- CLUTCH Summary: The Cleveland Brands opened up their NFL preseason looking like they belong.
- As an attempt to sift through it all, because not every player was performing lights out, a stock up and down segment feels appropriate.
- At the end of the day, for the upcoming season, buy all the Cleveland Browns stock.
The Cleveland Browns started off the 2019 NFL Preseason with a bang. Hours after trading disgruntled running back Duke Johnson to the Houston Texans, Cleveland beat the Washington Redskins 30-10. The starting offense (sans key playmakers Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr.) played only one series, but the game was entertaining into the fourth quarter and featured plenty of players fighting for roster spots.
The Browns opened the game with a holding penalty while receiving the kickoff, pinning them at their own 15-yard-line. Quarterback Baker Mayfield threw an errant pass to wide receiver Derrick Willies, which brought up second and 10. Six plays later, Cleveland was in the end zone, courtesy of a 24 laser to Rashard Higgins. Mayfield exited with a perfect 158.3 QB rating, and RB Nick Chubb took his only carry for 12 yards. The Browns offense finished with 417 total yards, and averaged 6.1 yards per play. 23 points scored isn’t bad, but things could have been even better, as the team lost two fumbles inside the 10-yard-line.
QB Garrett Gilbert
He didn’t throw a touchdown pass, but Gilbert made the most of his extended time on the field. He showed superior arm strength to Drew Stanton and David Blough, as well as good pocket awareness on a play where he instantly threw to his hot route just before getting hammered by an unblocked defender flying in on his blindside. The Browns are likely to keep three QBs, with Stanton being one of them. Gilbert is in the drivers’ seat for the third spot, and he will be the backup to Mayfield if he continues to perform like he did against Washington.
RB D’Ernest Johnson
With the trade of Johnson, the Browns now have an opening for a third RB spot, and the other D. Johnson is one of the contestants. He carried the ball five times for 23 yards, and while he didn’t catch a pass, he didn’t fumble. Dontrell Hilliard had a huge opportunity to prove himself, and despite catching three passes for 34 yards, he gained just 19 yards on nine carries, and fumbled at the one-yard-line. Ball security is crucial, and now Johnson will have a shot at more playing time if he can prove he is capable of holding onto the ball, and generating more yardage on the ground.
WRs Damon Sheehy-Guiseppi and Dewery Montgomery
Cleveland’s top four WR spots are locked up, and there are multiple contenders for the final one or two spots. Sheehy-Guiseppi caught only two passes for 12 yards, but returned a punt 86 yards for a score. The Browns are in need of a kick and punt returner, so if Sheehy-Guiseppi can show he’s adept at that and is capable of running a few routes per game, he has a chance at writing a fairytale ending to a fantastic story,
Montgomery was an unknown until last night, when he caught both of his targets for 47 yards and a TD. Both grabs were difficult fades, the first where Montgomery had to turn around and high-point the ball, and the second he caught in the middle of a backpedal onto the ground. The best way to put yourself into the conversation for a WR spot is to make tough grabs, and Montgomery certainly did that.
DLs Chad Thomas and Devaroe Lawrence
Thomas was a third-round pick in 2018 who barely saw the field as a rookie. He’s had a tumultuous training camp, but put together a very solid performance early on against the Redskins. He finished with just one tackle, but Thomas was creating consistent pressure and affecting the QB’s release. Defensive end depth is a big issue for the Browns, and if Thomas is able to earn himself a rotational role, that would be huge.
Like Thomas, Lawrence hardly saw the field in 2018. Cleveland certainly saw something they liked last year however, as they parted with a future sixth-round pick to get him from the New Orleans Saints. Lawrence finished with three tackles and the only sack from a Browns defensive lineman, and applied pressure from the DT spot. Lawrence is fighting for a roster spot and did well for himself. The team lacks depth behind starters Larry Ogunjobi and Sheldon Richardson, so Lawrence has a real opportunity here.
LB Mack Wilson
The latest in a long line of Alabama linebackers in the NFL, Wilson has been the talk of camp for the past few weeks as he’s put together some great practices, including multiple interceptions. So of course, Wilson had two picks against the redskins, including a pick-six off a pass from rookie Dwayne Haskins. Coverage LBs are extremely valuable in today’s NFL, so Wilson will earn himself quite a bit of playing time if he continues to make splash plays against the pass.
WR Ishmael Hyman
Hyman caught four of his five targets for 39 yards and looked good with the ball in his hands, but he fumbled inside the 10-yard-line. He has a ton of competition for just or two spots at WR, so being careless with the ball could prove to be a devastating mistake for him. He’ll likely continue to see the field often during the preseason, so he will have chances to redeem himself.
C Austin Corbett
When the Browns selected Corbett with the first pick of the second round in 2018, many were puzzled. He was not considered the top guard or center on the board, but his length was also likely going to prevent him from playing tackle at the next level. Plus, the Browns already had an excellent center in J.C. Tretter and two of the very best guards in football and Joel Bitonio and Kevin Zeitler. With Zeitler now gone, RG is wide open, but it appears as if Corbett is not currently in the running. He played exclusively as the second-team center last night, which is not encouraging. He rode the pine during his rookie season, and if an interior offensive lineman isn’t able to crack the starting lineup for two whole seasons, that’s bordering on bust territory.
RG Eric Kush
The first-team right guard, Kush has had an up-and-down training camp. He was rated as Pro Football Focus’s best pass-blocking guard in 2018, but played very limited snaps, and lost his starting job in Chicago to James Daniels, who, ironically, was on the board when Cleveland selected Corbett. Kush did not perform well last night, which is very concerning. General manager John Dorsey traded Zeitler because he felt confident that the players he had could replace the veteran. So far, it looks like he was wrong.
S Sheldrick Redwine
Washington’s lone touchdown came on a busted coverage on third and 16 in the first quarter. Rookie cornerback Greedy Williams was lined up in zone coverage, and passed off his WR to the safety behind him in order to cover the RB, who was running into the flat. The problem is that Redwine, a fellow rookie, didn’t drop back to his deep zone, and Robert Davis was wide open for a 47-yard score. Redwine is a hybrid safety, but could struggle to find playing time with Damarious Randall, Morgan Burnett, Jermaine Whitehead, and Eric Murray ahead of him on the depth chart. Big mistakes like this won’t help.