The Cleveland Browns will officially kick off the 2023 NFL season by taking on the New York Jets in the Hall of Fame game on Thursday, but fans know not to expect to see many of the Browns' top players. We would've hoped to at least get a drive or two of Deshaun Watson, but it's not too surprising that he's already been ruled out.
What is surprising is how Kevin Stefanski will be approaching the quarterback position in the preseason opener.
Browns QB Depth Chart: Mond Over Thompson-Robinson
There's obviously no preseason competition for Cleveland's QB1 job. That belongs to Deshaun Watson, and he's only going to get as much preseason playing time as is required to have him comfortable for Week 1.
Second on the depth chart is presumably Joshua Dobbs, who is also conspicuously absent from Stefanski's Hall of Fame Game plan.
A former Pittsburgh Steelers backup, Dobbs earned some public recognition with some gutsy performances (albeit both in losses) with the Tennessee Titans in 2022 before the Browns brought him back to the AFC North this offseason. With no word of any Dobbs injuries at practice, this appears to be confirmation from Stefanksi that Dobbs is the QB2 with no conversation around it. It's surprising that even the backup QB won't get any run on Thursday.
Earning the nod as Thursday's starter, Kellen Mond appears to have the early lead for the QB3 role — which is also probably a role that decides who will make the roster and who will be cut. Rookie Dorian Thompson-Robertson is competing with Mond for the job, and it's unlikely that Cleveland will carry four QBs on its final 53-man roster.
I wouldn't read too much into this start for Mond, however. Teams almost always defer to veterans at the beginning of training camp and the preseason. Mond showed enough promise to be a third-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, but he's also already been cut by one team.
The Browns selected Thompson-Robinson in the fifth round of the 2023 NFL Draft, and the rookie is a dual-threat who rushed for 21 touchdowns over his last two collegiate seasons.
Browns-Jets Hall of Fame Game
It's surprising to see Stefanski playing each one straight up for half the game, but it's also going to make this a very interesting game to watch. This is an old-school training camp battle: veteran vs. rookie with just one roster spot on the line. Both guys are going to be balling out as hard as they can on Thursday, knowing that it could make or break their NFL future.
That's also why it's easy to like Cleveland's chances of opening the preseason with a win here.
Some players just need to worry about staying healthy in the preseason. Those guys know their roster spots are secure and can afford to take reps off to preserve their health. But with so much at stake for our quarterbacks, however, you know each one is going to be treating this with the intensity of a playoff game.
On the other side, the New York Jets are getting a ton of hype with Aaron Rodgers at the helm, but that doesn't help with the years of poor drafting and roster management that has left them with a thin roster.
The Browns are somehow underdogs here, so you know I'll be backing them at plus money!
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Game odds refresh periodically and are subject to change.
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