Browns take down Jaguars in preseason opener


Courtesy of The Game Haus

Cleveland Browns quarterback Case Keenum pilots the offense in a 23-13 win against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Gaurav Hardikar, Staff Reporter

The Cleveland Browns opened their 2021 preseason in Jacksonville, Florida on Saturday, Aug. 14, defeating the Jacksonville Jaguars 23-13 in a largely one-sided battle.

Back in January, the Browns made a statement when they captured their first playoff win in 26 years by trouncing the Pittsburgh Steelers in the wild card round. This unprecedented postseason run ended in heartbreaking fashion in a divisional round loss to the eventual AFC champions, the Kansas City Chiefs. 

The fairly successful season left Browns fans hopeful and itching for more. Fortunately, only good news emerged following the first glimpse of the 2021 Browns under reigning Coach of the Year, Kevin Stefanski.

The Browns pounced to a 16-0 lead and never looked back. The defensive line kept the Jaguars scoreless until a touchdown in the final quarter, which the Browns promptly answered with a touchdown of their own to seal the victory. Though the running game was quiet for Cleveland, quarterbacks Kyle Lauletta and Case Keenum combined for 319 passing yards and two touchdowns, both thrown by Lauletta. With just 13 seconds remaining in the first half, Lauletta tossed a dazzling 27-yard touchdown pass to Davion Davis. Lauletta’s second touchdown came late in the fourth quarter on a 7-yard dart up the middle to Ryan Switzer.

On the defensive side, rookie linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah led the charge for Cleveland, recording 7 solo tackles, a sack, a quarterback hit and three tackles for losses. The kickers were stellar as well, as Cody Parkey and Chase McLaughlin were a combined 5/5 on field goals and extra points.

While the Browns chose to rest their biggest stars to avoid injury, the game marked debuts for many of the members of the Jaguars who had been making headlines over the last several months. The biggest story was that of quarterback Trevor Lawrence, the number one overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft. 

The Clemson product saw his first NFL action Saturday night, which culminated in a rare loss for the up-and-coming star. Lawrence famously made headlines for going undefeated in the regular season while at Clemson (34 wins and 2 losses overall as a starter) and winning a national championship as a freshman against the dominant University of Alabama. However, Lawrence struggled in his pro-level debut, getting sacked twice and fumbling before finishing the game with 71 yards on 6/9 passing. Despite the slow start, Lawrence hurled a spectacular 35 yard dime to Marvin Jones Jr. on 3rd and 10 before the starter was subbed out for Gardner Minshew II.

Among the other notable Jaguars debuts were tight end Tim Tebow and head coach Urban Meyer. Tebow, a once beloved quarterback for the Denver Broncos and New York Jets, returned to the NFL after a 5-year stint with the New York Mets organization. Following his retirement from minor league baseball, Tebow signed with the Jaguars as a tight end based on his size and strength. Unsurprisingly, many criticized the decision since 34-year-old Tebow was perceived as getting a shot at this position through his connection with Urban Meyer, Tebow’s former college coach and the newly appointed Jaguars head coach. Meanwhile, many players thought to be more deserving of the tight end roster spots remained unsigned. Aside from a poor attempt to block a defender which received ridicule from fans, Tebow had a quiet night, recording 0 receptions on 1 target. On Aug. 17, the Jaguars released Tebow in their first round of roster cuts for the upcoming season, effectively ending Tebow’s NFL comeback attempt.

Urban Meyer made his highly anticipated debut as an NFL head coach on Saturday. One of the more successful coaches in the history of college football, Meyer stepped away from his role as head coach at Ohio State University in 2018 due to health concerns. In his first game back as a head coach, Meyer suffered a disappointing loss and his team was outperformed by the Browns in total yards, turnovers, time of possession and first downs. However, fans and team members know how misleading the preseason can be. In fact, Browns fans understand this firsthand: The 2017 Browns and 2008 Detroit Lions are the only teams to ever go 0-16 in an NFL season even though both teams went undefeated in their preseasons. 

But much has changed. The Browns now pose a legitimate threat to other Super Bowl contenders and, with a little luck, this talented group of players and coaches can bring home the trophy that the city of Cleveland has desired for so long.

Overall, the Browns are off to a great start to their 2021 campaign and fans can only hope that their success will continue into the regular season and beyond. The Browns host the New York Giants on Sunday Aug. 22 for their second of three preseason games before they get a shot at vengeance in Kansas City to open the regular season.