For the first time since they reentered the league in 1999, the Cleveland Browns are kicking off the NFL preseason in the Hall of Fame Game against the New York Jets. Being in the preseason kickoff afforded both teams a jumpstart on the rest of the league by being the first to open their training camps.
Cleveland utilized their extra practice sessions by holding their camp at the Greenbriar Resort in West Virginia.
Typically, the Hall of Fame Game is a showcase for the younger players of the two franchises competing. This year’s preseason kickoff will be no different. Head Coach Kevin Stefanski intends to rest his starters and get an extra look at the bottom two-thirds of the roster. Here are three big storylines for Browns fans to follow this Thursday.
Storyline No. 1: How are the Browns second day picks coming along?
With no first-round pick for the second consecutive year, the Browns didn't select any players in the 2023 NFL Draft until Day 2. Cleveland selected two players on Day 2, taking wide receiver Cedric Tillman with the 74th overall pick, and then defensive tackle Siaki Ika 24 slots later with 98th overall selection.
Thursday’s Hall of Fame Game will be these rookies' first opportunity to show Browns fans what they can bring to the table. Tillman has made some noise in training camp displaying his skills at the catch point and by making himself available to Deshaun Watson on scrambles.
On Thursday, the rookie wide receiver should see plenty of opportunities to show what he can do, albeit with backup quarterbacks.
For Ika, Thursday’s game will be his first opportunity to show what he is capable of. While the team has been wearing pads for the last few practices, going to the thud is much different than taking tackles to the ground. Ika was selected for his size and his physicality at the point of attack, and he should get the chance to display both against the Jets.
This team is in desperate need of a defensive tackle stepping up and claiming a spot in this defense. Thursday could be the first step for Ika demonstrating that he can be a valuable part of this defensive line.
It should also be noted that due to the size of these two particular rookies, there should not be a need to see their jersey numbers to know if they are on the field or not.