The Cleveland Browns have a loaded preseason schedule with four games this August. Most NFL clubs only have to take part in three preseason exhibitions, but the Browns get an extra game because they will be taking on the New York Jets in Canton, Ohio on August 3, kicking off the start of the 2023 season with the Hall of Fame game. Browns’ legend Joe Thomas, one of the greatest offensive linemen in football history, is set to be enshrined in Canton this weekend, so it’s only fair that the Browns will be there to back him.
It’s impossible to read too much into exhibition games (Cleveland fans know that lesson all too well, as they went a perfect 4-0 in the 2017 preseason before tanking to a winless 0-16 margin once the games began to matter), but the Browns will have a pair of excellent chances to prove themselves against some of the NFL’s best.
Never An Easy Game
Lincoln Financial Field, the Eagles’ home stadium, is notorious for its hostile atmosphere toward opposing fans. Philly sports fans are some of the most passionate in all of sports and their wrath knows no boundaries, like when they expressed their disappointment at a 2-11 start to the 1968 season by pelting a man dressed as Santa Claus with snowballs and beer bottles.
Then there were the (numerous) times that Eagles fans caught flack for throwing objects like batteries at members of the opposing teams.
While NFL players and fans alike describe the sport they love as going to war (and they’ve got a point, as modern-day collision sports are the closest things we have to the era of Roman gladiators), playing a road game in Philadelphia is the closest that most of those athletes will come to the real thing.
Facing the Eagles represents a true trial by fire, a vicious environment that will show the Browns coaches and management what the players fighting for a roster spot like rookies and lower-tier free agents are made of: if they’re able to step up their game in that situation, they could be on the fast track to a roster spot.
For a pair of fan bases as passionate as supporters of the Browns and the Eagles are, there’s no such thing as downtime, not even in the preseason. Get in on the action with Caesars Sportsbook Ohio and don’t miss this game between two NFL powerhouses and your chance to win big.
What to Expect from the Players
One can’t say too much about the excesses of Eagles fans, but that doesn’t do justice to the teams Philadelphia manages to field year in and year out.
The Birds have been to a pair of Super Bowls (winning one) since 2018 as executive vice president and general manager Howie Roseman has really hit his stride as a team builder: even when they’ve struggled with organizational malaise as former head coach Doug Pederson’s approach grew old, even as a rash of injuries decimated the team’s quarterback room and limited their ceiling in the years between their Super Bowl win and last season, when they fell just short in the big game to the Kansas City Chiefs, Philly always comes to play.
Roseman’s philosophy centers around building his team from the trenches outward, embracing a bruising identity with punishing lines on either side of the ball. The Eagles are able to run the football at will with one of the best offensive lines in the league, keeping opposing defenses off balance with the threat of a deep shot to speedy receivers like A.J. Brown, and quarterback Jalen Hurts’ threat as a runner means the Eagles have more weapons in the toolbox than teams can hope to prepare for.
On defense, the Birds make life hell for opposing signal callers with a crashing defensive line anchored by Fletcher Cox and back-to-back first-round picks Jordan Davis and Jalen Carter.
Fortifying the lines makes everything else fall into place, and the Eagles are a testament to the effectiveness of that strategy.
A Sign of Things to Come?
Funnily enough, the Eagles right now are what the Browns hope to be in the next year or two. Cleveland has had one of the better offensive line units in the league for much of the past half-decade, and with all-world edge rusher Myles Garrett hounding quarterbacks and collapsing the pocket, and the Browns are trying to find him a bookend, acquiring stud defensive end Za’Darius Smith from the Vikings.
Offensively, the Browns need to find more consistency. After spending a quarter of a billion dollars (and a fortune in draft picks down the road) to bring in quarterback Deshaun Watson, the embattled signal-caller struggled in his debut season on the shores of Lake Erie.
Cleveland has done just about everything they can to make life easy for Watson, with their steamroller offensive line and one of the best running backs in the game in Nick Chubb. His 2022 season never really got off the ground (he posted an ugly final line of seven touchdown passes to five interceptions in six games) as he missed 11 games due to a suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy as it pertains to sexual misconduct, and early reports out of training camp suggest that he’s struggling to outwit the defenses he faces.
These early struggles mean that Watson could see significant playing time during the preseason as he tries to shake off the rust and get on the same page with his teammates. When he’s on his game he’s an excellent quarterback, and if he gets the majority of the reps against the Eagles, the Browns will have an excellent shot of pulling off the road upset… assuming he’s able to dice up future practice squad members.
Preseason games are always a wild card as no one knows how playing time will get divided up, which gives sports fans an excellent (albeit risky) chance to put one over on the sportsbooks if they keep a close eye on what the teams are up to.