JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — It was a tale of two units in the Browns' 24-13 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars in Friday night's preseason opener.
All eyes were on Deshaun Watson, who made his team debut at quarterback despite a looming suspension of at least six games. But the luster wore off pretty quickly.
In three series, Watson completed just 1 of 5 passes, a 7-yard strike to David Njoku. Besides that, he air-mailed his first attempt, had two throws dropped by Anthony Schwartz, and had one final check down knocked away to end his short night.
In truth, none of Cleveland's active starters looked all that great, and the team fell behind 13-0 thanks to a fumble by D'Ernest Johnson and a lack of early punch on defense (Myles Garrett, Nick Chubb, and Denzel Ward were among those sitting out). To make matters worse, new center Nick Harris hurt his knee on just the second snap of the game and had to be carted off the field.
Once the first-teamers left, the script flipped, as members of the Browns' 2022 draft class showed off their talents one-by-one. The most notable effort came from running back Jerome Ford, who ran for 58 yards and added 45 more on the receiving end along with two touchdowns. A late fumble did slightly dampen his debut, however.
Martin Emerson, the team's top pick (third round) in the draft, gave Cleveland the lead just before halftime when he took a pass away from Jeff Cotton Jr. and dashed 74 yards for the score. Fourth-rounder Cade York also made all of his kicks (including a 31-yard field goal), and lineman Isaiah Thomas recorded two sacks.
Surprisingly, backup QB and probably season-opening starter Jacoby Brissett did not see the field. Instead, Josh Dobbs made the most of his opportunity by going 10 of 13 for 108 and a TD. Former first-rounder Josh Rosen was also 6 of 7 for 56 yards.
For the Jags, second-year quarterback Trevor Lawrence overcame a slow start to throw for 95 yards and a touchdown pass to Evan Engram. Jake Luton played the entire second half under center, but was unable to get Jacksonville back on the scoreboard.
Prior to the game, Watson offered an apology "to all of the women that I have impacted" in reference to the dozens of sexual misconduct allegations against him, and also expressed a desire to "show that I am a true person of character." The NFL has appealed the 27-year-old's suspension and is seeking to lengthen it, with league designee Peter C. Harvey set to issue a ruling any day now.
What follows is a comprehensive recap of tonight's action, with the most recent plays, drives, and updates closest to the top:
1:55: The Jaguars' last chance goes by the wayside as Jake Luton's fourth-down pass from the Cleveland 24 falls incomplete. The Browns take over and will run out the clock.
3:34: Cleveland goes three-and-out, and the Jaguars will get it at their own 25 with time running out.
4:41: The Browns' defense comes up big again as Herb Miller picks off Jake Luton's third-and-goal pass in the end zone. Cleveland gets it back at their own 20, hoping to ice this one.
11:35: Jerome Ford's stellar game hits a bit of a snag, as a 16-yard catch-and-run deep into Jacksonville territory ends with him coughing the ball up. Tyrell Adams pounces on it, and the Jags have life at their own 15.
2:23: The defense comes up big again as Lavert Hill forces a Luke Farrell fumble and Richard LeCounte III recovers it. The Browns take over at their own 35.
4:48 - Browns 24, Jaguars 13: Jerome Ford is having an excellent debut, scoring his second touchdown on a 14-yard loft from Josh Dobbs. The Browns have scored 24 unanswered points.
8:43: Another Jags three-and-out ends with another sack of Jake Luton, this time from Chris Odom. JaMarcus Bradley returns the ensuing punt to Cleveland's 35.
9:43 - Browns 17, Jaguars 13: A John Kelly touchdown run is called back due to a holding penalty, so the Browns settle for a 31-yard Cade York field goal.
12:46: The Jaguars start the second half with a three-and-out, punctuated by an Isaiah Thomas sack of Jake Luton. Logan Cooke punts and the Browns get it at their own 43.
0:00: The Jags run out the clock, sending the game into halftime.
