CLEVELAND — On a humid evening in front of a nationally-televised audience, the Cleveland Browns defense, chose the perfect night to validate their legitimacy.
On a day that had the moon pass in front of the sun in what is now being called the “Great American Solar Eclipse” of 2017, and a growing sense of social activism, the Browns decided to eclipse both the NFL and proverbial apple cart in having 12 players kneel in prayer during the national anthem, one of which was second-year tight end, Seth DeValve of Princeton being the first white player to do so.
Aside from the pre-game display of racial unity and solidarity, as witnessed from my box suite, that was flanked on one side by Browns alumni on one side and the visitor’s owner box with New York Giants owner John Mara on the other, here are my three observations from the Giants vs. Browns game on Monday
Defense looks solid, Was DB Boddy-Calhoun Hit on Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr. Legit? While it just the second of four pre-season games, Gregg William’s has clearly put his stamp on what appears to be a borderline sleeper top-ten unit. As I first stated during the Brown and Orange Scrimmage and last night, this isn’t your older brother—or even father’s Cleveland defenses of old. What I saw was an aggressive, attacking defense that was getting pressure on Eli Manning, blitzing fearlessly, tacking well in open space and being physical—i.e. Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall.
While it means nothing, in the greater context of things, holding an opposing team’ starters to six points and barely over 200 yards of total offense means something. Myles Garrett getting his first sack, Joe Schobert* manning the middle and getting pressure for the first time since the 90’s These Dawgs are hungry and will hunt.
(Editor’s Note* Per Cleveland.com, LB Tank Carder out for season with torn ACL, Schobert named middle linebacker)
In what is the second-most talked about event from last night’s game aside from DeValve kneeling during the anthem was the questionable hit by Browns DB Briean Boddy-Calhoun to the knee of Giants wideout, Odell Beckham Jr. By now, it has been argued, debated and dissected all across social media—mainly along fan lines—and if I’m a Giants fan now, I’m breathing a huge sigh of relief.
In my brief encounter with Giants owner, John Mara, he seemed relived when asked about OBJ’s injury just being a mild sprain. Amazingly, it looked and could have been much worse.
QB Brock Osweiler failed to separate from DeShone Kizer: In what was an uninspiring performance, Brock Osweiler failed to effectively solidify the Browns starting job. Thanks to going 6-8 for 25 yards, tossing one interception in two series, Osweiler failed to the the first-teamers down the field and zero points.
While Osweiler fizzled, rookie QB DeShone Kizer continued to flash. Entering to a loud roar from the fans, the Toledo Catholic alum completed 8-13 passes for 74 yards, had 35 yards rushing, one touchdown in four series, and ten points, in what was an extended showcase of Kizer. While one may not want to read into this too much, the fact that Kizer showed some poise in moving the team effectively in playing well into the third quarter can’t be overlooked.
There are still some kinks that Kizer needs to work out such as holding the ball too long, taking unnecessary sacks and overshooting a wide-open David Njoku, for what would have been a big gain, but thanks to Osweiler’s inaccuracy and long windup of a release, Kizer is still in the hunt.
One-time flavor of the month in Cody Kessler went 7-7 for 50 yards, lost one fumble in three series, in all but cementing his role as third-stringer/clipboard holder.
FS/KR Jabrill Peppers adding spice to return game, RB Matthew Dayes looks like a gem: If you’re a Cleveland Browns fan, you are also likely to be an Ohio State fan, thus having a natural and instinctive aversion to any player who wore the Maize and Blue of that Team Up North.
While past UM players such as former fullback Leroy Hoard, center Steve Everrett and WR Braylon Edwards have donned the Brown and Orange, all of these you either love or hate because of TTUN.
Jabrill Peppers is making a case to love him.
Thanks to a highlight worthy hit to Giants wideout Brandon Marshall and two lengthy returns—one of which was nullified due to a holding penalty—Peppers is the x-factor wildcard on defense that Cleveland has long needed.
In showing a combination of elusiveness and athleticism, Peppers was a factor on both defense and in special teams all night long, to the point where the Giants kicked away from him late. Despite all of this, as I was walking out of the stadium and on my way home, I had to kindly remind a Michigan fan wearing Peppers white SCUM jersey, that he was in the wrong state and needed to make a wardrobe upgrade.
It was just the Buckeye blood in me coming out, I guess as some things never change.
Lastly, it appears that rookie running back in Matthew Dayes, may have earned himself a real shot as the featured tailback behind Isaiah Crowell. Dayes, a 5’9, 210-pound tailback taken 252th overall in the seventh round out of North Carolina State, flashed some of his dual-threat ability as a rusher and receiver in carrying the ball five times for 15 yards and catching five passes for 29 yards.
Thanks to the uncertainty of Crowell re-signing long-term and Duke Johnson being used more as a receiver, Dayes’ flexibility and inside-outside talent gives him an inside track over Terrance McGee.