2022 Dynasty/Fantasy Preseason Week 1 Game Report: Browns 24, Jaguars 13
I can’t even properly calculate the number of games (preseason, regular season, playoffs, college), the number of hours going over and over tape the past decade. I’m pretty sure I’m well past that magical ’10,000 hours’ you need to be expert at something.
In all my time watching football, I can’t recall anything like what I watched/witnessed here.
This was the Deshaun Watson debut as a Brown, and it was…not good. You could probably ascertain that from his stat line (1-of-5 passing) without even watching it, but there was so much more to discuss aside from Watson’s play.
1) As the boos rained down upon Watson’s initial jog onto the field…and as we all watched/heard/saw it – it was nice that the game announcers/paid shills did not acknowledge for one second what was obvious to everyone watching.
The NFL does not want this publicity/look. Blame Roger Goodell -- he gave away his suspension autonomy…actually, blame the fans for complaining about Goodell’s suspension power and forced him to do the corporate thing and distance himself away from making any direct decisions he could get criticized for. Smart on his behalf to avoid the Twitter-reaction-to-everything hivemind of America…but now we’re living with those consequences as Watson and the Browns make a mockery of the brand.
In Corporate America, anything negative is best to be ignored, manipulated/spun, not discussed…and hope the public angst gets forgotten quickly, as it usually does. However, I suspect this unique situation has legs -- and the boos will be true every game Watson plays this year…the boos at his mere sight and the cheers when he fails at anything. It’s gonna be weird when the game analysts (muzzled by the NFL/their bosses) are not analyzing or discussing the elephant on the massage table as we are watching it happen in plain sight.
And if Watson melts down on the field, and the Browns are irrevocably damaged, and their own fans don’t attend games…or attend to boo Watson themselves…and then if Browns players start speaking about it -- then this whole thing is going to go to another level and will be a massive disaster the Browns will literally be paying for, for years…possibly a decade+.
2) Between the boos and the slimy presence of Watson in general -- you could visibly see the Browns’ players were not fired up to play this game…or play with this QB (just a guess). They had to know the boos were coming but it’s different when you’re living it in real time. AND this was just a meaningless, half-attended preseason game. What’s gonna happen in his first regular season game?
Already in 2022, I’ve seen preseason games with teams playing games like it was the Super Bowl…but this Browns team looked 180 degrees the opposite of that – the first-team offense looked like they wanted to go hide somewhere. Players were walking, slow jogging all over. The body language was palpable. Some players in the huddle seemingly not looking Watson in the face as almost a silent protest. Can you blame them?
The fans hate Watson.
I suspect many of the players hate Watson. He’s not likable. He’s not genuine. He’s not paid a penance…he’s been rewarded with 5-100x the salary of these teammates.He’s hateable.
How is this going to be a positive for the Browns?
Some crimes a player can commit, the team will overlook/not care about…a DUI, cocaine use, a PED suspension, a fight at a nightclub, their posse killing someone (Ray Lewis), even domestic abuse becomes a ‘he said/she said’ matter that players don’t want to get involved with someone’s personal life on…I’m not sure how/where the line is drawn, or who drew it -- but a lot of things are overlooked in this ‘warfare’/foxhole friends sport. But this Watson thing is very palpable…hitting a raw nerve. Everyone knows Watson is guilty…his explanations in interviews this year have been somewhere between appalling and disconnected/unremorseful…his crime is so perplexing to the average person or average football player -- how can the Browns think they can shove this under the rug and prosper going forward?
Any normal Browns fan has to be totally embarrassed and not even wanting to watch/root this team. It’s sad…and it’s not going away anytime soon. It’s likely to only get worse as they go, as the team craters.
What free agents want to go to Cleveland to begin with…but now who is coming to play for a team its own fanbase is disgusted by and that the whole league hates? It’s back to the typical free agents that are willing to come to the Browns…the one the Browns have to pay 2x the market on who are just there to take Cleveland’s money (like OBJ-Landry…and probably Amari now). Everyone in Browns management that proposed this deal for Watson as a good idea should be fired…and the owner should sell the team to give the city a fresh start, that’s the only way I think the Browns will get past this long-term.
