Much controversy has been built around how much, or more accurately how little, Browns starters are playing in preseason games so far. As Freddie Kitchens prepares his team for tonight’s test with Tampa Bay, reports have indicated that some starters, including Baker Mayfield, will indeed see time on the field. Exactly how much remains to be seen, but fans shouldn’t expect Kitchens to adhere to the typical “dress rehearsal” protocol of leaving the first team in for an entire half of football.
Notable stars Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, along with running back Nick Chubb and tight end David Njoku are doubtful to see any time at all Friday night. Mayfield, ever the competitor, expressed that he “wants to play,” and Kitchens will likely give him at least a couple of series. However, this is not something that warrants concern from fans, or even local media members frustrated with watching fourth stringers who will probably be selling used cars in a couple of weeks.
In a press conference on Wednesday, Kitchens said that nearly all of the Browns have “nicks and bumps. We’ve had a physical camp.” Besides that being a great sign, it also points towards their attitude towards training camp practices in Berea. The posing and preening at the cameras from Hue Jackson has been replaced with tight transitions and efficient use of time.
How the operation is run from the first day of practice has proven to be much more crucial to a team’s success than winning a meaningless preseason game. It’s only logical that the “game speed” in the preseason is much different than the regular season. This should have been seen by everybody when the Browns achieved a 4-0 preseason record in 2017 and still failed to win a single game when it counted.
That’s not to say there is no value in preseason contests. The most interesting thing to come out of the next two games should be who overtakes who in the infamous, yet legendary “Battle of the Kickers.” There are also guys fighting for their jobs as the roster cut approaches. It’s also fair to say that Mayfield and Rashard Higgins have the best chemistry out of the receiving corps because of the amount of preseason time they got. It is clear, however, that the risk of injury outweighs the potential benefits of running the first string in action for more than a couple of series. Team scrimmages and joint practices have admittedly accomplished more in preparing the Browns for September 8th than anything else. Most importantly, unlike the Patriots and Packers, Cleveland will get to sit back and watch all the Browns new toys, healthy and ready to go in a couple of weeks.