0:25 - Browns 14, Jaguars 13: Martin Emerson, the Browns' top pick (third round) in the 2022 draft, comes up with the play of the game after he steals a pass intended for Jeff Cotton Jr. and takes it 74 yards for a touchdown. Cleveland snags its first lead of the preseason on a stellar defensive effort.
4:42: Another Browns three-and-out leads to another Corey Bojorquez punt, which Marvin Hall returns to the Jags 34.
7:26: Trevor Lawrence is also done for the game and C.J. Beathard takes over under center, but after a roughing the passer penalty gives the Jaguars some life, the Browns' defense stands tall and forces a Logan Cookie punt. The ball goes out of bounds at the Cleveland 8-yard line.
8:58 - Jaguars 13, Browns 7: Deshaun Watson's night is over after completing just 1 of 5 passes for 7 yards, and the remaining offensive starters have joined him on the bench.
Josh Dobbs takes over at QB, but it's fifth-round pick Jerome Ford who shines in this series, juking and sprinting for a 41-yard gain before finishing things off with a 3-yard touchdown that gets the Browns on the board.
14:09 - Jaguars 13, Browns 0: On fourth-and-2 from the Cleveland 9, Trevor Lawrence caps another solid drive by finding Evan Engram on a screen pass, and the former Pro Bowler promptly takes it in for a touchdown.
5:37: The Browns' offense continues to lack rhythm, with receiver Anthony Schwartz dropping his second pass and Deshaun Watson finally getting his first completion but for only seven yards. Joseph Charlton is fair caught at the Jaguars 37.
7:27 - Jaguars 6, Browns 0: Jacksonville takes advantage of the Cleveland mistake as Ryan Santoso gets his chance to kick, slipping in a field goal from 38 yards away.
8:30: From bad to worse... D'Ernest Johnson fumbles on second-and-10 and Rayshawn Jenkins recovers it for the Jaguars at the Browns 21.
9:13 - Jaguars 3, Browns 0: Former No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence gets his first action of the preseason and leads Jacksonville deep into Cleveland territory, aided by a 32-yard grab by Zay Jones on the first play from scrimmage. The Jags settle for a field goal as Elliot Fry knocks it through from 23 yards out.
13:53: A disastrous three-and-out for the Browns, as Deshaun Watson not only throws two incompletions (including an air mail on his first throw), but new starting center Nick Harris is carted off the field with an apparent leg injury after just the second snap. Former Seattle Seahawks starter Ethan Pocic replaces him and Corey Bojorquez is forced to punt on fourth down, and the Jags get the ball at their own 18 following a penalty on the return.
6:45 p.m.: In a very surprising move, backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett is not expected to play tonight, despite the fact that he will likely be the starter for at least the first six games of the season. He is listed as a "healthy scratch," along with nine other teammates:
- RB Nick Chubb
- RB Kareem Hunt
- WR Amari Cooper
- G Joel Bitonio
- DE Jadeveon Clowney
- DE Myles Garrett
- LB Anthony Walker Jr.
- CB Greg Newsome II
- S John Johnson III
In addition, cornerback Denzel Ward (foot), defensive tackle Sheldon Day (back), receiver Michael Woods II (hamstring), and corner Shaun Jolly (groin) are all inactive with various injuries.
6:30 p.m.: Prior to kickoff, Browns analyst Aditi Kinkhabwala specifically asked Deshaun Watson about the Robinson ruling and her claims he had shown "no remorse" for his actions. The 27-year-old responded that he was "truly sorry to all the women than I have impacted" and that he would "definitely like to have back" some of his "decisions," but also expressed a desire to "move forward."
Game info, how to watch on TV, betting line
- Date: Friday, August 12, 2022
- Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
- Location: TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, Florida
- TV channel: WEWS channel 5
- Live Stream: NFL+
- Radio: 92.3 The Fan, 98.5 WNCX, 850 ESPN Cleveland
- Betting line: Browns -1.5
- Over-under point total: 37.5