3) Two or three plays into the game, the Browns starting center was clutching his knee and off on a cart…done for the year. It almost seemed like Karma hit right off the bat…and it only made the Browns 1st-team players more disengaged in this game.
4) The Browns ended up winning this game in the end…which is meaningless, but shows how bad this Jaguar team is, and we’ll get to some of those reasons in the player section ahead. I think the Browns played a little more engaged and normal preseason spirit of young players once Watson departed.
Dynasty/Fantasy Player Notes…
-- Let’s begin with going over Deshaun Watson’s (1-5 for 7 yards, 0 TD/0 INT) actual play here.
We know it wasn’t good because we can read a box score and we saw the highlights of him misfiring all over the place. But a couple extra observations…
I can forgive his early jitters…I mean, it’s his first play in a while and the boos were blanketing him. But know that he never did get his sea legs underneath him…and it wasn’t just a few tentative, inaccurate throws (some WILDLY inaccurate). Watson’s feet were tangled, bumbling, and/or going the wrong way on basic handoffs. Watson, in this game, looked like a player/QB who was forced to play for a team he had never met before, never had practiced with, and he just tried to go out and figure it out in a live football game. ‘Rattled’ was an understatement.
With each play, the Browns players got more disengaged from the event…between Watson looking like a total goof…and the starting center lost for the season on play 2-3. The Browns played a little better once Watson was gone from the game.
How can Watson survive and thrive from this going forward? How will this get any better? This is going to destroy the final shreds of any hope for this Browns team the next several years. The Browns thought they bought a gem…but they acquired their ruination. They only have themselves to blame with that terrible trade deal and the most horrific contract ever given to an NFL player, especially one in the situation Watson brings to the table.
Also, just a side thought -- do you think any opposing defender would like to take a shot at Watson? A big shot? Do you think an OL might ‘miss’ a block or assignment 1-2-3x a game to give said shot? I don’t know how ‘Code Reds’ work in the NFL, but I bet there will be some football justice doled out.
-- The Watson disaster performance under a chorus of boos/jeers as it happened, overshadowed a continuation of the lack of pocket passer ability from the ‘golden boy’, Trevor Lawrence (6-12 for 95 yards, 1 TD/0 INT, 1-11-0).
The throws Lawrence makes from the pocket are as if he doesn’t see any defense…he just flings/fires things towards a receiver and hopes it lands, but it usually doesn’t. From a clean pocket, with time, and a simple route with soft coverage…Lawrence will hit an open receiver. Lawrence also likes the rollout game because it gets him away from the pocket that he is so afraid of…and thus Trevor can make a decent rolling out and throw to a receiver open in front of him, but you can only go to that well so much before the defense cuts it off. If you want a QB to sit in the pocket, go through progressions, and just carve up a defense -- it isn’t happening with Lawrence…never has.
I watched Kenny Pickett’s snaps from his NFL debut this first preseason week…he already looks 10x more comfortable and competent in the pocket than Trevor.
Lawrence is nowhere near the QB prospect they said. And I marvel at the fact that an entire body of people in the industry all claim to see generational greatness here -- and this player is going to fall short and be a problem a la Darnold-Winston-Dan Jones, etc. How can EVERYONE be so wrong? We’ll never know because it will all be glossed over and blamed on coaches and play calling, etc., for years…and then we’ll forget all about it as we are barking at the new thing there is to bark about. Heck, there are still people who believe Jameis Winston’s time as an elite QB is right around the corner/about to happen. Just not Sean Payton, apparently.
Lawrence has a good arm. He can run some plays out of the playbook. He can manage a short game. But he is nothing like the top QBs of this era.
How long will Jacksonville and Cleveland be in denial about their QB situation? Probably years. Is there a franchise any worse run than either Jacksonville or Cleveland? Jacksonville of the constant #1 pick status and Urban Meyer debacle…versus Cleveland and this whole Deshaun Watson situation and contract.
