We're two games into the preseason for the Cleveland Browns and there's been a lot of action, and drama, both on and off the field. After a long and drawn-out legal battle between starting quarterback Deshaun Watson and the NFL, fans now know how long he'll be suspended. That now means Jacoby Brissett is in line to start, but, he hasn't seen much action thus far during preseason play and, based on how things typically go, he'll likely only play in Cleveland's final preseason game against Chicago. Thankfully, Josh Dobbs has had a strong enough preseason that the Browns may have enough to get through the Watson suspension.
With that said, on today's latest for Right Down Euclid, we'll be breaking all that down, and more, from what we've seen so far during preseason action. But, before we get started, a quick housekeeping note. I'm riding again in this year's VeloSano to help in the ongoing battle against cancer! If you or anyone you know have been impacted by cancer, I'd appreciate your financial support by donating to my fundraiser page and sharing, if possible!
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Can Jacoby Brissett and possibly Josh Dobbs hold down the fort for 11 games?
Two weeks ago, a reader asked Right Down Euclid if the Browns should trade for San Fransico 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in the event Watson was suspended longer than six games. At first, it makes sense to trade for Garoppolo, especially after the NFL and Watson came to an agreement on a settlement. The primes of Myles Garrett and Nick Chubb are far too valuable and wasting them on a year of potentially mediocre quarterback play could stunt things for Cleveland this season.
Mind you, that's factoring in that Brissett is on the roster as well. But, even though Brissett hasn't played this preseason, Josh Dobbs, the third-string quarterback on the depth chart, has shown a spark through two games of preseason play. Granted, that spark has come up against sometimes lesser-quality opponents on opposing depth charts. But, it could be enough to help the Browns afloat while Watson is suspended.
In Cleveland's preseason opener in Jacksonville against the Jaguars, Dobbs came in soon after Watson and put on a solid performance. Dobbs ended the night having completed 10-of-13 passes for 108 yards, with one touchdown pass to Jerome Ford The following week, Dobbs started the game against the Philadelphia Eagles and came out firing on all cylinders, passing and running the ball. He threw for 112 yards and rushed for 47, including a 34-yard run which set up his own three-yard rushing TD in the first half.
Dobbs has showcased through two games that he should be on Cleveland's opening-day roster. If he continues his solid play against Chicago, it's all but certain Dobbs will be backing up Brissett when the Browns open up their season in Charlotte against the Panthers. While Brissett should give the Browns more than enough stability at the quarterback position, having Dobbs waiting in the wings just in case keeps Cleveland in a fairly solid position until Watson returns.
Sure, the Browns should be favored in their first four games. But, when things start to get tough against the Los Angeles Chargers and nearly every team after that, Brissett and Dobbs should be enough to guide them to a winning record. That's all Cleveland needs right now and it's also forever an upgrade over what Baker Mayfield can provide the Browns. The dog days aren't quite over yet for Cleveland. But, they are finding a way to get through them.
D'Ernest Johnson keeps proving that he has what it takes to be superstar running back Nick Chubb's primary backup. Photo credit: Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images
If D'Ernest Johnson keeps this up, Kareem Hunt will have a new team in no time at all
Last season against the Denver Broncos, Browns running back D'Ernest Johnson put up a legendary performance. Johnson, who was making his first NFL start, rushed for 146 yards on 22 attempts and scored a touchdown. He also had two receptions for 22 yards, showing a bit of his versatility within Kevin Stefanski's offensive scheme. Two weeks later against the New England Patriots, Johnson had another stellar performance – rushing for 99 yards on 19 attempts and grabbing 7 passes for 58 yards. Finally, in last season's finale against the Cincinnati Bengals, Johnson saved his best for last. The running back had 123 rushing yards on 25 attempts and ran into the end zone once for a touchdown.
Johnson never had an opportunity to carve out consistent minutes in Cleveland's running back stable last season. Mind you, a lot of that had to do with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, both stars in their own right, ahead of him on the depth chart. But, whenever Johnson had his number called by the Browns on offense, he delivered. It just seems that he was waiting for his chance to truly shine on the gridiron for Cleveland.
Thankfully, that opportunity may have come in two golden ways for Johnson. In the team's preseason home opener, Johnson saw the field on the Browns' opening drive. While it was a brief appearance for him, Johnson once again made his versatility the center of attention for Cleveland. He had 21 yards on two rushing attempts as well as one reception for eight yards. Again, it's not much, but, Johnson did show that when he's called upon he will always be ready, no matter what the Browns need for him.
That alone is huge for Johnson's case to get more minutes on offense for Cleveland. But, with Hunt currently going through a partial holdout due to the desire for a contract extension, the momentum can keep shifting into Johnson's corner. While the Browns have squashed the initial rumors that Hunt wants to be traded if they don't sign him to a new deal, Johnson's play could push Hunt out the door. While they're not similar in terms of physical ability, there's something somewhat similar between Hunt and Johnson in terms of playstyle.
With Johnson comfortably playing on a newly-signed one-year deal, it almost makes too much sense for the Browns to find a trade partner for Hunt. The Eagles, who just spent the week practicing with the team in Berea, are the ideal trade partner for Cleveland. Perhaps Philadelphia could give the Browns one of their wide receivers for Hunt? The Eagles already did it once when they acquired A.J. Brown from the Tennessee Titans this summer. Who's to say they won't do it again with a starting-caliber running back?
Mind you, if Hunt isn't traded and does end up back with the Browns on a new deal, it shouldn't keep Johnson on the sidelines with Cleveland. If anything, his strong play this preseason only emboldened his worth to the Browns and makes him a logical candidate to join Hunt and Chubb in the backfield in various capacities. If they were to somehow do that, it would take Cleveland's rushing attack to an entirely new level.
Record prediction prior to the last preseason game of the season
Later this week, Right Down Euclid will give its full thoughts on the final decision between Deshaun Watson and the NFL. Make sure you subscribe so you don't miss it. But, with Watson penciled in as the starting quarterback for the Browns and facing an 11-game suspension, it's fair to be uncertain about what this upcoming season holds for Cleveland.
But, as it was stressed above, the Browns could be able to tread water with the help of Brissett, Dobbs and Johnson. But, with some high-quality opponents on the horizon after an easy opening slate, it's again fair to have your doubts about the season overall for the Browns. Granted, a lot can change between now and when things open in Carolina. But, for now, here's how Right Down Euclid thinks the upcoming season will go for the Browns.
Final record: 9-8, third place in the AFC North
Featured image credit: Jason Miller/Getty Images
Evan Dammarell is a sports journalist covering all things Cleveland right off the shores of Lake Erie. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. You can also email him at email@example.com. Did you enjoy this edition of Right Down Euclid? You can get it in your inbox two to three times a week by subscribing here. All it takes is either your Facebook account or email address!