Browns defeat Jets in Hall of Fame Game: Biggest takeaways from NFL’s first preseason matchup

The Cleveland Browns opened the NFL preseason with a 21-16 victory over the New York Jets on Thursday in Canton, Ohio. Here’s what you need to know:

  • The game featured largely non-expected regular season starters for either team, with new Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Browns QB Deshaun Watson sidelined.
  • Instead, backup Zach Wilson started for New York, going 3-for-5 passing for 65 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions.
  • Quarterback Kellen Mond started for the Browns and threw for 92 yards with one touchdown and one interception before rookie QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson stepped in to help spark a second-half comeback, throwing for one TD and no interceptions.
  • The game was briefly delayed at the start of the fourth quarter when the lights went out at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium.

Athletics‘s instant analysis:

Thompson-Robinson’s impressive outing

Thompson-Robinson was impressive in his NFL preseason debut. The Browns drafted Thompson-Robinson in the fifth round with the hope that he could become their long-term backup, and while it’s too early for conclusions, he continued his impressive summer. Thompson-Robinson led two scoring drives, ran for 36 yards and completed 8 of 11 passes for 82 yards. Mond started the game for the Browns because he has more experience in the system, but the rookie likely got the start the next time the Browns’ backups play a full game on Aug. 17 in Philadelphia. — Jackson


Seven things we learned after the Browns’ Hall of Fame win over the Jets

Jobs to do in Cleveland

The Browns just wanted to go away, and they played like that for most of the first half. Their summer focus is on installing their new defense and getting Watson more comfortable with the offense, and Thursday was almost entirely for the backup. The Browns were understandably sloppy early, digging themselves a two-score hole after wide receiver Anthony Schwartz, likely in his last chance to punt, lost a fumble that the Jets turned into a touchdown rather easily and quickly. Running backs John Kelly and Demetric Felton are probably on the wrong side of the bubble, but each scored a touchdown — and they’re both auditioning for other teams, too. The Browns clearly have work to do back in their own camp and are eager to get back to it. — Jackson

What did Wilson look like?

Wilson had his usual ups and downs — but there were enough positives to be encouraged that he might be making progress from last season’s disaster. There was no better moment for Wilson Thursday night than on his 57-yard completion to Malik Taylor, a simple, quick read of the play where he saw Taylor get open and launched it to him for a big gain. He quickly followed that up with an inaccurate throw to Xavier Gipson and later a pass that was knocked down on the line. He also slipped on an attempted scramble in the first quarter. So obviously it wasn’t perfect – but he has to start somewhere and this was better than anything he did in 2022. – Rosenblatt

New York’s crowded RB room

Rookie running back Israel Abanikanda is pushing for a role in what will be a crowded backroom once Breece Hall returns from his knee injury. Abanikanda had an up-and-down camp and was well behind Zonovan Knight and Michael Carter in the pecking order. But at least he helped himself Thursday, especially on his impressive 10-yard touchdown run where he came around the corner and ran past a pair of defenders for the score. He clearly has more explosiveness than the other Jets running backs (not named Hall). He finished with just 26 yards on nine carries, but the touchdown was a positive step. — Rosenblatt

Highlights of the game

Required reading

Football 100, the definitive ranking of the NFL’s greatest 100 players of all time, goes on sale this fall. Pre-order it here.

(Photo: Nick Cammett/Getty Images)

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