-- Let’s keep the crankiness going…
Travis Etienne (9-23-0, 1-10-0/3)? I don’t get it. He looks like a bad imitation of Nyheim Hines or J.D. McKissic…nice third down/hurry up/change of pace backs who occasionally get work as lead backs but are really just satellite backs.
Etienne looks slimmed down after his season off with the ACL. He looks quick enough but slender…when he was running into trouble in this game he was clobbered/stopped in his tracks. He’s not moving any piles or leading a heavy run game…he’s a change of pace guy, not a lead back. What is that worth in the NFL? Not a lead back, not at all.
I know we all have a daydream of Etienne getting a bunch of touches in the passing game because of the Etienne+Lawrence love affair notion, and it may happen, but Etienne as some special event RB talent within this…I don’t see it.
Etienne as a ‘volume’ hope for PPR…understandable. For the price/ADP? Maybe…it would have to be really good volume and not just ‘hope’ or ‘coach speak’ fake volume. I mean, 7 carries for 25 yards, 4 catches for 25 yards and no TDs game after game…it’s better than nothing in PPR, for like a flex week or something. But is that carrying you to the FF mountain top?
Etienne as some special talent…I don’t see it. Maybe it’s there and I’ll see it next game, but I saw heavy/bulky Etienne last preseason look sluggish (and tear his ACL under the weight of it all)…now this year lean Etienne just looks little/scatback-ish…and there’s a place for that but on a bad offense with James Robinson being the better RB? Some speedbumps to consider for the sometimes 3rd-round redraft price.
-- Browns rookie RB Jerome Ford (10-57-1, 4-45-1/5) got a big workload here and really looked solid/like he belonged. He had more consistency of results in his touches than Etienne did -- but Ford faced much less defensive resistance/talent with his time in the game.
It was a solid debut for Ford, but I’d want to see him work against something better than the Jags 2nd/3rd defense to get a better idea. Promising start/debut however.
-- Jags receiver notes…
Christian Kirk did not play, so it’s hard to make a full judgment -- but Zay Jones (2-47-0/4) looks like he has a little connection with Trevor. I don’t want any downfield receiver with Lawrence, for FF, I’d want the short game guys…but in the battle of Zay v. Kirk, Zay is more in the mix as Trevor’s #1 than I first thought. Again, let’s see what happens if/when Kirk gets into the games with Zay…if anything can be gleaned from minor preseason work.
Evan Engram (1-9-1/2) caught a QB rollout, receiver moving with the QB in the flat short pass for an easy, short catch-and-run TD. It was very simple and wide open, and I didn’t think much of it….because when I first watched it, I wasn’t sure who the WR was who caught the TD play/pass, but I thought it was UDFA rookie or something because it was a player I wasn’t familiar with in a Jags uni…but then, no…it was Evan Engram. Engram looks slimmed down like a WR…and he’s wearing #17, not his familiar/bulkier #88.
Either my eyes are being deceived…or teal/metallic gray is ultra-slimming…but Etienne and Engram look leaner than I’ve seen them before. I like a slimmed down Engram here because I assume he will get a host of simple, short passes from Trevor…and then I want Engram to ‘go’ after the catch…use his speed and still considerable size, after the catch for FF.
I hate relying on Trevor to deliver receivers enough to matter for FF…is my only Engram worry, but for his price/ADP, I like the concept/hope.
-- IDP notes…
Browns rookie DE Isaiah Thomas (3 tackles, 2 sacks, 3 TFLs) had a day here. I went back to watch his work specifically to see how this happened…and…it was because the Jags blocking on the non-1st-team was so bad. Not anything special by Thomas.
Any doubts/wondering on Travon Walker (1 tackle) translating to NFL production has been eliminated (for me) watching him in brief appearances this preseason. He’s just too much for basic blockers to handle. He’s rushing the passer…or covering slot receivers…he’s all over the place, in a good way. The Micah Parsons vibes are real, as a pass rusher.
Jags rookie ILB Chad Muma (3 tackles, 1 TFL) was solid as always. A quintessential ILB who is not starting…and may not get real starting time at ILB for years the way this depth chart/salary cap looks. But when he does get his chance, he’ll be IDP productive.
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