Two of the most hyped up teams in the league will square off here as the Cleveland Browns visit the Indianapolis Colts. It looks like Andrew Luck won’t play as he continues to deal with a calf injury, while we should see more of Baker Mayfield here for the Browns. The Colts fell to the Bills in their first preseason game, while the Browns beat the Redskins.
Browns Win Big
The Cleveland Browns are the most hyped up team entering the 2019 NFL season, which sounds weird to say. For the first time in a long time, expectations are very high for the Browns. Baker Mayfield looked great down the stretch last season, and they made some big splashes this offseason. They made one of the biggest trades in recent league history, acquiring Odell Beckham Jr. from the Giants. They also landed pass-rusher Olivier Vernon, and signed running back Kareem Hunt to pair with Nick Chubb in the backfield.
Offensive Coordinator Freddie Kitchens hasn’t hesitated to praise Nick Chubb the last few weeks.
“This game is built on explosive plays, not turning the ball over,” Kitchens said. “So anytime you get an explosive play, everybody understands the significance of that moving forward in a game. He has one of the best jump cuts I have ever seen. I am not claiming I have seen every jump cut, I am sure I am going to offend somebody with that. He has a good jump cut in the hole. He has great body control, balance, all the characteristics and skill sets that good running backs have.”
The defense also looks good, and they should have one of the best defensive fronts in the league with Myles Garrett, Larry Ogunjobi, and Vernon all in tow. The Browns dismantled the Redskins in their first preseason game, beating them 30-10.
Mayfield was dominant in his one series under center, completing five of six passes for 77 yards and a touchdown. He should get more run here, which is good news for Cleveland’s offense. We should also get to see the Cleveland debut of Beckham here, which will be pretty exciting and make for must-see TV. Depth matters a lot this time of year, and fortunately, the Browns have a lot of it in their receiving corp. Rashard Higgins had 98 yards and a touchdown, and talented guys like Jaelen Strong very much need to prove themselves here. Cleveland’s other quarterbacks behind Mayfield looked good in the preseason opener, as the passers as a whole threw for 327 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.
Andrew Luck Out
The Colts were one of the best stories of the 2018 NFL season. They started the year 1-5, then won nine of their next ten games to sneak into the playoffs. Expectations are understandably high now, and Frank Reich has done a great job turning the team around. Unfortunately, Andrew Luck is dealing with a mysterious calf injury that continues to get more and more concerning as the season draws nearer. He was recently ruled out for another week of practice, and he isn’t going to be playing here. The team is probably just being cautious with him, but it’s still a bit concerning. The Colts have a very talented roster, and they added Devin Funchess in free agency this offseason to give them a real number two receiving option next to T.Y. Hilton.
With Luck on the shelf, we’ll see a lot of Chad Kelly and Phillip Walker yet again. That didn’t work out too well for them in the first preseason game, as they fell 24-16 to the Bills. They passed for only 209 yards as a team, and they gained only 105 on the ground. The defense got shredded by Matt Barkley, and they didn’t look particularly locked in. I like 2018 sixth-round pick Daurice Fountain, but there aren’t too many other young guys on the Colts that will be playing a lot here that jump out to me. All eyes on the team are on Luck, which could be distracting from the preparation for these preseason games.