1. I enjoy watching preseason games because I want to see the position battles with the bottom third of the Cleveland Browns roster. Take the offensive line for instance. Yes, this was a game with backups against backups. But eventually, these guys become plug-in players and sometimes even starters when injuries decimate a roster. Two players stood out in this game: OT Dawand Jones and OG Wes Martin. Jones lacked that quick first step while at Ohio State, and now he has developed this thanks to O-Line Coach Bill Callahan.
From what I saw, no defensive player was able to get around Jones during his time in the lineup. Essentially, he just keeps pushing his man deeper and deeper on passing downs. Martin was stout in his stance and had a very good game, especially run-blocking. OG Drew Forbes on the other hand looked bad. The sack in the first half was his man, a holding call, and he could not figure out a counter to the spin move of DT Isaiah Mack. C Nick Harris worked well at center and even sealed off the second level at least three times I saw after chipping his man he then attacked the linebacker. Rookie Luke Wypler had some good snaps and will be learning but didn’t look great nor terrible. Both of these men should make the final roster as capable backups. Michael Dunn is definitely the first offensive lineman off the bench.
2. I thoroughly enjoyed the sideline interview with Jets QB Aaron Rodgers while he was on headset. Love him or think he is odd, he always says what is on his mind and doesn’t embellish or sugarcoat. He gave love to not only the Green Bay community but also to Jordan Love and (gulp) Brett Favre. That was weird. Him in his ballcap and salt-and-pepper beard looked a lot like Kevin Stefanski 2.0. Maybe in two years when Rodgers finally retires, he will become a QB coach, then an OC before running his own team? He is unmarried and without any children, so what else is he going to do? He owns four homes in three states. But his views of the New York area and all the big city stuff he has been introduced to since becoming a Jet were nice stories like he was a tourist. It made living in Wisconsin all those years seem small town. Oh wait, Green Bay is a small town.
3. Just one year I would like to see Cleveland RB John Kelly make this 53-man roster. Every year he tears up the preseason and then gets cut before languishing on the practice squad all season. He runs hard and is not the easiest to bring down. The biggest holes he found in this game were to the side of Jones and Martin. Finished the game with 10 carries for 42 yards.
4. If you did not know who Joe Thomas was when they introduced him and his son on the broadcast, but knew he was about to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, your best guess would have been he is a tight end. Maybe a defensive end. But no way an offensive tackle. The dude must be like only 260 pounds. In my interview with him last month, he told me even back to his Wisconsin days, he had to work at keeping the weight on. Geez, who wouldn’t want that problem? Did you read what he did every night just before bed to add poundage? Girl Scouts Thin Mint cookies come with two plastic sleeves in a single box. He would down two large glasses of whole milk with one sleeve, then go to sleep and let that churn and add weight. Now, he swims constantly, does yoga, and watches what he eats. Photos of him large with a round face and huge shoulders are long gone.
5. Would like to see rookie WR Cedric Tillman in the main offense a bit more before passing judgment on him at this stage. He has great hands, that is certain. His size is a bit of a mismatch. But how is his route running against cornerbacks who have seen moves like that and already know how to attack it? How is his catch point? Does he fight for the ball while in flight or try to work around the defender instead? Had two catches and three targets for 35 yards.
6. The Browns found the answer to “when Deshaun retires” who will be under center with the debut of rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson. He didn’t make every great decision, but he made a bunch of them with both his legs and arm. DTR has a nice touch and is elusive enough. Difficult to imagine how great his progression will be in several years if he can shine now in his first game. And he can lay down a good block. What quarterback does that? Hopefully, Deshaun will work his magic this year, and hope he remains upright. I am not sold on Josh Dobbs whatsoever. It seems clear already that QB Kellen Mond is the odd man out. No part of his game looks like you would insert him into an actual game.
7. The offense quit throwing to WR Anthony Schwartz because he was fumble-fingered and so the jet sweep appeared to be his contribution. Except he just can’t hold onto any ball on any given day. They have tried him at both kickoff and punt return and are running out of things for him to do. What use is that Olympic speed if he can’t handle the ball? Is this the beginning of the end for him? Hard to dump a third-round draft pick. Demetric Felton is another enigma. He ran back kicks while at UCLA and isn’t showing him being a threat whatsoever. The lanes he chooses are done too late and he doesn’t seem to have much of a burst. The wide receiver room is full so going back to that seems a dead end, so either he makes it as RB3 behind Jerome Ford and ahead of Kelly or he may be carpooling with Schwartz to the unemployment office.
8. You know I have to throw in some pro football history. The Jets began as the Titans of New York of the NFL-rival entity the American Football League in 1960. They were not the “New York Titans” because their official name was “The Titans of New York.” The original colors were yellow and blue.
The AFL felt that they had to have a franchise in New York City and found an owner who operated on a shoestring all three years he owned the franchise. In 1962, the league subsidized the team with a $40,000 gift to keep it afloat. The following year the AFL took over the club midway through the year and started looking for a new owner. As the Titans struggled financially early, New York advertising executive Art Modell turned down an offer in 1961 before buying the Browns. In 1964 the league finally found Leon Hess who owned a string of gas stations and was the founder of Hess Oil and Chemical. He moved the franchise from the ancient Polo Grounds to their new home Shea Stadium which was located between two airports and then changed the name to “Jets.” The stadium was also home to the baseball “Mets” so the new team name seemed to fit. Hess also altered the colors to green and white to honor his Irish heritage, and because his birthday was on St. Patrick’s Day.
9. That loud thud you heard in the fourth quarter was the work of LB Charlie Thomas III. I did an article on him last week and if you read it, you see he comes with a lot of accolades. The issue is that he is only 207 pounds. Can the Browns move him to safety? In high school, he had an army of schools trying to recruit him as an All-State safety. So, that is not out of the question. But for now, his home is the linebacker room. Another linebacker, Tony Fields, was all over the place against the Jets. In my interview with him, he said he has waited for this turn to compete for a starting position and feels this is his year. If he keeps playing like a Ninja, DC Jim Schwartz is going to have to find a way to get him on the field. One thing I notice about his play, he doesn’t hesitate to react and then fills a hole to go after his man. He has great instincts which you can’t coach. Fields is the son of a high school football coach. He led the Browns’ defense against the Jets with six total tackles and one tackle for loss. Thomas was second in total tackles with five and one tackle for loss. Make that one tackle for a very loud loss.
10. How many dropped interceptions did the Browns have in this game? Three? Four? It was ridiculous. It used to be that the defensive backs would run routes with the receivers in drills so that they could hone their pass-catching skills. A lot of these athletes have played receiver anyway in high school. In fact, that needs to be an NFL stat for defenders. Receivers have “drops.” Why can’t defensive players? Every Top-10 defense is a turnover machine. Schwartz has his work cut out regarding this aspect.