Tonight begins my official game coverage of Cleveland Browns football for Waiting For Next Year, and I could not be more excited to debut my new column. In this series throughout the season you will find pre-game injury updates, quick hits recapping the game, tweets and quotes of the night, depth chart update (pre-season only), postgame injury update, stat lines of the game, stock up and stock down for five individual players, and highlights from the game! Thank you for reading and welcome to a new era of coverage of Cleveland Browns football!
Pre-Game injury update, and lineup changes:
FB Danny Vitale (calf)
LB Justin Currie (concussion)
LB Genard Avery (groin)
OL Desmond Harrison (toe)
TE Julian Allen (abdominal)
TE Seth DeValve (quad)
DL Chad Thomas (hernia)
DL Trevon Coley (ankle)
DL Daniel Ekuale (calf)
EXPECTED LINEUP CHANGES:
88 Darren Fells starts at TE2 for FB #40 Danny Vitale
65 Larry Ogunjobi starts at DT for #93 Trevon Coley
20 Quick Hits from the Browns win over the Giants in their preseason opener
- The Cleveland Browns do not have a quarterback competition but they do have two really good quarterbacks.
- Good quarterbacks are foreign to the Browns (especially at this time of the summer) but they have a good one in Tyrod Taylor. Taylor began his career in an orange and brown uniform with a 32-yard dime on the back shoulder Jarvis Landry to kick-off the 2018 season. The throw by the former Buffalo Bill was one that has almost never been seen by a Cleveland passer in years.
- Landry proceeded to taunt the opposing New York Giants cornerback, perhaps with the phrase “Bless em”, which was featured in the first episode of HBO’s on Hard Knocks. The officiating crew flagged Landry for the unsportsmanlike penalty, which was the Browns second of the night.
- Rookie cornerback Denzel Ward was flagged for taunting as well, after laying down the hit stick on Giants receiver Hunter Sharp on the opening drive. Ward’s penalty extended the Giants’ drive, which led to a field goal.
- Head Coach Hue Jackson told WEWS reporter John Doss at halftime that the officials “are going to call the taunting penalties tight.”
- Taylor connected with Landry a second time on the opening offensive drive, following the unsportsmanlike flag on the previous play. With those two receptions, “Juice” finished the night with 36 receiving yards, lining up on both the outside and the slot.
- The highlight of the night came off a 36-yard touchdown throw from Taylor to Njoku through the middle of the field, the first touchdown of the 2018 season. Njoku followed the score with a chief slam which concluded the Browns starting quarterback’s night, as Taylor finished a perfect 5/5 for 99 yards, a touchdown, and a rating of 158.3
- Baker Mayfield began his professional career as quarterback of the Browns in familiar territory in tradition with the plethora of those failures from the past with a three and out on his opening drive.
- One of the most skeptical play-calls of the evening came on Mayfield’s opening drive, where offensive coordinator Todd Haley elected to run on a third and long situation. The head-scratching play-calling did not end there. The Browns had control of the ball with 90 seconds remaking in the first half. Instead of getting a look at how the first overall pick managed a two-minute offense, Haley preferred to essentially run out the clock with the drive ending with a punt.
- It just was not all bad for the rookie quarterback, it was actually quite good. Mayfield commanded a second drive which ended with a 10-yard touchdown pass to none other than Njoku. During the drive, Mayfield found his favorite receiver Rashard Higgins for a 26-yard back shoulder throw on the sideline. Mayfield continued to impress, displaying prolific pocket presence on third and long when finding CJ Broad for a 21-yard reception for a first down to extend the drive.
- The second overall pick New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley flashed his anticipated professional potential on the first play of the contest. The former Penn State product broke out to a 39-yard run, to position the Giants in enemy territory.
- Defensively it was an overall successful evening for the first and second team troops. The Browns defense held New York to just three points in the opening half, which were obtained on the opening drive. They received quite the amount of help from Giants second-year quarterback Davis Webb, who could not hit the broad side of a barn. Webb finished the evening 9/22 for 70 yards.
- Rookie receiver Antonio Callaway did not fare well in his first opportunity against first and second team NFL cornerbacks. Possibly shaking off the rust after not playing competitive football two years, Callaway’s first three targets all resulted in drops.
- Five minutes into the third quarter, Callaway finally broke his nerves and hauled in his first NFL reception. The former Florida Gator flashed a 24-yard catch on the sideline, which was originally ruled out-of-bounds. The call was reversed, and Callaway was credited with the impressive sideline snag.
- Competing against easier competition seemed to favor Callaway as the night progressed. Quickly into the fourth quarter, Mayfield found Callaway for a 54-yard touchdown, as the rookie receiver hauled in a dart while being held by the New York defender.
- That throw capped off an impressive evening for the former Heisman Trophy winner, as Mayfield finished his first career game 11/20 for 212 yards, two touchdowns, and a 125.4 rating. The positives of the night for Mayfield was he clearly elevates the talent around him. Pocket presence is promising, his accuracy is astounding, and he commanded the offense with confidence.
- Mayfield even flashed his on-the-ground ability, impressively dashing for two first downs while all receivers were well covered.
- The offensive line Mayfield had in front of him was positive in pass protection but rough in the run game. Rookie running back Nick Chubb complied 11 yards on 15 rushing attempts, due to poor play from the trenches.
- The underrated star of the evening resided on the defensive side. Defensive back Derron Smith made two sound open field tackles, to total three on the evening.
- Overall, it was a great opening performance by the Browns, especially from the young players. Jabrill Peppers was lined up properly, Njoku had two touchdowns, Mayfield threw for 200+ yards, Callaway found his groove late with three catches for 87 yards, Corbett held his own at left guard, and Ward avoided Odell Beckham Jr. It’s the pre-season, but a win is a win and the Browns rinse the sour taste of 0-16 from their mouths to begin the 2018 season.
