksey – led the team in tackles, seemed like he was everywhere, and collected a sack.

    Winners: Defensive ends – Garrett had another solid showing and there were sacks from Ogbah, Holmes, and Nassib. Nobody wants to be sent home.

    Losers: Wide receivers not named Corey, Rannell, or Leslie. Running backs not named Matthew, Terrence, or Kevin.

  • jpftribe

    Hogan is not beating out Os and Kessler. Take that to the bank. Don’t let that 3 step drop 10 yd pick slant fool you. His accuracy is non-existent.

  • Even my support for Crowell has waned a little, but I wouldn’t cut him right now. I’m gonna say if he can’t surpass 1,000 rushing yards this year, find his replacement in the draft. This is assuming he gets enough touches this season, no injuries, etc.

  • jpftribe

    That certainly would explain falling down behind the LOS, tripping over ankle tackles and running out of bounds behind pulling lineman.

  • RGB

    Looks like Njoku is an early candidate for the “Looks Like Tarzan, Plays Like Jane” category.

  • mgbode

    Assuming no injuries means 16 games, means 62.5 yards/game. 1000 yards is a low bar- one Browns runners have rarely been able to surpass though.

  • jpftribe

    Hey now, Jane has pretty good hands.

  • mgbode

    Cannot expect much from a rookie tight end no matter what round they were drafted in (unless they are Gronk but he’s just a freak).

  • Pat Leonard

    He acts like a kid playing with full-grown men. Hopefully that will change over the next year or so.

  • 40 or 43 yards in half a game on Saturday. It’s possible.

  • jpftribe

    I hope you’re right Lunch, but if he stalls the running game it puts undue pressure on Kizer, just like it did Saturday. While Johnson fumbled in the red zone, he also blasted through a hole for huge gainer before that, and had good yardage on the play he fumbled.

  • RGB

    He’s getting comprehensively outplayed by a second year kid from Princeton, that we’d never heard of until Sashi metriced him out of nowhere.
    Princeton!

  • mgbode

    We all knew even after the draft DeValve was going to be the starter, no?

  • RGB

    I’m not ready to declare him a bum just yet, but I have his block of government cheese close at hand.

  • Garry_Owen

    Shank one for Saquon? (I’m spitballing, here. This is not easy.)

  • RGB

    Stub for Chubb.

  • mgbode

    Mularkey for Barkley.

    You’re welcome.

  • Garry_Owen
  • Garry_Owen

    Winners: All of us. Every last dam* one of us. I know it sounds crazy after 3 preseason games, given all of the years of iron pyrite, but this thing appears to actually be working. I’ve long thought that the best analog for the Browns to model success after is the Raiders. And I’m thinking it’s happening. Kizer reminds me a lot of Carr (with better God-given talent). I’ve always thought that Coleman could be as good as or better than Cooper (please, please, please). We got our Mack in Myles. Add the Peppers?!?! I haven’t been this rationally happy about the Browns in decades. So, we’re all winners. (Until everyone gets hurt; we go 1-15 again, or the team moves to Atlantic City.)

  • mgbode

    So, let us all take a deep breath and remember that Oakland team lost 10 straight games to open Carr’s rookie season.

  • Garry_Owen

    Honestly, I fully expect this to happen. This is me, breathing deeply.

  • jshmeezy6

    There were a number of narratives about the quarterbacks in this draft that you guys at WFNY saw through easily. One of them was the “attitude-problem” of Kizer, which is becoming plainly evident a reflection of Brian Kelly’s character more than of DeShone’s. The other was Deshaun Watson as the “most NFL-ready” of the top QBs. All you have to do is look at the kid’s release velocity to know he won’t be able to succeed, as much as I love him as a college player.

  • mgbode

    Thanks. Projecting quarterbacks is the toughest position to do given the current restraints in college, but Joe, Craig, and the rest of us can at least enlighten about some of the false narratives.

    I know a few QB draft experts I respect that believe Watson can be a good NFL QB, but they consider it to be in spite of his limitations- not masking over them.

    For full disclosure, here is how we had the QBs ranked at WFNY.

    Craig: Kizer, then Watson & Trubisky tied
    Gilbert: Mahomes, Trubisky, Watson, Kizer
    Bode: Mahomes, Kizer, Trubisky, Watson

  • humboldt

    Gpodawund feeds on irrational optimism and hubris (and the souls of failed quarterbacks). You’re playing with fire, Garry

  • jpftribe

    I’m snarkin’ on Crow and the receivers (minus Coleman), but this, all day long.

  • scripty
  • Garry_Owen

    I know it. Gpodawund help me, I know it. Still . . . I might get away with it.

    https://media.tenor.com/images/d34f1933d8223d47b5e1191e6ef261fd/tenor.gif

  • scripty

    It’s jarring how bad Watson is at anything downfield. They are dressing it up as BOB is force-feeding him a lot but it looks bad. Maybe he needs the Air McNair treatment.

  • scripty

    I think it’s going to be a cut or giveaway of Brock, keeping Cody K and then maybe signing a QB from the waivers.

  • scripty

    Aaron Hernandez looked much better than Gronk their rookie years IMO. In the classic Mangini win over NE (Colt McCoy had a great game) Gronk looked lost. I couldnt believe how much better he was in year 2.

  • mgbode

    I think you are letting one game vs Browns shade your thinking. Gronk had 10-6 TD advantage while also having a higher catch% than Hernandez that year.

  • Steve

    “I haven’t been this rationally happy”

    Maybe not you specifically, but this is a common refrain from Browns fans every August. And then September rolls around.

  • scripty

    Gronk’s back was still a bit messed up and he ran around like he was holding a pickle up his butt. Looked like he was going to be a medical trainwreck, IMO

  • mgbode

    Well, he sort of has been.

  • RGB

    They won’t be moving to Atlantic City.
    Lord Goodell wants a team in London, Toronto, or Mexico City.

  • Garry_Owen

    Was simply trying to maintain the connection to the Raiders’ trajectory. That’s all. We all know that our team is destined to be the Tottenham Browns.

  • RGB

    Tottenham is in London…

  • RGB
  • Garry_Owen

    Precisely. Nice work. And there is a brand new, state-of-the-art stadium being built right now in Tottenham – WITH THE PARTNERSHIP OF THE NFL.

  • RGB

    All the more reason to not incur the wrath of Gpodawund.

  • Garry_Owen

    I have such little faith in the integrity of the NFL administration that I’m sure those “reports” basically consist of someone in the presence of Lord Roger noting his ruminations whilst watching the Browns play this preseason, observing that Kizer looks pretty good and the Browns (thus, sales) could increase if the kid had a bona fide WR. Of course, I won’t complain, if true. (And this is how any totalitarian regime retains its power: by throwing just enough bones to the masses to keep them falsely fat and content.)

  • Garry_Owen
  • jpftribe

    I hear ya, but man, that play above looks a lot like Hoyer.

  • Pat Leonard

    I guess Gordon re-entered rehab at the request of the NFL, and that is what is driving this? That’s at least what i think I may have heard, possibly.