Welcome to my debut of my “Moving the Chains” column which will debut every week during football season and following every Cleveland Browns game. Here is the first installment of the series following the Browns 30-10 win over the Washington Redskins in the first of four preseason games.
Coming into training camp, the Browns held a stern stance that they were not going to trade running back Duke Johnson. That stance certainly changed when Texans head coach Bill O’ Brien called John Dorsey and offered a draft pick that could turn into a third-rounder in this the 2020 NFL Draft.
As it sits right now, the Browns netted a fourth-round pick in the 2020 draft for Johnson. If the fifth year running back from “The U” plays more than 10 games this season, that draft pick turns into a third-rounder. Duke, who has sat out the majority of training camp with a hamstring injury, has never missed a game in his pro career.
Johnson is slated to take up just $2.2 million against the cap this season and fills a big void in a Houston offense that is in need of versatility out of the backfield. According to ESPN’s Field Yates, “since entering the NFL in 2015, he has led all running backs with receptions since 2015 with 236.”
The day that the Browns signed Kareem Hunt, Johnson went from a potential weapon on offense to a neutered attack dog. Moving on from Duke favored both parties with Dorsey getting away free with highway robbery.
The opening drive on offense
The Browns won the coin toss and elected to start the night on the offense; The first drive did not last long. In years past, a short-lived drive meant a three-and-out; Tonight, it resulted in a touchdown.
Dustin Fox reported on the broadcast before the start of the game that the opening drive was being treated as a “two-minute” situation. That was basically all it took for Baker Mayfield to find the end zone.
Following a failed connection with Derek Willies on the opening play, Mayfield led the offense down the field 89 yards in 2:13 for a touchdown.
On the second offensive play of the game (2nd & 10), Mayfield connected with Jaelen Strong for an 11-yard gain and that was the last play the Browns would run on second down during the opening drive.
Mayfield connected on three 14 yard passes, two to his running backs Nick Chubb and Dontrell Hillard, and the third in the end zone to Rashard Higgins for a score. Following the touchdown, Mayfield’s night was over after a 5-for-6, 77 yards, and 158.3 passer rating performance on the opening drive.
Baker Mayfield: 6-7, 77 yards, TD. Drive lasted 2:13 drive.
Great protection and a nice glance at what Dontrell Hilliard can do this year.
— Jake Burns (@jake_burns18) August 8, 2019
Chubb added a 12-yard run during the drive and concluded his night with two touches for 26 yards.
The opening drive on defense
With the aid of four holding penalties on three consecutive plays, the Browns forced Case Keenum and the Redskins to punt. Myles Garrett was the antagonist of the drive, breathing on Keenum’s neck every play.
On the first play of the drive, Christian Kirksey made the tackle. It was Kirksey’s first in-game action since week nine of last season.
Miscommunication between rookies
A pair of rookie defensive backs had their welcome to the NFL moment on Washington’s second offensive drive.
Safety Sheldrick Redwine and cornerback Greedy Williams lost track of Redskins wide receiver Robert Davis, resulting in a 46-yard touchdown.
It appeared that Williams was expecting Redwine to assist with coverage on the play but Davis snuck by the defenders and walked into the end zone.
Turnover Time Machine
The Orange and Brown turned back the clock to last season when they led the NFL with 31 turnovers. Tonight, they followed up their 2018 performance with three interceptions and a fumble recovery.
Rookie linebacker Mack Wilson had two of those interceptions. He is an interception machine.
The wrong side of the spectrum
Dontrell Hillard and Ishmael Hyman each fumbled the ball which both resulted in Redskin recoveries. Hillard’s was on the one-yard line.
Play of the Game
With 3:22 left in the game, Damon Sheehy-Guiseppi returned his punt 86 yards for a touchdown. The entire Browns team proceeded to celebrate his return in the end zone. It is personally one of the coolest moments that I have seen during a football game.
If you have not read his story, it is an absolute must-read.
How were the kickers?
Greg Joseph: Field goals, 1/1 (43 yards) | Extra Points: 1/2
Austin Seibert: N/A | Extra Points: 2/2
Joseph’s missed on the extra point hit clanged the upright. The search for a kicker continues.
Key Position Battles
Who started? Terrance Mithcell and Greedy Williams.
How’d they play? Mitchell: Forced fumble, tackle. Williams: Interception, two tackles, pass defended
Mitchell and Williams both started at cornerback, as Denzel Ward sat out of tonight’s preseason game. Both players played great (aside from the error from Williams) and will certainly battle to the end to earn the starting spot opposite Ward.
Who started? Eric Kush.
How’d he play? I will leave this one to Jake Burns:
Two poor reps in that series from Kush. Bull rushed on the screen and then wide hands and gives up the pressure on 3rd down. #Browns
— Jake Burns (@jake_burns18) August 8, 2019
Who started? Morgan Brunett.
How’d he play? Burnett: two tackles.
He did not jump off the screen for good or bad plays so we will take that as a good thing.
Where were they?
Genard Avery: held out a precaution.
Odell Beckham Jr.: held out a precaution.
Kareem Hunt: held out a precaution.
Jarvis Landry: held out a precaution.
Sheldon Richardson: held out a precaution.
Joe Schobert: wife went into labor.
Olivier Vernon: held out a precaution.
Denzel Ward: held out a precaution.