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Browns-Jaguars Final Score: Rookies thrive as Cleveland wins first preseason game 24-13

As for Deshaun Watson’s time — it was pretty ugly.

Cleveland Browns v Jacksonville Jaguars Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images

The Cleveland Browns played their first preseason game of the year Friday evening against the Jacksonville Jaguars, winning by a score of 24-13. Let’s get to the full recap.

Starters and backups discussion aside, from a competitive, execution, and entertainment aspect, the Browns were a bleeping disaster in the first quarter (and for all three series that Deshaun Watson was under center). It started on Watson’s very first play, when head coach Kevin Stefanski dialed up his bread-and-butter play of having a quarterback roll to the left. Watson’s throw sailed over the head of an open Anthony Schwartz.

On second down, center Nick Harris saw his left crumble and he needed to be carted off; Schwartz also dropped the pass on the play. When Jacksonville took over after a punt, they marched down the field before settling for a 23-yard field goal. Cleveland’s second series ended quickly too after running back D’Ernest Johnson was popped and fumbled the football:

Jacksonville tacked on another short field goal from 38 yards to make it a 6-0 game. Watson got a crack at a third series, but two holding penalties led to another three-and-out. The Browns’ defense stopped the Jaguars again on a third down in the red zone, but Jacksonville went for it on fourth down and converted for a touchdown to take a 13-0 lead early in the second quarter:

With Jacoby Brissett having the night off, Joshua Dobbs took over at quarterback. He threw back-to-back completions to give Cleveland their first first down of the game. Then, it was rookie running back Jerome Ford’s time to shine, as he broke free for a 41-yard run. A few plays later, Ford punched it in from three yards out to cut the Jaguars’ lead to 13-7.

The Browns’ rookie class kept the party going. Just before the two-minute warning, third-round cornerback MJ Emerson ripped a pass away from a receiver and returned it 76 yards for a pick six to give Cleveland a 14-13 lead at the half.

Mid-way through the third quarter, Ford kept the Browns’ momentum going. In a goal-to-go situation, another running back, John Kelly, appeared to score a touchdown from three yards out, but a holding penalty set Cleveland back. They eventually settled for a 31-yard field goal from rookie kicker Cade York to extend their lead to 17-13 with 9:43 left in the third quarter.

Cleveland’s defense forced another three-and-out, and the Dobbs-and-Ford show continued. Dobbs moved the offense down the field, and then on a 1st-and-10 from the 14 yard line, Dobbs improvised and rolled to his left. He floated a pass over a leaping defender to Ford, who jumped in the air while in the front corner of the end zone. He maintained control for the touchdown, giving the Browns a 24-13 lead with 4:48 remaining in the third quarter.

Then, it was time for another rookie to shine — safety D’Anthony Bell, who had a sack earlier in the game, punched the ball loose from a receiver for a fumble, allowing fellow safety Richard LeCounte to recover.

That paved the way for Josh Rosen to take over at quarterback, who completed passes of 7 and 13 yards heading into the final quarter of play. A few minutes into the fourth quarter, Ford had a good-and-bad moment. Facing a 3rd-and-14 from the 30 yard line, Rosen dumped the ball off to Ford, who caught the ball and kept doing spin moves to make three different defenders miss. On the final one, though — just after he passed the first down marker — another defender came from the side and punched the ball free for a fumble. Jacksonville recovered, taking over at the 15 yard line with 11:35 to go in the game.

With the help of a fourth down conversion and a deep pass that had a defensive pass interference penalty, Jacksonville took up clock and was down at the 10 yard line. The defense held strong, and on 4th-and-goal from the 9 yard line, cornerback Herb Miller picked off Jake Luton’s pass in the end zone for a touchback with under five minutes to go.

After the turnover, the Browns went three-and-out, but still forced the Jaguars to burn two of their three timeouts. With Jacksonville trying to pick up the pace, another rookie shined as defensive end Isaiah Thomas logged his second sack of the game. At the two-minute warning, on a 4th-and-10 from the Browns’ 24 yard line, Luton’s pass fell incomplete for a turnover on downs.

Rosen kneeled out the clock from there for a Browns win!

Quick Hitters

  • QB Deshaun Watson: 1-of-5 for 7 yards.
  • QB Joshua Dobbs: 10-of-13 for 108 yards, 1 TD. 1 rush, 9 yards.
  • RB Jerome Ford: 11 carries, 58 yards, 1 TD. 4 catches, 46 yards, 1 TD. 1 fumble.
  • I know it’s just a preseason game, but the way we were being embarrassed in the first quarter (and looking like a “typical old Browns” type of execution) got my blood boiling.
  • This really was the game for the rookies. Jerome Ford, MJ Emerson, D’Anthony Bell, Isaiah Thomas, and Cade York all had time to shine, and combined, they were responsible for all of Cleveland’s points.
  • Hat tip to Joshua Dobbs too, who did a solid job managing the offense. The plays he made weren’t anything wowing, but he did what he needed to.
  • Cleveland’s wide receiver position looked uggggggly.