NFL Preseason Blitz: Brock Osweiler struggles, DeShone Kizer steps up
If the Cleveland Browns’ plan for starting Brock Osweiler on Thursday was to showcase him for a trade, it didn’t go too well.
If the Browns’ plan is for Osweiler to be their starter this season, that doesn’t look too great either.
Osweiler got the start in the Browns’ first preseason game this year, even though he wasn’t with the starters previously in training camp. He didn’t do much to secure the job going forward.
Rookie DeShone Kizer, on the other hand, gave the coaches something to think about this week as he made two fantastic throws, including a go-ahead touchdown in the final two minutes in a 20-14 win over the New Orleans Saints.
Osweiler was 6-of-14 for 42 yards in about a quarter-and-a-half of play. He overthrew receivers multiple times on deep passes. His best pass looked like a touchdown to Kenny Britt in the corner of the end zone, but Britt was out of bounds. After getting a first down later that drive, the Browns threw four times from inside the 10-yard line and couldn’t get in the end zone. The final throw for Osweiler was a broken-up pass on a contested slant route to Britt on fourth-and-goal.
Cody Kessler came in after Osweiler, and completed 5-of-10 passes for 47 yards. Kizer was impressive in the second half. He received praise for how he looked in practice, but it appears he’s still third on the depth chart. He showed off his strong arm on a 52-yard pass in the fourth quarter. That set up a touchdown. Then with the Browns trailing in the final two minutes, he stood in against the rush and delivered a 45-yard strike to a wide-open Jordan Payton for a score to put the Browns ahead. Kizer was 11-of-18 for 184 yards.
Kizer made his case to move up the depth chart. The order of the quarterbacks might change when the Browns coaches watch the film of Osweiler’s outing.
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Osweiler was coming off a bad season with the Houston Texans, then was traded to the Browns in a salary dump. But the Browns don’t have a lot of quality options at quarterback, so Osweiler got a shot on Thursday night. He had a few good throws, but mostly he was off. Some of that could be due to his receivers, especially since he didn’t play with the starters in camp. On one overthrown ball, Osweiler gestured to the receiver, indicating he expected a different route.
Osweiler looked confident, throwing deep often, but he couldn’t connect on those throws. On one he had tight end Seth DeValve with a little separation down field and Osweiler just missed what could have been a touchdown pass. That’s how the night went. The Browns didn’t put up any points in Osweiler’s quarter-and-a-half of work.
Osweiler could have other chances going forward. Kizer should get a longer look. The Browns will have to consider long and hard how they want to use the rest of the preseason to evaluate their quarterbacks.
Into the fourth quarter, the Denver Broncos’ defense had one touchdown. The offense had none. Unfortunately for the Broncos, that’s a trend the past couple seasons.
It’s just one preseason game, but it looks like there are still plenty of offensive problems for the Broncos to figure out after a 24-17 win over the Chicago Bears. That starts at quarterback.
Trevor Siemian started. He wasn’t bad, though he wasn’t great either. He completed 6-of-7 passes for 51 yards. He didn’t make any big mistakes but didn’t make much happen either. It was pretty much what you’d expect from him.
Paxton Lynch, the Broncos’ 2016 first-round pick, hasn’t looked great in practice and he didn’t look good on Thursday night. If people expected that he could turn it on in a game situation, that didn’t happen. Lynch was 6-of-9 for 42 yards. It didn’t help Lynch that on the other side, Bears rookie Mitchell Trubisky looked fantastic in his debut. Lynch is slated to start the Broncos’ second preseason game, but it’s hard to see him beating Siemian for the job by Week 1 of the regular season.
Through three quarters the Broncos’ top two quarterbacks were 12-of-16 for 93 yards and led zero touchdown drives. Third-stringer Kyle Sloter came in for the fourth quarter. This has been a defense-first team since 2015 when Peyton Manning started to hit the wall, but the Broncos want a little more balance. Thursday night didn’t provide much optimism about that happening.
If you had any question about how the Minnesota Vikings might use rookie running back Dalvin Cook, the first 13 plays of the preseason might provide a clue.
Of those 13 plays, one was a sack. On the other 12 plays (counting one that was nullified due to a holding penalty), the Vikings got the ball to Cook eight times: four rushing attempts and four receptions. Let’s assume Minnesota isn’t going to give Cook the ball on two-thirds of its offensive plays during the season, but Cook is going to get used a lot. After the first quarter and those 13 plays, starting quarterback Sam Bradford exited the game, which the Vikings ended up winning over the Buffalo Bills 17-10, though Cook stayed in for a while longer. Cook had just 13 yards on five carries, but looked fast in the passing game. He had 30 yards on four catches, and had another 9-yard catch on a screen pass wiped out due to a holding penalty.
The problem for the Vikings is they didn’t get a great debut from their retooled offensive line, which was a problem last season. New right tackle Mike Remmers gave up a third-down sack to Bills end Eddie Yarbrough when Yarbrough gave him a slight head fake and used his speed to the outside. On the first play of the next drive, Bills end Jerry Hughes got a sack. So the line still might have some issues.
