CLEVELAND, Ohio — The best that can be said about Jacoby Brissett in his lone appearance of the preseason is that he made it out unscathed.
After banging his right throwing hand on a defender in practice on Thursday but quickly shaking it off, Brissett emerging healthy from the 21-20 loss to the Bears in Saturday’s preseason finale was an enormous accomplishment.
Beyond that, not many conclusions can be drawn from his six series in the first half.
Brissett, who will start the opener in Carolina Sept. 11, completed only 13 of 23 attempts for 109 yards with no touchdowns and one interception for a dismal 50.8 rating.
But his biggest problem on the night was second-year receiver Anthony Schwartz, who caught 1 of 6 targets for 8 yards and dropped three passes, including one that was batted at the line but hit him in the hands. Heading into the game, he had been credited with three drops in the first two preseason games, including two in the opener in Jacksonville. The targets were a team-high during Brissett’s stint.
“Jacoby did a nice job in the first half,” Browns GM Andrew Berry said on the News5 telecast. “Made good decisions. Delivered the ball accurately. Obviously, we’ve got to help him out a little bit at the skill positions. I was pleased with his individual performance, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t room to grow.”
Berry noted that Brissett, 14-23 as a starter, probably won’t run as much as Deshaun Watson will when he returns for the final six games.
“Kevin (Stefanski) and the coaching staff, they do a really nice job of building the offense around the quarterback’s skill set,” he said. “I think we’ll probably see a little bit less of the QB run stuff that we would have with Deshaun with Jacoby. But Jacoby is really good in the play-action game, the play-action shot world, and we think that’s one area where we can accentuate his strengths.”
On Schwartz’ third and final drop, an easy pass over the middle on third-and-9, he was roundly booed by the home crowd — certainly not what a young player struggling with his confidence needs. Cade York picked up the mood with a 57-yard field goal on the next play that put the Browns on the board at 21-3 with 1:25 left in the half.
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Schwartz also ran into a linebacker covering Harrison Bryant on a route in the left flat and fell down before Brissett threw him the ball. It was easily picked off cornerback Greg Stroman Jr., and Justin Fields (14 of 16, 156 yards, 3 TDs, 146.9 rating) converted it into a 24-yard TD to tight end Cole Kmet for a 21-0 lead with 3: 29 left in the half.
Schwartz’ horrible night began on the first play when a short pass to the left went off his hands. Brissett, playing without five of his Pro Bowlers on offense, fired a deep ball down the left side for the speedy Schwartz, but it was just out of reach. He got behind two defenders, but failed to make the tough, one-handed grab. His lone catch was an 8-yarder to the left.
Brissett went three-and-out on three of his first four drives, and managed only four plays on the drive with the interception.
The Browns will now have to find a way to rebuild Schwartz’ psyche if he’s to make an impact this season. Coach Kevin Stefanski predicted a big season from Schwartz, and he’s got a long way to go before Brissett can trust him to make the play.
In Jacksonville, Schwartz provided little help for starter Deshaun Watson, running an errant route on the first play and dropping two passes. He apologized to Watson and others, and vowed to flip the script. He did just that in practice the following week, and helped himself in the second preseason game against the Eagles. But he took a step back Saturday night and will have work to do this week.
Brissett, who had Pro Bowlers Jack Conklin, Joel Bitonio, Amari Cooper, Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt idle on the sideline, did manage to connect three times for 36 yards with third-round receiver David Bell, including completions of 11 and 18 yards on a field goal drive. By then, the Bears had plenty of backups in, but the offense at least showed signs of life.
It was on that drive that Brissett’s pass was batted at the line by safety Devontae Harris, but still managed to hit Schwartz in the hands in the left flat.
Brissett also connected on 3 of 4 targets to tight end David Njoku for 34 yards, including a long pass of 20 over the middle that was one of his best of the game. He also found Bryant on both of his targets for 15 yards, including a long gain of 11.
The bad news for Brissett was that right guard Wyatt Teller left the game in the second quarter with a knee injury and did not return. The extent of the injury was unknown during the game.
It was the second game-ending injury of the night. The first was to Grant Delpit, who suffered a hip injury midway through the first quarter. After an 8-yard catch by Kmet, Delpit remained seated on the field. He tried to get up, but quickly sat back down. He walked off the field and to the medical tent with trainers, and soon headed to the locker room, holding his hip and favoring it.
QB Joshua Dobbs throws a TD pass and hurdles for two
Dobbs replaced Brissett at the end of the first half and put 11 points on the board in the form of a 46-yard field goal by York at the end of the half, and a 6-yard touchdown pass to tight end Miller Forristall early in fourth quarter. Dobbs, who was stopped last week against the Eagles on an attempted hurdle into the end zone, succeeded this time on the 2-point run to the left side, leaping over the left pylon.
Dobbs went 11 of 20 for 89 yards and the one TD for an 83.1 rating. His long pass was a 19-yarder to Michael Harley Jr.
Josh Rosen scores
Rosen finished off the game and scored on a 1-yard run that closed the gap to 21-20 with 2:31 left. The 2-point pass to Javon Wims fell incomplete.
WR Michael Woods II ran sprints hard before pre-game warmups
With Schwartz struggling, help is on the way soon. Woods, who suffered a hamstring injury Aug. 5, ran sprints for about half an hour before pre-game warmups, and looked pretty much back to his pre-injury speedy self. Woods, the Browns’ sixth-round pick out of Oklahoma, was one of five injured players who sat out the game. The others were rookie receiver Daylen Baldwin, safety Ronnie Harrison Jr. (hamstring), cornerback AJ Green (hip) and defensive end Chase Winovich (hamstring).
York dazzles in pre-game warmups
York, who made field goals of 57 and 46 yards in the game but missed wide left on a 58-yarder, boomed kicks of 70 and 60 yards in pre-game warmups, which dazzled the smattering of fans in their seats.
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