Garrett Gilbert builds on strong preseason with impressive half vs. Colts – clevelandbrowns.com

Garrett Gilbert builds on strong preseason with impressive half vs. Colts - clevelandbrowns.com
Baker Mayfield, OBJ, Nick Chubb, Myles Garrett and others rest as Garrett Gilbert shines in 21-18 win vs. Colts
Before Garrett Gilbert joined the Browns in April, he had accrued five years of NFL experience spent mostly on practice squads and waited until last December to finally play in his first game.

In the Browns second preseason game Saturday against the Colts, however, Gilbert looked like a seasoned NFL veteran. He squeezed passes into tight windows and found open receivers to lead the Browns offense in the first half of their 21-18 win over the Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Corbett, the one-time frontrunner to win the right guard job, didnt see action at all at that spot. Eric Kush started and rookie Drew Forbes replaced him on the second drive. Corbett didnt get into the game until the third iteration of the O-line on the third drive — at center. He remained there the rest of the game. Forbes, whos been coming on strong, also spent time at left guard with the third-team line. The Browns like him a lot. But as Kitchens said this week, time is running out.

Gilbert finished 13-for-19 with two touchdowns and built on a quality Browns debut from the first preseason game a week ago. His sharp performance Saturday added more intrigue toward the Browns impending decision to save a roster spot for a third quarterback, and if the Browns do decide to stash an additional quarterback for the regular season, Gilberts stellar preseason play is certainly a reason why.

Kitchens complimented Gilberts performance at halftime, saying he wouldve been even better if his receivers had helped him out a little more. On his opening drive, receiver D.J. Montgomery dropped a deep ball over the middle on third down to bring out punter Britton Colquitt. Gilbert was sacked on third down on his second drive, but the third possession was a charm.

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Its all about improving every day, and from there, the chips will fall, Gilbert said. If I worry about that and control what I can, everything will take care of itself.

With his longtime friend Mayfield and Drew Stanton standing on the sidelines in ballcaps and sneakers, Gilbert got the start and made a strong case in the first half of Saturdays 21-18 victory over the Colts that improved the Browns to 2-0. Gilbert opposed Jacoby Brissett instead of the injured Andrew Luck (high ankle issue), and outperformed the Colts backup.

Check out photos of the Cleveland Browns vs the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium by team photographer Matt Starkey

Signed by the Browns as a free agent in April after the Alliance of American Football folded, Gilbert completed 13 of 19 attempts for 151 yards and two touchdowns on back-to-back drives en route to a 127.3 rating and a 14-7 halftime lead. He picked up where he left off in the AAF, where he led the league with 157 completions and 2,152 yards for the Orlando Apollos.

2 / 78 Defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson (98) on the field during the Browns vs. Colts preseason game.

Freddie Kitchens: Drew Stanton is our backup quarterback

3 / 78 Linebacker Christian Kirksey (58) at the line of scrimmage during the Browns vs. Colts preseason game.

We can stop talking about Austin Corbett at right guard: Scott Patskos instant takeaways

17 / 78 Wide receiver Jaelen Strong (10) celebrates a touchdown during the Browns vs. Colts preseason game.

Heading the 2019 offseason, the Browns were rolling out good options at the receiver position. Jarvis Landry was the veteran leader and tone-setter for the group. Rashard Higgins surprised many with his instant chemistry with quarterback Baker Mayfield. Antonio Callaway was made a starter early on in the season and gave the offense a deep threat to take the top off the defense. Young receivers Derrick Willies and Damion Ratley showed some of the potential that the back end of the depth chart could bring.

Video: Freddie Kitchens Postgame Press Conference vs. Colts | Cleveland Browns

22 / 78 Cornerback Robert Jackson (34) celebrates after a play during the Browns vs. Colts preseason game.

