The first preseason game was not kind to the Cleveland Browns or Deshaun Watson as nothing seemed to go right for the starters
The Cleveland Browns starters struggled against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Friday night. The issue was not the Jaguars defense. The issue was the ability of an offense to get into sync. The defense played with a mixture of second stringers versus the Jaguars’ starters.
But such is life in the preseason, which is why nobody really cares about these games. The second defensive line struggled to gel against the Jaguars starters. The offensive line was a hodge podge of starters and backups. When starting center Nick Harris when out with a knee injury, the offensive line’s coherence seemed to fall apart.
Offense out of synch
The Browns were no doubt looking to shake the rust off DeShaun Watson tonight. The first play of the game was the predictable, old faithful first play of every game, a naked bootleg pass. Watson’s first pass was sent sailing over wide receiver Anthony Schwartz’s head. His second pass was toward Schwartz again who dropped it.
Then a series of false starts, hold calls and bungled snaps between Watson and the backup center Ethan Pocic sabotaged the next two drives. Watson completed his first pass as a Brown to tight end David Njoku who was recently named an actual chief.
In all, Watson didn’t have an opportunity to shake off the rust. The circumstances around him short-circuited his debut. But he did look like everything he was advertised to be making quick reads, making decisive throws and extending plays with his feet. Browns fans should be excited about having Watson. He will be a dynamic player when he actually gets to play this season (hopefully).
Speaking of Anthony Schwartz, he certainly didn’t help himself shed the label of fast guy who cannot catch. Not sure if it’s the lights, jitters or the yips but he has a hard time catching the ball on gameday. At one point, Watson was visibly frustrated with him for dropping a well-thrown ball.
Browns reserves were better
Joshua Dobbs looked the part Friday night as he used his feet to make plays and read the defense well. He proved could be a good backup for the Browns. But don’t get too excited because he was against the Jaguars second and third teamers.
The offense operates better with a mobile quarterback. As a witness to this point is Dobbs who was able to elude defenders, make smart and decisive decisions in tonight’s game. Which makes one wonder why the Browns would even consider trading for San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garopollo who has the speed and power of Jim Brown’s statue.
Defensive communication issues
Defensively, the team looked decent given the mix and matching of regulars and backups. The communication was off early allowing the Jaguars to drive down the field on them. The second series was a little better as the secondary had the Jaguars receivers locked down most of the night. But a poor pass rush of the second defensive line versus the Jaguars regulars put the secondary in a bad position.
The highlight of the evening for the defense was made by a rookie. Martin Emerson has been playing well in camp. That play translated into the field. Initially he got beat for a long game on the first play of the game. But toward the end of the first half, he ripped the ball out of a receiver’s hands and returned it for a touchdown.
It was a typical first preseason game. The Browns looked out of sync, sloppy, and in need of tightening up the discipline.
On the other side of the field, the Jaguars were playing their second preseason game after losing a lackluster performance against the Las Vegas Raiders They were clearly further along than the Browns having had that first sloppy game.
Jerome Ford looked indecisive his first couple runs. The wide zone plays caused him to hesitate. But he seems to flourish when there is a clear hole. Unfortunately, he lost a fumble late in the game. When seeing hole, hitting hole, Ford looked dynamic. But this was against 2nd and 3rd team players.
Cade! Cade! Cade!
Kicker Cade York looked as advertised in the game as he made all of his kicks. He booted one kick out the end zone on one kick-off. The others he kicked short by design to get some special teams action for players trying to make the roster.
The punter “battle” played out as expected. Cory Bojorquez booted the ball deep on his punts. But he’s still over-kicking his coverage. His punts allowed the Jaguars to set up returns. This could lead to disaster in the regular season.
On the other side, Joseph Charlton’s punts resulted in the fair catches, which is exactly what you want. If this is truly a battle, then Charlton is leading. But you never know what the front office is thinking.
Overall, a good game for the Browns, but the early lack of synchronization and rhythm will need to be addressed next game.