But the offense looked different on Thursday. Cook gives Minnesota a different dimension. The Vikings struggled mightily to run the ball last season. Cook might fix that. It seems he’ll be given plenty of chances to, anyway.
Jacksonville Jaguars 31, New England Patriots 24: Jimmy Garoppolo, starting because Tom Brady sat out, did what you’d expect. He efficiently ran the offense, always finding the right receiver in the short passing game, and made a couple nice throws downfield. He made a nice play near the goal line, when he bought time and found undrafted rookie Austin Carr dragging the back of the end zone. Carr, who has gotten good reviews in camp, leaped and made a nice touchdown catch. Garoppolo played into the second half and was 22-of-28 for 235 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
Baltimore Ravens 23, Washington Redskins 3: The Ravens better hope Joe Flacco doesn’t have any setbacks with his back injury. Backup Ryan Mallett completed just nine of 18 passes for 58 yards in a half of work. His longest completion was 11 yards. Mallett didn’t look good and the Ravens would be in some trouble if Flacco missed any time in the regular season.
Philadelphia Eagles 24, Green Bay Packers 9: Packers backup quarterback Brett Hundley doesn’t get the buzz of other young backups like Jimmy Garoppolo or AJ McCarron, but he has typically played well in the preseason. He played well on Thursday night too, as Aaron Rodgers sat out. He made a strong, accurate throw to Jeff Janis for a 20-yard touchdown. He finished 8-of-15 for 90 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
Miami Dolphins 23, Atlanta Falcons 20: Miami seemed to have found a gem with its second-round pick, linebacker Raekwon McMillan, but McMillan reportedly will miss this season. The Dolphins fear McMillan tore his ACL on Thursday night, according to multiple reports including Andy Slater of 940-AM. He injured himself covering a punt in the first quarter. McMillan had been working as the team’s starting middle linebacker.
• How did the Dolphins’ 2017 season start? On the first play of the preseason, the offense lined up and was taking so long to get the play snapped, receiver Jarvis Landry had to call timeout before the play clock expired and the Dolphins were charged with a delay-of-game penalty. Not a great look for quarterback Matt Moore, who started because new acquisition Jay Cutler was held out.
• Sammy Watkins looked healthy. That’s always a question with the Bills receiver.
On the Bills’ first three plays, quarterback Tyrod Taylor dropped back and found Watkins for receptions. On each play, Watkins was wide open. Taylor went to Watkins on his fourth attempt too, though Taylor misfired on what looked like a miscommunication. Watkins looked quick and explosive in space, which he usually does when he’s not dealing with injuries. He had three catches for 30 yards on the first drive. Watkins finished with four catches for 39 yards. You have to wonder if the first few plays going to Watkins was a message from a new coaching staff about what’s to come.
It’s a big year for Watkins. The Bills didn’t pick up Watkins’ fifth-year option, in part because of the injuries that have plagued him. Watkins struggled with a foot injury all last season and had surgery in January. The Bills’ passing on the fifth-year option means Watkins can become a free agent after the season. If the Bills’ first preseason game was an indication, the Bills are going to give him plenty of chances to shine … as long as he’s healthy.
• Bills running back Jonathan Williams had a nice night, looking decisive and fast. He had 39 yards on four carries. Williams hurt his hamstring but told Jay Skurski of the Buffalo News it was minor and he could have kept playing. Williams will play an important role as LeSean McCoy’s backup, and he looked very good on Thursday.
• Jaguars rookie Leonard Fournette got his first touchdown on a 1-yard run in the second quarter. His best run came in the first quarter, when the Jaguars went for it on fourth-and-goal and ran it up the middle. Fournette burst through the line and finished the run strong for a 9-yard gain. Going for it on fourth down and giving it to Fournette when it was clear he was getting the ball was a message from Jacksonville’s coaching staff, which wants to play a more physical style.
Fournette didn’t have a lot of explosive runs, but he looked fine gaining 31 yards for nine carries. We’ll see a lot more of him when games count.
• Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz had a nice preseason opener. He completed all four of his passes for 56 yards and a touchdown. Wentz made a nice play on the touchdown to avoid the rush and keep the play alive, then delivered the ball to receiver Mack Hollins who made a nice run to the end zone that included a vicious stiff-arm.
• It was good to see Victor Cruz make a good impression in his first game with the Bears. At the end of Trubisky’s (impressive) first pro drive, Cruz caught a 2-yard touchdown and did an abbreviated version of his salsa dance. Cruz is one of a few veterans battling for the Bears’ third receiver job.
• Washington Redskins safety Su’a Cravens and linebacker Trent Murphy will have MRIs on injured knees coach Jay Gruden said after the game, according to ESPN. Gruden didn’t speculate on the severity of the injuries to two of Washington’s best defenders.
• Devonta Freeman became the highest-paid running back in the NFL this week, but he still plays in the preseason. Freeman got only two touches in the preseason opener, but one was a 15-yard touchdown catch. Freeman should have another big season.
• Even in preseason, it’s fun to see a 99-yard touchdown. Dolphins receiver Damore’ea Stringfellow caught a long pass from David Fales, broke loose from the cornerback, put some moves on the safety and went the distance for the score. That’s a fun highlight for him, no matter what happens for the rest of his football career.
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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter!