The preseason has come to a close as the Cleveland Browns wrapped up their offseason with a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. By a score of 33-32, the Browns got a long look at the bottom of their roster one last time before being forced to cut their roster down from 90 to 53. We saw quarterback Deshaun Watson for three series in this game, and we saw a lot of depth linebacker Tony Fields II throughout this one.
Watson finished the game 5-of-10 for 92 yards with a beautiful touchdown pass to tight end David Njoku. He was credited with two fumbles, but those were on the exchange with running back Jordan Wilkins. John Kelly Jr. led the Browns in rushing with 20 yards on six carries, while Amari Cooper led in receiving with one catch of 53 yards.
As the Browns now get ready for the Cincinnati Bengals at home in two weeks, what can we take away from this loss to the Chiefs?
1st Down: Do not expect the Browns to roster an emergency quarterback
Yes, technically the Browns can roster a third quarterback on their 53-man depth chart as an emergency quarterback. However, one fluke instance in the NFC Championship game over the past 10 years since the NFL originally changed the emergency quarterback rule is not enough of an issue for the Browns to consider rostering Kellen Mond.
Mond was recalled from waivers for the sake of taking snaps in today’s game after the trade of Joshua Dobbs. The Browns see Kellen Mond every day, just as former head coach of the Minnesota Vikings Mike Zimmer did. They know who he is as a player, and it is to the point where they could even consider looking elsewhere for a practice squad quarterback.
2nd Down: Injuries to fringe players may make cutdowns clearer
What happened to Jakeem Grant Sr. is devastating.
In his first-ever touch as a member of the Cleveland Browns after popping his Achilles a year ago, Grant Sr. suffered what looked to be a serious knee injury that required him to be carted off the field. He figured to be a key special teams contributor as an All-Pro return man with an inside track to a roster spot. We wish nothing but a speedy recovery and the best for Grant and his future.
Another player on the fringe of the roster who left this game early was linebacker Jordan Kunaszyk. The special teams ace is in a battle with another special teamer Matthew Adams and undrafted rookie standout Mohamoud Diabate.
While these injuries are never fun to witness, they may provide some clarity in who makes the final 53-man roster. The likes of Diabate, wide receiver Austin Watkins Jr., and other fringe players may have a less muddy track to making the roster after today’s game.
3rd Down: Be encouraged by the first team offense
It was not pretty early on, predominantly due to a pair of uneasy handoffs from a running back who has been on the roster for less than two weeks. However, the Browns’ first-team offense left plenty of nuggets on the field to get excited about.
Watson showed glimpses of extending plays and working the scramble drill to allow receivers to find pockets down the field, he threw a dart to Donovan Peoples-Jones on his first throw of the game, then tossed a pretty ball to David Njoku in the endzone. We saw some of the old wide zone boot, but some of the new RPO action that will be incorporated as well.
The box score does not tell the story. The first-team offense is leaving viewers optimistic of how explosive they can be in 2023.
4th Down: Cleveland's defense could go from the bottom to the top in 2023
While the Browns did not face Patrick Mahomes in this game, they took advantage of the quarterback they did face (as they should have). The defensive first-teamers played three series in this game, two of which led to interceptions. One of which was a dynamic return for a touchdown by former Chief Juan Thornhill.
They dominated the Kansas City starting offensive line, providing pressure at will. There is no doubt that the new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has his players flying around freely with their hair on fire. And this was without starters Myles Garrett, Anthony Walker Jr., and Sione Takitaki.
For a unit that was putrid a year ago, the Browns have the chance to go from worst to first defensively this season under the guidance of Schwartz.
Extra Point: Tony Fields II continues to prove his value to the Browns
In a linebacker room where all of Anthony Walker Jr., Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, and Sione Takitaki ended their seasons on Injured Reserve, the value of Tony Fields II continues to rise. And he is backing it up on the field. He finished the game as the team leader in tackles with 11 and has shown the ability to play both MIKE and WILL.
It helps that he has a large body of work on special teams as well. When the third-year player has been on the field down the stretch a year ago and in the preseason, his name is never mentioned for a bad reason. At the very worst, Fields II goes unnoticed. And that is a good thing.
Fields II is not going anywhere.
Two-point conversion: Running backs and kickers
[lawrence-auto-related count=5 category=1362]