Things weren’t as pretty as last week, but the Cleveland Browns managed to pull out a victory over the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday, improving their preseason record to 2-0. There were plenty of issues that showed themselves, but there were also some very solid performances.
The preseason is halfway over, and position battles will heat up over the next two weeks. Here is how some key members of the Browns performed against the Colts.
QB Garrett Gilbert
The AAF legend put together his second straight excellent performance, going 13-19 for 151 yards and two touchdowns as he played the entire first half. Through two games, Gilbert has looked decisive, accurate, and composed. He seems to have all but locked down the backup QB job at this point, as he is clearly a better option on the field than Drew Stanton.
HB D’Ernest Johnson
With Darius Hilliard sidelined due to a hamstring injury, Johnson got the opportunity to plead his case as the Browns third running back, and he took advantage of it, totaling 10 carries for 53 yards while catching all three of his targets for 26 yards and a score. Johnson now has a legitimate chance to make the roster over Hilliard, and the final decision may end up coming down to which back performs better on special teams.
G Drew Forbes
The rookie sixth-round pick has come on strong over the past few weeks to put himself firmly in the running for the starting right guard spot. He’s earned himself a share of the first-team reps in practice, and entered the game on Cleveland’s second drive, as Eric Kush (who started at RG) slid over to center while starting left tackle Greg Robinson remained in the game. Forbes also played at left guard for a bit, and was on the field for the rest of the game. The coaching staff clearly wants to see as much of him as possible, and at this point Forbes looks like a good bet to make the team, even if he isn’t the starter.
CB Eric Murray
Acquired from the Kansas City Chiefs in exchange for Emmanuel Ogbah, Murray has had a chance to get a lot of work in recently as starting nickel corner T.J. Carrie is dealing with a hamstring issue. Against Indy, Murray finished with two tackles, a sack, a QB hit, and broke up a pass. His versatility (he can also play safety) should earn him a decent role in the secondary come September.
CB Robert Jackson
The former Colts DB totaled three tackles, including a nice stop on kickoff coverage. He also applied pressure when blitzing from his CB spot. Cleveland has a surprisingly deep secondary, so Jackson is facing an uphill battle to make the team, but the Browns are always looking for good special teamers, which increases Jackson’s chances of sticking around.
S J.T. Hassell
Hassell was born with only two fingers on his left hand, so it’s extremely impressive to see how far he’s gone in football. He had six tackles on Saturday, but his biggest play was one where he was called for two separate penalties. In punt coverage, Hassell ran out of bounds without being forced, which drew an unsportsmanlike conduct. He was then flagged for “unnecessary use of the helmet” on a perfect form tackle. He had some slight issues in coverage, but looked like he belonged in the NFL. Hassell likely won’t make the final 53, but appears to be a solid practice squad candidate, if another team doesn’t claim him.
TE Demetrius Harris
Signed away from Kansas City this offseason, Harris had been dealing with a concussion, so his first game action came against Indy. He had a very rough first series, dropping a pass and then being called for holding. He’s a very good athlete in a large 6’7″ and 230-pound frame, but is known for having iffy hands. He is in no danger of being cut, but if he can’t be counted on to catch the ball, he won’t play much, even if he is a better blocker than starter David Njoku.
C Austin Corbett
After an average performance against Washington, Corbett laid an egg in Week 2. Interestingly enough, he first entered the game as the right guard, as starter Eric Kush moved over to center. This could possibly be an indication that the coaching staff doesn’t trust Corbett at center and wanted to try Kush out there in a game situation. Their lack of trust would not be unfounded, as Corbett had a terrible game. He was consistently beaten by third and fourth-stringers, and had multiple bad snaps to where Garrett Gilbert was barely able to retain possession for Cleveland. Right now, the only things keeping Corbett on the roster are his draft status (33rd overall in 2018) and the dead cap that would result in cutting him ($4.4 million).
K Austin Seibert
Seibert has been locked in a kicking battle with Greg Joseph, and neither has been able to take hold of the competition. Seibert hit both of his PAT attempts but also missed a 52-yard field goal. Expecting a kicker to nail every 50+ yard attempt is a bit unrealistic, but Seibert is going to have to start converting his deep kicks if he wants to make the team. He was 10-18 from beyond 40 yards during his college career, which makes the fact that he was drafted in the fifth round all the more puzzling.
K Greg Joseph
As disappointing as Seibert has been, Joseph has not been any better. He made his PAT try but missed wide right on a 53-yard attempt at the end of the first half. Joseph has the better leg, but that doesn’t mean much if he’s unable to hit kicks past where Seibert is good from. Because of the performance of both the kickers, the Browns may end up cutting both and bringing some fresh blood in. The offense may be much improved, but the team should know as well as anyone how important kicking is, having lost out on a possible playoff bid last season because of missed kicks.