The Cleveland Browns are in the midst of their preseason grind. However, the greatest test the Browns will face during the preseason is not a game, it is the joint practices they will participate in with the Philadelphia Eagles this week.
The Browns go into Philadelphia with a stacked roster with considerable elite talent at several key positions. But the Eagles boast the most complete roster in the entire NFL and will be able to provide stiff competition at each and every positional group.
From an evaluation perspective, these practices will serve as the ultimate litmus test for both the coaching staff and the personnel department.
Battles to monitor
The Browns will be put to the test on both sides of the line of scrimmage. The Eagles offensive line is arguably the only unit in the league that has a greater accumulation of talent than Cleveland’s. In 2022, Philadelphia had three Pro Bowler’s on their offensive line, with two, Jason Kelce and Landon Dickerson, also earning first team All Pro selections.
The Browns defensive front will have their hands full on the interior. It is unknown at this time if Shelby Harris will be acclimated enough to participate in the live one on one drills. But for players like Siaki Ika and Maurice Hurst getting live reps against tip of the spear competition could solidify their spots in the rotation.
The Browns trio of edge rushers: Myles Garett, Za’Darius Smith, and Ogbo Okoronkwo will face off against Jordan Mailata and the aforementioned Lane Johnson. The Browns will not see a more formidable offensive tackle combination for the remainder of their season. The same can be said for the Eagles tackles, facing off against Garrett, Smith, and Okoronkwo will provide their stiffest challenge of the year as well.
On the offensive side of the ball, Cleveland's interior offensive line will get serious work going up against Fletcher Cox, Jordan Davis, and rookie Jalen Carter. If Joel Bitonio, Ethan Pocic, and Wyatt Teller can remain stout against this Eagles interior defensive line then they should be able to handle any unit in the league.
There is no shortage of quality work for the Browns offensive tackles either. They will see Hassan Reddick, Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, and Josh Sweat. This will be a huge week for Dawand Jones' development and a legitimate heat check for Jedrick Wills.
Cleveland has one of the best cornerback rooms in the league, headlined by Denzel Ward, Greg Newsome, and Martin Emerson. The defensive backs will get to tangle with A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith in what should be incredibly competitive one on one battles and team drills. Those battles will serve the Browns well and sharpen them up for their week one battle against the Cincinnati Bengals' formidable wide receiver room.
Wide receivers Amari Cooper, Donovan Peoples-Jones, and Cedric Tillman will face an ultra-talented cornerback room consisting of James Bradberry, Darius Slay, Avonte Maddox, and rookie Kelee Ringo. With the availability status of Elijah Moore up in the air, these practices could be the stage for a player like Austin Watkins to showcase his skills and make a push to make the roster.
The big picture
This will be the second straight year that these teams have held joint practices together. After last year’s session, the Eagles, who had just come out of joint practices with Miami, commented that the Dolphins were ahead of the Browns. It would be hard to argue against those comments after seeing how the season played out.
Given the Eagles success in 2022 and the talent they have returning on their roster, the Browns could not ask for a better dance partner for these practices. It will be interesting to see which team is viewed to be the victor of the joint sessions by those in attendance.
The ability for the Browns to test themselves in a controlled environment against elite level competition is invaluable. The old adage of iron sharpening iron is undeniably true. These joint practices in Philadelphia will be the forge that sets the tone as well as the standard for the 2023 season.