Hue Jackson had been asked about this season’s inevitable run of pregame protests in the National Football League, to which he said he had hoped his team would be able to band together, for a lack of a better term, keep the headlines related to what happens between the lines. Days later, roughly a dozen Browns players produced what was the largest protest to date, forming a prayer circle during the national anthem, led by linebacker Christian Kirksey, one which included several other members of the team standing near with their hand on the shoulder pads of those taking part. The team immediately released a statement, saying that while they feel it’s important for the team to collectively take part in the national anthem, they also respect the freedom of personal expression.
While the Cleveland Browns’ second preseason game would end in a 10-6 victory, their second win of the exhibition period, it will undoubtedly be what transpired in the two-plus minutes before the game that will drive discussion throughout the week. In what was the largest anthem protest to date, a group of players went to Jackson before the game to let him know what their plans were. As Kirksey would say following the game, “Being in the NFL on this big platform, we can be a voice for a lot of people. We wanted to make sure guys were collectively doing it for the right causes, making sure we were all on the same page, and doing it in a respectful manor.”
While many in the sports community have rallied around the Browns, supporting their display, there is also going to be the egg avatars and folks who think they’re publishing thinkpieces—while they’re anything but—on the other side of the coin.
We have no way of knowing where this all leads, but we can reasonably expect this to be far from over. Oh, they also played some football.
WINNER: DeShone Kizer
The kid is still a rookie. He made a horrible decision that won’t show up in the box score due to a defensive penalty, one that will undoubtedly get attention during Tuesday’s film session. But when you compare him to the rest of the men in that room, there is absolutely no way to not see DeShone Kizer as the most talented quarterback on the Cleveland Browns’ roster. Entering the game much sooner than many anticipated, Kizer was able to play against New York’s first-team defense, including players like Jason Pierre-Paul and Janoris Jenkins. He completed 8-of-13 passes for 74 yards, adding 35 yards and a touchdown on five runs, three of which were by design.
“Some days, you’re going to have the big numbers and the touchdown passes. Some games, you’re not,” said Hue Jackson following the game. “It is about playing efficient football, moving the team, and doing what is asked of the position based on what the defense is doing… I saw improvement in a lot of things.”
LOSER: Brock Osweiler
Two starts. Six possessions. 2.6 yards per play. One interception. Zero points.
WINNER: Hue Jackson
While more points would have been nice, it’s tough to argue with a game plan that provided the balance of 31 rushes and 29 pass attempts across a litany of players. The read options that were implemented worked beautifully, and while these sort of plays are often the result of quarterback execution, the complex nature of the pulling linemen and reads are a deviation from what most read-option plays have been in years past. This is on Hue.
Cool play here. Tackle/center pull. Get 6v5 or 2v2 depending on what that read end does. Opposite of most options. QB rushes away from read. pic.twitter.com/fNQMsbSRfG
— Justis Mosqueda (@JuMosq) August 22, 2017
POTENTIAL LOSER: Hue Jackson
Jackson stated he was going to make an “honest and forthright” decision on the starting quarterback on Wednesday of this week, using the information he’s obtained throughout the course of the preseason. On Wednesday, we will find out how full of shit that statement truly was. If we’re basing things on merit and putting the team in the best position to win football games, there is nothing—literally nothing—that will justify choosing Osweiler over Kizer. If you infer the rookie “isn’t ready” or some other subjective rhetoric, prepare for incredible amounts of backlash.
— NFL_IRONMAN (@LFletcher59) August 22, 2017
WINNER: Myles Garrett
Given how frequently he was in the backfield, his first sack was bound to happen. In just 15 snaps, Garrett racked up his first sack as a professional as well as another quarterback hit. In addition to looking solid against the run, he has now been credited with three quarterback pressures in just 23 snaps of the football. In the event you were still looking to answer whether or not the kid was the real deal, Myles Garrett is doing everything in his power to make you look foolish.
Even a double-team won't stop Myles Garrett. The rookie recorded his first NFL sack just before halftime. pic.twitter.com/aFVeBCvvE7
— WaitingForNextYear (@WFNYCLE) August 22, 2017
LOSERS: Anyone who was complaining about the hit on Odell Beckham Jr.
