The 2019-20 Cleveland Browns officially took the field for the first time this past Thursday for the first preseason game of the year. There was as much hype behind this game as any preseason game for the Browns in memory, because of the very real expectations this team has for the season. And in a 30-10 win over Washington, the Browns proved there is a lot of substance behind that hype, and gave fans, even more, to be excited about this season. While there was no shortage of good signs to look back on, there also were some negatives of course. Let’s look at 3 main takeaways from this game.
1. This offense has all the tools to be absolutely lethal on a game to game basis
Let’s preface this by saying, of course, the Washington defense isn’t the most robust unit in the NFL. However. The Browns first-team offense took the field for one drive on Thursday and looked like they had not missed a single beat since last season. Baker Mayfield went 6/7 on the drive, capping it off with a strike to Rashard Higgins for a touchdown:
Mayfield spread the ball around, hitting Jaelen Strong, Nick Chubb, Dontrell Hilliard, and Nick Chubb with passes before finding Higgins. Chubb also looked strong as his only run of the drive went for a 12 yard gain. And it gets even better when you consider who the Browns didn’t have available on Thursday. Wide receivers Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry both sat, and Kareem Hunt, who will join this mix of talent after game 8, also didn’t see a snap all day. When considering the impact this trio will have on the offense, combined with how easy that first drive looked in the game, it’s hard not to be excited for the offensive potential of the team this year.
2. The Browns’ backup RB situation (weeks 1-9) may be a real issue
As Kareem Hunt, acquired from the Chiefs this offseason, is suspended for the first 8 games of the year, and Duke Johnson was recently dealt to the Texans for a draft pick, Dontrell Hilliard suddenly finds himself in the position to get a decent workload this season. Everything coming out of training camp about Hilliard seemed positive, but he had an up and down game on Thursday. The positives: Hilliard showed himself to be a pass-catching threat, receiving for 34 yards on 3 catches. The negatives, though- Hilliard fumbled the ball on a 4th and goal from the 1-yard line, something that will absolutely infuriate any football coach and for a running back, something that will get you stuck to the bench. Hopefully, Hilliard can be more consistent going forward in the preseason and get some confidence back heading into the regular games.
3. It might be time to bring in a new kicker
From all the reports coming out of Browns’ training camp this year, the kicking battle seems to be going very poorly, with neither Greg Joseph nor Austin Seibert leaping ahead in the race to take the job. And nothing really happened Thursday to change that. Seibert only got to kick two extra points, which he hit both of. There was only one actual field goal opportunity, which Greg Joseph hit from 43 yards out, which was encouraging. But, he also missed an extra point later in the game. And that’s the thing- a missed extra point might not seem like a huge deal, but when a kicker is trying to win a starting job, there’s almost a no mistake expectation. Especially for an extra point, which any pro kicker isn’t expected to be able to hit automatically. For a more established kicker, no one really bats an eye at a missed extra point but for someone in a position battle, it translates as a lack of ability to handle pressure, something a kicker can’t have. And for a team that looks to be playing a lot of big games this year, games that often are decided by just a few points, a reliable kicker is vital to a team like this’ success. It will be interesting Ron see how their battle unfolds throughout the season.
All three of these storylines are evolving day by day, and we will see how they move forward when the Browns next take the field for preseason game #2, as they head to Indy to take on the Colts this Saturday afternoon.