Head Coach Freddie Kitchens talked about Strong getting more consistent as training camp has progressed, “Yeah, I think so. I think a bunch of those guys have. Jaelen definitely has, and he just needs to keep working. In a sense, we still have a long way to go, but what they have to understand is the clock is ticking so the sense of urgency has to be picked up. I think it has. I am not saying it has not, but the sense of urgency, I feel a sense of urgency. I want them to feel it.”

27 / 78 Linebacker Mack Wilson (51) celebrates after making a tackle during the Browns vs. Colts preseason game.

Ratley has missed nearly all of camp and needs to show that he can be available and why the Browns selected him in the sixth round to keep his roster spot. For the rest of the group, drops have been an issue that has been noted throughout camp. If one or possibly two of these players are able to string together good practices or games, they have a chance to be on the opening day roster.

30 / 78 Wide receiver Jaelen Strong (10) celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the Browns vs. Colts preseason game.

Willies has been among the most consistent of the receivers outside of the top three, which is why fans have seen an uptick in first-team snaps for him. His athletic profile (4.57 40 yard dash, 41″ vertical jump while listed at 64″ 210 lbs. at his Texas Tech pro day in 2018) and improved route-running has really made him stand out throughout training camp.

31 / 78 Wide receiver Jaelen Strong (10) celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the Browns vs. Colts preseason game.

The Browns are looking for at least two receivers behind Landry, Beckham and Higgins for the opening day roster. Also making his case is Jaelen Strong, a third-round pick by Houston in 2015. He struggled early in his career, then suffered an ACL injury. The Browns signed him in February, and hes had some nice moments. He and Derrick Willies each caught 4-yard TD passes Saturday.

32 / 78 Wide receiver Jaelen Strong (10) celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the Browns vs. Colts preseason game.

Higgins can serve as an inspiration to the Browns young receivers. For example, Antonio Callaway has more raw talent, the physical gifts of a first-round pick. Yet, he was in trouble in college, and recently suspended for four games for a failed drug test.

33 / 78 Running Back DErnest Johnson (30) celebrates after a touchdown during the Browns vs. Colts preseason game.

In the first half against the Colts, Montgomery caught a terrific 32-yard over-the-shoulder pass from Gilbert in stride with a defender close by. Montgomery also snared a 21-yarder over the middle. He had three catches for 77 yards in the first half.

Video: Joint Practice vs. Colts Gets Physical & Chippy | Cleveland Browns

34 / 78 Running Back DErnest Johnson (30) runs the ball during the Browns vs. Colts preseason game.

Moving the Chains: Gilbert shines, Corbett needs to hit the pine in Week 2 of the preseason

35 / 78 Punter Britton Colquitt (4) and kicker Austin Seibert (2) during the Browns vs. Colts preseason game.

37 / 78 Running Back DErnest Johnson (30) celebrates a touchdown during the Browns vs. Colts preseason game.

41 / 78 Running Back DErnest Johnson (30) celebrates a touchdown during the Browns vs. Colts preseason game.

Kitchens was especially happy with Thursday, when both the offense and defense took it to the Colts. The Browns were surprised that the Colts practiced at a much slower pace on Wednesday and with much less intensity. Instead of picking up the pace, the Browns slowed to the Colts level.

42 / 78 Safety J.T. Hassell (49) and safety Eric Murray (22) celebrate a play during the Browns vs. Colts preseason game.

Freddie Kitchens opted to rest Mayfield and many of the other starters in the second preseason game here because they got such productive work in against the Colts in the two joint practices on Wednesday and Thursday.

Video: Browns Conclude Joint Practices w/ Colts for Week 2 | Browns 2 Minute Drill

50 / 78 Wide receiver D.J. Montgomery (83) makes a catch during the Browns vs. Colts preseason game.

Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield shares some friendly conversation with former Cleveland defensive back Derrick Kindred prior to Wednesday's practice between the Browns and Indianapolis Colts in Westfield, Ind.