Quotes of the Night:
- Browns general manager John Dorsey in the press box after learning Dez Bryant tweeted that he would visit the team next week:
“[My phone] ain’t ringing.” (The Atheltic’s Zac Jackson)
Dorsey met with the media before the game and said he has tried to call Bryant to gauge his interest in joining the Browns but has not successfully spoken to the former Cowboys receiver.
- Linebacker Christian Kirksey on twitter before the game:
“Let’s get it tonight Cleveland! My why? The city deserves everything !”
Shown on HBO’s Hard Knocks, the defensive captain told each member of the defense to write down their “why” they play football. Kirksey proclaims Cleveland as his “why”.
- The Orange and Brown Insider Ben Allbright tweet after watching tonight’s pre-season game:
“Browns may not be a playoff caliber team yet, but they’re gonna be fun to watch this year.
Competitive football is BACK IN CLEVELAND…”
- The Draft Network’s Jon Ledyard tweet after watching Baker Mayfield’s performance:
“Tonight belongs to Baker. Cleveland should be excited.”
- Our own Jake Burns who tweets out EXACTLY what needs to be said after tonight’s game:
“Immediate gut reaction:
Baker was more impressive than even I thought he would be. Loved all of it.
Tyrod killed it. This is his team right now.”
Unofficial Depth Chart Watch (from first half only):
*These are not the official depth chart rankings, however, collected from play from tonight’s game.
QB: 1. Tyrod Taylor 2. Baker Mayfield
FB: 1. Darren Fells
RB: 1. Carlos Hyde 2. Duke Johnson 3. Nick Chubb 4. Matthew Dayes
WR: 1. Jarvis Landry, Antonio Callaway, Rashard Higgins 2. Antonio Callaway, Rashard Higgins, CJ Broad
TE: 1. David Njoku, Davis Fells
LT: 1. Joel Bitonio 2. Greg Robinson
LG: Austin Corbett (played with second-team offense, as well)
C: 1. J.C. Tretter 2. Austin Reiter
RG: Spencer Drango (played with second-team offense, as well)
RT: 1. Chris Hubbard 2. Shon Coleman
RDE: 1. Myles Garrett 2. Nate Orchard
1-Tech: 1. Jamie Meder 2. Caleb Brantley 3. Zaycoven Henderson
3-Tech: 1. Larry Ogunjobi (played with 2nd team) 3. Jeremy Faulk
LDE: 1. Emmanuel Ogbah 2. Carl Nassib
ROLB: 1. Jamie Collins 2. James Burgess Jr. 3. B.J. Bello
MLB: 1. Joe Schobert 2. Mychal Kendricks 3. Justin Currie
LOLB: 1. Christian Kirksey 2. Jermaine Grace
CB: 1. Denzel Ward, Terrance Mitchell 2. T.J. Carrie, Mike Jordan/E.J. Gaines
SCB: 1. Briean Boddy-Calhoun
SS: 1. Jabrill Peppers 2. Derrick Kindred
FS: 1. Damarious Randall 2. Briean Boddy-Calhoun 3. Derwin Smith
KR: Jabrill Peppers, Matthew Dayes
PR: Antonio Callaway
K: Zane Gonzalez
P: Britton Colquitt
LS: Charley Hughlett
Injury update: No known injuries have been reported from tonight’s game
Stats of the Night:
QB Tyrod Taylor: 5-for-5, 99 yards, one touchdown, and 158.3 rating
QB Baker Mayfield: 11-for-20, 212 yards, two touchdowns, 125.4 rating, and 13 rushing yards
WR Antonio Callaway: three receptions, 87 yards, one touchdown
TE David Njoku: two receptions, 46 yards, two touchdowns
WR Rashard Higgins: four receptions, 66 yards
- Derron Smith, who made two eye-popping open field tackles to end the New York Giants’ drives.
- David Njoku, who hauled in two catches on two targets that were both touchdowns.
- Tyrod Taylor, who will hold Baker Mayfield from stealing his job… for now.
- Joel Bitonio, who did not allow a sack in his performance at left tackle.
- Nate Orchard, who had a pair of batted down passes.
- Spencer Drango, who got absolutely demolished regularly.
- Antonio Callaway, who dropped three passes against starting NFL defensive backs.
- Carlos Hyde, who ran for -1 yard on 1 carry.
- Emmanuel Ogbah, who only had one underwhelming tackle.
- Derrick Kindred, who was bullied in the secondary in the run game.
1. Tyrod Taylor opens up the night offensively with a beautiful back shoulder throw on the sideline to Jarvis Landry.
2. Tyrod Taylor finds David Njoku for a touchdown down the middle of the field, his first in orange and brown.
3. Denzel Ward drills opposing receiver, but gets flagged for taunting.
4. Saquon Barkley shows he’s the real deal from the start.
5. Baker Mayfield’s first career NFL pass is a beauty to Rashard Higgins.
6. Baker Mayfield finds CJ Broad on third and long to extend the drive.
7. Baker Mayfield throws his first career touchdown to David Njoku, his second of the night.
8. David Njoku apparently does it all with this special teams tackle.
9. Antonio Callaway flashes his star potential with this amazing sideline catch
10. Baker Mayfield throws his second professional touchdown to a speedy Callaway.
Special shoutout to Toledo St. John’s Jesuit alum Brogan Roback on making his first appearance in an NFL game for the Cleveland Browns! I attended the same high school as Brogan and he continued the successful Titan Athletic tradition!