In the closing minutes of Thursday night’s 21-7 loss to the Chicago Bears, Browns head coach Hue Jackson pulled veterans Joe Thomas and Joe Haden aside.
Cleveland’s first-year head coach delivered a simple message: this is your team and the time is now to lead.
“The preseason is over,” Jackson said. “The season is here. Obviously, we would like to finish a little better.”
After 4 preseason games it appears that the Browns have a very, very long way to go to resembling anything close to a competitive contender on both sides of the ball.
While Jackson may publicly disagree that the glimmers of hope the last few weeks have been faint, he felt the time was right to get in Thomas’ and Haden’s ears before the clock struck midnight.
“The grind starts now,” Jackson said. “What it is truly all about starts next Sunday in Philadelphia. I wanted them to understand it is going to take work, it is going to take their leadership and their ability to rally their teammates to do what we need to do which is we are going to Philadelphia and we expect to win a game.”
Jackson certainly did not like the 0-4 preseason but the philosophy and approach to the games now changes starting next week.
“It is about putting our players in the best position to have success,” Jackson said. “A lot of this for us has been about evaluation of our team. Now that changes. The focus of everything changes. Now, it is about finding a way to win by any means necessary, and I think our players understand that.”
Help Wanted – Jackson made it pretty clear that he wasn’t thrilled with either of his punters.
Michael Palardy had 5 punts that averaged 48.6 yards – the longest went for 75 yards and the shortest just 14 yards off the side of his foot. Kyle Redfern, acquired from Carolina along with a 2018 fourth round pick for Andy Lee, averaged 39.5 yards on 4 boots, including a 52 yarder.
“Obviously, it wasn’t up to our standards tonight,” Jackson said. “We need to do a little bit better. We will do whatever we feel that we need to do to shore that up. It wasn’t as good as any of us liked. We will do whatever, whether we need to go find another guy or see if there was something within the process of those kicking that was an issue.”
Break Time – Receiver Josh Gordon had 3 catches for 29 yards in his final game before beginning a 4-game suspension to start the season. He finished the preseason with 5 catches for 116 yards and a touchdown in 2 games.
NFL rules stipulate that he can not practice or play, but NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will allow him to be in the facility to work out and attend meetings.
“It’ll be a grind,” Gordon said of the time off that awaits him. “I’ll be working out every day with the strength and conditioning staff, getting in shape, sitting in on meetings, being around the guys.
“I’ve been in this position before, unfortunately. Mentally, I’m prepared for it. I know what to expect. Hopefully, I go out there on Week 5 and pick up where I left off.”
Veteran Bubble Watch – Receiver Taylor Gabriel helped his chances of making the roster with a 37-yard punt return in the third quarter. He and veteran Andrew Hawkins could be fighting for one of the remaining roster spots at the position.
Cornerback Tramon Williams, who still has nearly $12 million left on his contract for 2016 and 2017, could be a surprise cut Saturday if the team continues to cut costs and go even younger.
“The team is already very young, no doubt about it,” Williams said. “There’s nothing guaranteed in this league but I hope [my spot] is.”
Rosters must be down to 53 by 4 p.m. eastern Saturday.