DeShone Kizer and the whole Browns defense showed up against the Giants

After a first preseason contest against the Saints that was mostly forgettable and unwatchable, the Cleveland Browns welcomed the New York Giants to Cleveland for another fake game. Despite a 20-14 win and the fact that DeShone Kizer orchestrated the win, we’re talking about 13 fourth-quarter points in the first preseason game of the year. In the scheme of things, it’s not that big of a deal despite the local media frenzy that followed.

That was last week so no matter here. This is a nationally televised affair! Uncomfortable pre-game close-ups on ESPN’s Monday Night Football production package welcomed us all to the game, presumably because they had some stock footage of Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr. from NFL films. The Browns? Some slow-mo practice footage of Myles Garrett, but no real scientific footage of the pores on Cleveland Browns faces. Darn!

What a great start for the Browns’ defense. They forced a three-and-out after scoring the game-opening touchback. Joe Schobert sacked Eli Manning to force the punt, and Jabrill Peppers electrified the Browns’ faithful with a long punt return inside the Giants’ 40-yard line. It was great to see, but it all felt like we were biding our time until we got to judge quarterbacks. It’s the Cleveland way. It’s part of our disease.

We’ve seen how many superior defensive teams carry their offensive counterparts in the history of the NFL, but yet, despite all that evidence from real football teams that play in games after the regular season – “playoffs” – all we can do is obsess on the guy under center. The Browns have Jamie Collins, Myles Garrett, Joe Haden, and Jabrill Peppers on the defensive side of the ball, but we’d prefer to torture ourselves by two guys we basically know can’t do the job, and a guy who I like, but fell to the second round for a reason.

Speaking of quarterbacks, Brock Osweiler did what he does. He threw some nice passes when the pocket was clean. He showed nice arm-strength on throws to the sidelines, but he just didn’t put his teammates in a position to make a big play. Corey Coleman had to stretch to make what should have been a first down, a sideline nine-yarder with a degree of difficulty of 11. Then Olivier Vernon somehow managed to get his 6-foot-2 frame into the passing lane of 11-foot tall quarterback Brock Osweiler. Jason Pierre-Paul came down with it for an interception. It wasn’t even a good arm punt.

On the next drive, Osweiler decided to try and scramble on third-and-8, which gave me Josh McCown flashbacks.

DeShone Kizer entered the game after Osweiler’s scrambled departure to gigantic fan applause, natch. After some screen-pass / shovel-pass gimmickry, the Browns punted the ball away.

Also, Cleveland is full of funny people.

The Giants take a 3-0 lead in the second quarter after a middling drive. The drama of the drive occurred when Odell Beckham Jr. caught a pass and as he was landing, Briean Boddy-Calhoun hit him legally but low in the legs. OBJ seemed to get his knee stretched out on the hit, and he was slow to exit the field. He was ticked at the hit, despite the fact that it was legal and much drama ensued as OBJ appeared to go to the floor on his way to the locker room. I’m just wondering why he didn’t get a 15-yard penalty for removing his helmet on the field. I don’t care, of course, but you know that’s precisely the kind of thing that would cost the Browns 15 yards.

Kizer entered for his second run with the Browns’ offense with just over 13 minutes left until halftime. Bad plays and penalties beset the offense. In the end, even after getting a first down, the Browns were forced to punt with the down and distance at fourth-and-25. Ugly.

This is the point at which the game started to feel like a preseason game at its expiration date. These things get sillier the later they go, and I’ll just chalk it up to nothing that Kevin Zeitler and his large contract were on the receiving end of yellow laundry multiple times. Alas, Eli Manning stayed in the game, and the Cleveland Browns’ offense did well to create a turnover. Jason McCourty stripped Sterling Shepard on a beautiful play that game the Browns the ball in Giants territory.

Kizer executed a wonderful play-fake, throwing a screen to a fullback Danny Vitale, who scampered to the red zone. Duke Johnson ran it to the two-yard-line as the two-minute warning hit. Despite my warnings about taking evidence with a grain of salt, here’s Kizer leading a team to the red zone with a potential lead hanging in the balance in the shadow of halftime. It wasn’t overly impressive, but the rookie kept his pads low, and the Browns scrummed their way into the end zone for a 7-3 lead with 1:10 to go in the half.

Geno Smith entered the game for the Browns, effectively ending any semblance of a non-preseason game. But nevermind that because Smith goes down in history as Myles Garrett‘s first NFL sack victim (unless you count Browns practice quarterbacks). Smith kind of ran into it, but whatever. It counts!

So what’s the summation? Let’s start with the quarterbacks and save the best for last.

I would prefer Kizer not be the Browns starter at the beginning of the season, but he looked far superior to Osweiler. It’s not difficult to imagine Kizer being named starter of Game 3 of the preseason. If that happens, and he stays healthy, Kizer’s going to be the Week 1 starter against the Pittsburgh Steelers. I don’t know if that’s the best choice long-term for the young man’s future, but it appears to be the only option the Browns have left considering the applicants for the position. If it’s going to be Kizer, they need to start working on Kizer-specific packages.

I feel a little bit better about all this quarterback stuff after seeing the Browns’ defense. They look fast. They look aggressive. They look stout on the defensive line. The Giants aren’t particularly great running the ball, but the Browns didn’t allow them to do it either. Jamie Collins, Jason McCourty, Joe Schobert, Myles Garrett, Briean Boddy-Calhoun, and Jabrill Peppers all showed up well on my first viewing of the game when it still mattered. This Browns defense has the potential to become one of the best ones we’ve seen since 1999. Better than that, I think they have a chance to be a good NFL defense in the league at large.

All things considered, that’s a pretty good result for the Browns and their fans from the second preseason game of the year.

(The Browns were leading 10-3 when this game recap was completed. If anything else happens, stay tuned to WFNY for more.)