The results don’t count until Sept. 10.
They matter to Browns coach Hue Jackson.
“I don’t want to go 0-fer again,” Jackson said of the preseason. “I don’t want to feel like that. I don’t think this team deserves that.”
The Browns were swept in the preseason last year, Jackson’s first with the team, then lost their first 14 of the regular season before finishing a franchise-worst 1-15. Jackson won’t go overboard by playing his starters much longer than normal, but he is serious about setting a tone for the season and creating a winning culture.
“I want to win them all if I can,” he said. “We need to go out and play good in front of our fans and go win. I don’t care what we are playing. I just think that has got to be our mindset. If we are going to play, we need to go win.”
There will be plenty to watch besides the scoreboard over the next three weeks. Here’s what to keep an eye on Thursday night in the opener against the New Orleans Saints at FirstEnergy Stadium.
RUN WITH IT
Jackson made the switch to quarterback Brock Osweiler this week, naming him the starter. The promotion from the second team came with a caveat — it’s only guaranteed for this game.
Osweiler talked like the starter before he was given the job, now it’s up to him to keep it. He’s practiced with great energy since arriving but he ramped up the leadership in the practices this week. He met with Duke Johnson after the walkthrough Monday to go over routes, then called over Corey Coleman at the end of practice to get in some extra throws.
Osweiler will likely play only two series against the Saints, so he can show only so much. But leading two scoring drives and demonstrating complete command of the offense would go a long way toward cementing him as the starter for Week 1 against the Steelers.
“It’s not over yet but I’d love to see him go play well on Thursday night and lead the team and run our offense to the best of his ability,” Jackson said.
MAKE A MOVE
If Osweiler loses the starting job, rookie DeShone Kizer will be the guy who takes it.
Kizer’s rapid progression hit a speed bump last week in the intrasquad scrimmage when he struggled with inaccuracy and inconsistency. But there’s plenty of time for him to rebound and show Jackson he’s ready for the challenge of the Steelers and the regular season.
Kizer will be the third quarterback in against the Saints but will probably get the most playing time. He could play the entire second half.
“DeShone needs to play more,” Jackson said.
Jackson thought the change in surroundings to the stadium for the scrimmage affected Kizer. He needs to prove he can handle the stage of the preseason while continuing to fine-tune his footwork and mechanics.
A great night would be a touchdown drive, another scoring opportunity, 60 percent completions and no turnovers.
No. 1 pick Myles Garrett isn’t trying to sneak up on the Saints or the rest of the league. On Tuesday he announced his intention to dominate in his preseason debut, send a message to the league and show he’s in the class of the guys he grew up idolizing and can “play with the big boys.”
Garrett has been a sack machine at defensive end for the last week and a half but feels he hasn’t gotten enough credit because he’s had to pull up so he wouldn’t hit the quarterback. He won’t let up against the Saints, and Jackson is looking forward to seeing him unload
“Absolutely, I am,” he said. “He is doing a good job. He is a good player, but he still has some things to fine-tune and some things to work at, and he is doing it each and every day.”
Jabrill Peppers is another rookie looking to make an impact right away. After a mundane start to camp, the No. 25 pick announced his presence with authority at the scrimmage, as he thumped the ball carriers and caught punts with ease.
Jackson was impressed by the “smacks” he delivered, but Peppers remained grounded.
“I pride myself on tackling,” Peppers said. “If it is a big hit, it is a big hit, but the main thing is if he got to the ground.”
Peppers is listed on the depth chart with the second team but has been working with the starters in a three-man rotation with Derrick Kindred and Ibraheim Campbell. Peppers is being asked to play strong and free safety and must show in the preseason he can handle the mental challenges of the disparate duties.
“Still a lot of work to be done, a lot of things I need to improve on,” he said. “Preseason is a great start for that. Get to play against some other guys so the ante definitely goes up. I just get to show what I can do in full, live contact without worrying about hurting one of your teammates or anything like that. It definitely feels good to know I am going to be getting into the action.”
AND THE REST
Incumbent Cody Parkey has the edge over rookie Zane Gonzalez in the kicking competition after two weeks in Berea, but the job will likely go to the man who’s better in the preseason games.
** Rookie seventh-round pick Matthew Dayes has consistently stood out during practice and is the favorite to win the No. 3 running back job. But running backs can’t fully be judged until game situations, so the preseason is critical.
** Shon Coleman has maintained his lead in the right tackle battle, but Cameron Erving remains in striking distance. A sack allowed or two could switch the order in a hurry.