Video: Browns Conclude Joint Practices w/ Colts for Week 2 | Browns 2 Minute Drill

52 / 78 Wide receiver Damon Sheehy-Guiseppi (15) prepares to receive a punt during the Browns vs. Colts preseason game.

INDIANAPOLIS — Baker Mayfield, Odell Beckham Jr. and Browns starters didnt get a chance to impose their will on the Colts Saturday afternoon in the preseason game because they were on the sidelines.

55 / 78 Running Back DErnest Johnson (30) runs the ball during the Browns vs. Colts preseason game.

Montgomery took advantage of a one-on-one down the sideline, running toward the front pylon under a ball perfectly lofted by Gilbert before coming down with the catch at the Indianapolis 6 for a gain of 32. Montgomerys grab was just the latest contested catch made along the boundary in what has been a strong preseason for him, and it put the Browns in perfect position to score. They did just that a play later, when Gilbert connected with former Alliance of American Football teammate DErnest Johnson for a 6-yard touchdown.

57 / 78 Wide receiver Derrick Willies (84) scores a touchdown during the Browns vs. Colts preseason game.

Backed up by a holding penalty to inside his own 10, Gillan used his greatest skill in launching a punt that received a little help from a good bounce and was downed at the 10. The kick flipped the field for the Browns, where they were able to force the Colts to punt and reaped the reward of it on their ensuing possession, which lasted seven plays, covered 64 yards and led to the first points of the night for either side.

58 / 78 Wide receiver Derrick Willies (84) scores a touchdown during the Browns vs. Colts preseason game.

Avery wasnt done there, though. On third-and-20 from Clevelands 38, Indianapolis ran a wide receiver screen to Deon Cain, who had an alley to run through and was building up speed to break off for a touchdown. Avery again tracked the ballcarrier down, though, limiting him to a gain of 5 and forcing the Colts to settle for a field goal attempt, which kicker Cole Hedlund missed.

59 / 78 Wide receiver Derrick Willies (84) scores a touchdown during the Browns vs. Colts preseason game.

With 40 seconds to play in the game and the Browns clinging to a three-point lead, Chad Kelly faced a fourth-and-1 from the Browns 11. Lined up in the shotgun, Kelly attempted to connect with a target in the flats. Harvey was there to break up the attempt, forcing a turnover on downs and securing the Browns second victory.

61 / 78 Kicker Austin Seibert (2) makes the extra point following a touchdown during the Browns vs. Colts preseason game.

The Colts frequently met the strength and force of the Browns front four early in the game Saturday, especially on third down. The Browns twice recorded tackles for loss in third-and-short scenarios, and the second time around, head coach Frank Reich had enough and tested his team by going for it on fourth down.

63 / 78 Defensive tackle Carl Davis (94) and defensive end Anthony Zettel (97) run off the field during the Browns vs. Colts preseason game.

69 / 78 Safety J.T. Hassell (49) and long snapper Charley Hughlett (47) react to a play during the Browns vs. Colts preseason game.

Still, Gilbert likely cemented his status as No. 3 with a solid outing. Starting while Baker Mayfield and Stanton watched in ballcaps and sneakers, Gilbert completed 13 of 19 attempts for 151 yards with two TDs en route to a 127.3 rating in one half of work. The TDs came on back-to-back drives, the first a 4-yard pass to a wide-open Jaelen Strong and the second a six-yarder to running back DErnest Johnson to make it 14-7.

The Browns planned to give Gilbert an equal amount of playing time as David Blough, an undrafted rookie from Purdue competing with Gilbert to squeeze into the Browns regular season plans. Gilbert originally sputtered after receiving the opening call in the first quarter and began the game 2-for-6 after the Browns were hampered by a string of penalties that set up third-and-long scenarios.

Signed April 5 as a free agent just after the Alliance of American Football folded, Gilbert acknowledged that starting in the AAF helped more than the limited work hes seen while bouncing around the NFL after the Rams selected him in the sixth round of the 2014 draft. In the AAF, his 157 completions and 2,152 yards for the Orlando Apollos led the league.

