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2023 Hall of Fame Game: What We Learned from Browns' win over Jets


  1. Zach Wilson's outing ends up being a cameo. In what could be a crucial season for Wilson's long-term development, the third-year quarterback didn't get a ton of playing time, ending his night after one quarter of action. Before he exited, Wilson launched a beautiful, 57-yard strike to Malik Taylor over the head of cornerback Thomas Graham, but that was essentially it for the former No. 2 overall pick before veteran Tim Boyle replaced him. It would've been nice to see Wilson get another drive or two, primarily because he only threw five passes. His first drive ended because he slipped on a scramble attempt that would have produced a first down, and his final possession lasted just three plays (and picked up a whole five yards) after the Jets recovered a Browns fumble in Cleveland territory. It was clear the Jets only wanted one quarter of action for Wilson in what is essentially an extra preseason game, but it left us wanting more from a quarterback who could benefit from a year spent behind Aaron Rodgers. Perhaps we'll see more of him in the weeks ahead.
  2. Cleveland might have a kicker problem. Cade York hasn't exactly given folks a reason to feel highly confident about his standing as the Browns' kicker of the future this year, and his first kick of the preseason didn't help. York trotted onto the field after Cleveland's initial drive stalled, and instead of converting the 49-yard attempt, he pushed it wide right. York was fine from there, converting all three extra-point attempts, but they weren't without a bit of worry. Cleveland lost a game last year (coincidentally against these same Jets) because York missed a late PAT, and he wasn't all that consistent in his rookie season. He'll need to be better when given additional opportunities this preseason in order to assuage concerns about his reliability -- and to avoid prompting the Browns to explore other options.
  3. Browns' backup quarterback situation is getting interesting. Cleveland chose to split the Hall of Fame Game in half, with Kellen Mond getting the first half, and fifth-round pick Dorian Thompson-Robinson replacing him for the final two quarters. Mond's first half had a few nice surprises, including a couple of connections with third-round pick Cedric Tillman (who showed plenty of promise in a game played largely against backups), but overall, it was underwhelming and justified why Mond has drifted into irrelevance. Thompson-Robinson, however, was anything but boring. The UCLA product entered the game and transformed the Browns from an offense that couldn't overcome its own mistakes, to one that relied on the quarterback to extend drives. He completed 3 of his 5 passes for 31 yards, gained another 30 with his legs, picked up seven first downs and even threw a key block on Demetric Felton's 16-yard touchdown run (in what was a beautiful example of former Bruins teamwork). Thompson-Robinson's impressive night didn't end there, either, as he ripped a rocket of a touchdown pass to Austin Watkins down the seam for a 22-yard score, giving the Browns a lead they wouldn't relinquish. If we're basing the final call between Mond and Thompson-Robinson solely on the Hall of Fame Game, the latter wins it by a wide margin. DTR brings juice and improvisational skills that Mond simply doesn't have, and he took the Browns from a sleepy, listless unit to one that marched down the field for two touchdowns with relative ease. We'll see if he can keep it up and earn a roster spot.
  4. It's preseason for everyone. As is typical of an early preseason contest, the first game of 2023 was, well, sloppy. Penalties were abundant (19 combined accepted penalties for 155 yards), pass catchers failed to live up to their title when catchable throws arrived, and even the stadium had an issue with its lighting, leading to a 15-minute delay at the start of the fourth quarter. Overall, though, it was great to welcome football back into our lives -- even if we had to wait a little longer than usual to complete the first game of the year. Let’s hope it only gets better from here.

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