Joe Thomas will soon be inducted into the Hall of Fame. On Thursday, he’ll get the chance to take a look at the 2023 version of his former team, the Cleveland Browns, for the Hall of Fame Game. But will the starters play in Canton, Ohio?
Cleveland Browns Depth Chart: DeShaun Watson Joins Aaron Rodgers in Sitting Out
The New York Jets announced that Aaron Rodgers won’t have his debut this week, and Cleveland’s QB1, DeShaun Watson, will additionally not be in action.
The philosophy here, as noted by Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski on Tuesday with reporters, is that he wants to take a longer look at who will be backing up Watson.
Who Will Start at QB1 for the Browns?
Third-string quarterback Kellen Mond will start behind center on Thursday. Mond, 24, began his career with the Minnesota Vikings and saw one game of action in 2021. He was waived by the Vikings in August 2022, and the Browns elected to claim him off waivers one day later.
“I’m really excited,” Mond said via the Browns website. “First time putting a Browns jersey on in a game, going to be able to start a Hall of Fame Game and getting off to a good start in training camp. So I’m really excited.”
Mond isn’t going to handle the QB reins all by himself. Thursday will be Dorian Thompson-Robinson’s debut for Cleveland. Thompson-Robinson became a dynamic dual-threat for five seasons with UCLA and could be in for some RPO (run-pass option) plays in Canton. Stefanski confirmed that DTR will take over for the entire second half.
Stefanski added that backup Joshua Dobbs will join Watson in sitting out.
Hall of Fame Game Will Showcase Browns’ 2023 Rookie Class
Thompson-Robinson isn’t expected to be the only rookie debuting Thursday. The rest of the Browns’ 2023 rookie class is anticipated to see some action.
The wide receiver out of Tennessee was Cleveland’s first pick at No. 73 overall in the third round. Cedric Tillman could be looked to early by Mond.
The massive nose tackle out of Baylor should see several snaps, with Dalvin Tomlinson and Maurice Hurst not expected to play.
Another towering and massive prospect, the 6’8″, 375-pound Dawand Jones could be inserted early to protect Mond, then perhaps fellow rookie DTR.
The fourth-round edge rusher out of Missouri is anticipated to help anchor the pass rush and defensive line, with All-Pro Myles Garrett likely to be in street clothes on Thursday.
The Northwestern cornerback will be in on multiple plays, especially with Pro Bowler Denzel Mims a projected scratch.
Will the seventh-rounder start at center? He’s anticipated to snap the ball to the rookie quarterback. Luke Wypler is also joining Jones in playing in front of an Ohio audience as former Buckeyes Thursday.
Which Other Browns Are Expected To See Action?
Mohamoud Diabate is one who can get thrown into the preseason fire in this contest. The long and rangy 6’4″ linebacker is a highly anticipated undrafted rookie who brings pass rushing and coverage skills from his days at Florida and Utah.
In the defensive backfield, Ronnie Hickman Jr. is another who could be on the field at the same time as his fellow Ohio State teammates. Hickman is more than likely to use this game to set the tone in chasing a roster spot, even if it means special teams. He was known to play a fearless, reckless style in Columbus.
As for who could handle the backfield load, Nate McCrary could emerge as the guy there. He’s in his second season out of Saginaw Valley State.
There’s also reason to believe 5’8″ speedster and third-year veteran Jaelon Darden will get several snaps. Cleveland will need an experienced weapon to turn to by playing Mond and Thompson-Robinson. Darden is the best fit on this night to be the guy.