After the first two drives, though, Gilbert was nearly perfect. He marched the Browns down the field with two first-down completions to Rashard Higgins and found an uncovered Jaelen Strong in the back of the end zone for the Browns first touchdown.

After the Colts responded with a touchdown on the next drive, Gilbert went to work again. He sent the Browns deep into Colts territory with a 32-yard strike to wide receiver D.J. Montgomery and completed a short pass to running back D'Ernest Johnson for another passing touchdown that put the Browns on top for good.

Gilberts teammates noticed his veteran-like presence in the huddle. With Gilbert under center, players who might still be acclimating to the Browns offense found a rhythm.

Most of Johnsons playing time has been with the second and third teams in camp, and the workload has been heavy with a lack of healthy running backs. Plus, when the Browns have a tackle period in practice, they often use Johnson in the backfield instead of Chubb. Johnson also gets reps returning kickoffs and punts (he handled both duties on Saturday).

He knows how to take control of the huddle and take control of the play, Johnson said. Hes a leader on the field and off the field. Hes just going to go out there and make plays, and thats what he does best.

If you watched the short-lived Alliance of American Football, you might remember Johnson. He led the league in yards per carry (5.8) and was third in rushing yards (372) when the plug was pulled after eight weeks. With the Browns, he is a solid fourth on the running back depth chart, behind Chubb, Kareem Hunt and Dontrell Hilliard.

Coach Freddie Kitchens noticed Gilberts poise, too. He opted to sit Baker Mayfield and Drew Stanton, but he wont forget about Gilberts performance from the starting role Saturday anytime soon.

Eric Kush has started in both preseason games. Corbett didnt get on the field until the Browns third offensive possession, and that was at center. Last week, Corbett led the Browns in offensive snaps (66), and they were all at center. On Saturday, he was again playing center in the fourth quarter of a preseason game.

Kitchens left no question, however, about whether Gilbert was pushing Stanton for the backup quarterback role.

Drew is our backup quarterback, Kitchens said. Drew brings a lot of value to our team, so hes our backup quarterback.

Kitchens has said he wouldnt mind additional depth at quarterback. He dealt with a lack of quarterbacks on the roster on more than one occasion in his 11-year stint as a positions coach with the Arizona Cardinals, and hed rather not face that situation again should it arise in his first year as a head coach.

10 – The Browns defensive starters further proved how stout they can be against the run this season and held Marlon Mack, who will likely be the Colts starting running back this season, to just 10 yards on six rushes. Defensive end Myles Garrett was the only starter from the defensive line who did not play.

Gilbert is just hoping to build a case for a role with any NFL team, but hed prefer it come with the Browns. He entered camp a bit more comfortable, perhaps, after his short stint in the now-defunct Alliance of American Football, where he led the league in nearly every passing category. 

124 – Wide receiver D.J. Montgomery is second on the Browns this preseason with 124 receiving yards after he hauled in three receptions for 77 yards Saturday. The undrafted wide receiver has saved his best football for preseason games and certainly boosted his stock against the Colts.

The Browns also plucked Ishmael Hyman and Johnson, who each played with Gilbert on the Orlando Apollos, to see how the chemistry would translate to an NFL setting.

104.2 – David Blough played the second half and went 7-for-12 with 74 passing yards and a touchdown for a 104.2 passer rating. Hes likely behind Gilbert in the competition for a potential third-string quarterback role, but Blough has still played well in both preseason stints.

I feel very comfortable in this offense, but Ive only been here a few months and still finding my way, Gilbert said. I do feel like Im still improving and getting better.

Its what the Browns hoped when they signed Gilbert for training camp. After Saturday, the decision to keep him past the preseason likely became a little tougher.

2 – Kareem Hunt had two carries for 6 yards in his first preseason action with the Browns. He had a productive practice Wednesday as he continues to work his way back from a groin injury.


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