Listen: Odell Beckham Jr. is one of my favorite active football players. He’s appointment television for any NFL fan. It would have been devastating on a variety of levels had something happened to him when he was brought down by Briean Boddy-Calhoun. This all said: The hit was perfectly legal and is the result of the pendulum-swinging rule makers in the NFL. That it was preseason football should have no bearing on how players—especially young players looking to lock up roster spots—tackle. If you think the play was “dirty” or “uncalled for”, you’re effectively saying there shouldn’t be any form of football that doesn’t count toward records or playoff seeding. If you want to argue the benefits of preseason football, that’s fine. Just don’t use one play as your launching pad.
WINNER: Seth DeValve
Seth DeValve and his wife Erica were married a little over two months ago. Erica first noticed Seth in a class they took together at Princeton her Freshman year. Seth first noticed Erica in the congregation while he was leading worship at a local church across the street from campus. According to both individuals, they grew to become good friends through Princeton Faith & Action, the campus ministry. It was after one of PFA’s weekly meetings where Seth asked Erica out on their first date. Seth is white. Erica is black. And while the Browns tight end will go down as the “first white player” to take a knee during the national anthem, it’s what he said following the game that cements his winner status.
“I love this country, I love our national anthem,” said DeValve. “I’m very grateful for the men and women who have given their lives and give a lot every day to protect this country. I want to honor them as much as I can. The United States is the greatest country in the world, and it is because it provides opportunities to its citizens that no other country does. The issue is that it doesn’t provide equal opportunity to everybody. I want to support my teammates today who wanted to take a knee. We wanted to draw attention to the fact that there are things in the country that still need to change. I myself will be raising children who don’t look like me. I want to do my part as well to do everything I can to raise them in a better environment than we have right now. I wanted to take that opportunity with my teammates to pray for our country and draw attention to the fact that we have a lot of work to do.”
LOSER: David Njoku
We’re going to give him some benefit of the doubt given Monday night was his maiden voyage in the world of NFL snaps, but when your rookie quarterback hits you square in the hands for what could be a drive-altering play, you have to haul it in.
WINNER: Corey Coleman
Whether it was needing full extension to haul in a sky-high pass from Brock Osweiler or hooking up with DeShone Kizer later in the game, Coleman looked like the receiver the Browns thought they were getting in the first round last spring. In 20 snaps of work, Coleman caught two balls for 29 yards, including a 20-yard gain on highly touted Giants cornerback Janoris Jenkins.
LOSERS: Rod Johnson and Kevin Zeitler
Another preseason game, another influx of penalties from the offensive line. Johnson was thrust into starting duty after last week’s abomination in Cameron Erving was forced out with injury, but both he and otherwise solid lineman Kevin Zeitler made it tough for the Browns to get much of anything going in the first half of play. The Browns can ill-afford to have these kind of issues once the regular season starts regardless of who’s under center.
WINNER: Joe Schobert
Schobert took in a ton of snaps as the Browns’ middle linebacker in Gregg Williams’ 4-3 base, and looked really, really good. After Ray Horton tried to make him an EDGE last season, failing miserably during the process, Schobert’s speed—both laterally and downhill—was evident throughout the night. All in all, Schobert was credited with six tackles (five solo), one sack, one tackle for a loss, one QB hit and one pass defensed. Not a bad night.
WINNER: Matthew Dayes
You won’t find a bigger Matthew Dayes Stan than this guy. Dayes ran five times for 15 yards, adding 29 more yards off of five receptions. The juke he put on a Giants defender near the right sideline was nine kinds of nice.
LOSER: Duke Johnson Jr.
Love what he did when carrying the ball, but he’s going to get a quarterback killed if the shoddy blitz pick-up doesn’t get rectified in the next two weeks. This could be what moves him to the slot.
WINNER: Jabrill Peppers
Four tackles, three of which were solo, and a 31-yard punt return. I can’t wait for him to finally break one.
Jabrill Peppers is one heckuva playmaker on defense, but his biggest impact during his rookie season may be as a returner on special teams. pic.twitter.com/hnrT43rpYG
— WaitingForNextYear (@WFNYCLE) August 22, 2017