They won’t be sending the tape of Thursday night’s Browns-Eagles preseason game to Canton anytime soon — with a 5-0 final score, maybe Cooperstown will take it — but a whole bunch of interesting/weird stuff happened, nonetheless.
The Browns, owners of those decisive five points thanks to a first-quarter safety and a second-quarter field goal, almost saw their well-laid plans to have Tyrod Taylor be their regular season starter go up in smoke when he went down hard on his left hand during his team’s second series. Taylor went to the locker room but returned to the field in the second quarter. Then, in a head-scratching move considering the preseason contest’s comparative unimportance, he actually returned to the game.
It was an odd call by Coach Hue Jackson, but the game plan is the game plan, and Jackson’s game plan called for Taylor to play the entire first half (injuries be darned, apparently).
“We will continue to look at it and see where we are as we head into next week,” Jackson told reporters, per ESPN. “X-rays were negative, but I think it is important that we do everything that we need to do to make sure exactly where that hand is.”
Taylor, who finished 11 of 16 for 65 yards, will have his hand reevaluated Friday. He tweeted out a message to fans that day, reminding him of an upcoming promotional appearance:
Later Friday, NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport reported that Taylor dislocated his left pinkie, which apparently does not preclude a quarterback from returning to the game despite the pain involved.
Baker Mayfield, Cleveland’s latest quarterback of the future, then was scheduled to play most if not all of the second half, but that plan was scuttled in the fourth quarter when he collided with a teammate, necessitating a trip to the head-injury tent, where the independent neurologist deemed him fine to return. Wising up to the fact that sending a possibly concussed No. 1 draft pick out there in the fourth quarter of a wholly meaningless game would be coaching malpractice, Jackson had Drew Stanton finish the game at quarterback.
“I was fixing to go back in the game, but they decided not to put me back in,” said Mayfield, who completed 8 of 12 passes for 76 yards with an interception. “So, not my call, not worried about it. I should have taken advantage of the time when I was in.”
Oh, and cornerback Denzel Ward — Cleveland’s other first-round draft pick this year — left the game in the first quarter with a back injury. He, too, will be reevaluated Friday. In any case, next week’s episode of “Hard Knocks” should be absolutely fascinating.
On the other side of the ball, Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles had a fairly dismal night for the Eagles, throwing two interceptions and getting sacked three times, one of them leading to the aforementioned safety. This prompted what appeared to be criticism from Coach Doug Pederson at halftime, at least according to Erin Andrews’s retelling of her conversation with him.
“I don’t know,” Andrews quoted Pederson as saying when asked to explain why his quarterback was struggling. “It’s very disappointing. He was calm before the game, I thought he’d settled in.”
After the game, Pederson disputed this account, saying he was actually peeved with his entire offense and not just Foles.
“Not Nick,” Pederson said. “Offensively. We had six possessions. We had two interceptions, two fumbles. We had a sack safety, and we had a turnover on downs. That’s an offensive performance, so I was displeased with what our first offense executed. . . . I’m disappointed in the offense. I don’t want to single out one player, so don’t put this all on Nick. I’m disappointed in the offense. It’s obviously not what you want in the third preseason week.”
It’s unclear whether Carson Wentz, whom Foles replaced late last season on the Eagles’ run to the Super Bowl, will be ready to return from a torn ACL and MCL by Week 1. Foles’s struggles make this an even more pressing question.
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