Editor's note: Tony Grossi covers the Cleveland Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR.
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ
Instant takeaways from Browns 20-10 win over the New York Giants …
1. Good start: Everything the Browns have been saying about their quarterback situation played out in their first preseason game. Veteran starter Tyrod Taylor had a commanding presence in his first game with the Browns, directing one touchdown drive in two series before leaving with a perfect 5-for-5, 99-yard night. Baker Mayfield relieved Taylor and tacked on two touchdowns in seven possessions, including an impressive, 14-play drive on his second series. Tight end David Njoku was at the receiving end of touchdown passes from each quarterback – 36 yards from Taylor and 10 from Mayfield while splitting two defenders at the back of the end zone. Third-year receiver Rashard Higgins had key catches on both TDs and outplayed jittery rookie Antonio Callaway (three balls off his hands) in the first half. Callaway looked like a different player in the second half, however, with three catches on four targets, including a short reception he turned into a 54-yard touchdown. The Browns’ defense allowed a field goal on Eli Manning’s first of two drives, and didn’t allow another point until a Browns turnover on a punt in the third quarter.
2. Dez impressed: Before the game, Browns GM John Dorsey disclosed he has tryouts scheduled for veteran receivers coming up this week, but they didn’t include ex-Cowboy Dez Bryant because “he don’t return any phone calls.” Well, that may change. After Mayfield’s impressive scoring drive, Bryant tweeted: “Starting my visits next week...I’m coming to the Land to see you Mr Dorsey” Viewing the game from the press box, Dorsey was informed of the tweet and he quipped, “My phone’s not ringing.” Bryant has been exchanging texts/messages with Browns receiver Jarvis Landry and tweeted positive things during the premier of the Browns’ appearance on Hard Knocks. He also tweeted during the game and apparently was impressed with the Browns scoring touchdowns with their first and second team offenses.
3. Baker’s night: Mayfield put up 13 points in seven series (a two-point try failed after his touchdown to Njoku). His final numbers were rather pedestrian until the end – 11 of 20 for 212 yards and two touchdowns. He was sacked once and converted a first down with a sneak among his three keepers. Mayfield showed excellent pocket presence and nice touches on his throws on the first touchdown drive. He got no help from his running game, as the backup offensive line was mostly responsible for a long evening for rookie rusher Nick Chubb (11 yards on 15 carries).
4. Tale of two receivers: The Browns did not discipline Callaway for his early Sunday morning rendezvous with Strongsville police. It appeared that Rashard Higgins was on his way to bumping Callaway to the No. 3 receiver spot – until Callaway’s strong comeback in the second half. Higgins was 4 for 5 in receiving targets for 66 yards, including catches of 21 and 26 yards on each of the Browns’ touchdowns in the first half. The only targeted ball not caught was on a fine defensive play. Meantime, Callaway had a difficult time holding on to the ball. He started and could not hold on to three targets that went off his hands in the first half. Callaway made his first catch for 9 yards in the third quarter. He also stretched out for a beauty catch on the right sideline, somehow dragging his feet while falling to the ground. That play was reversed on a Hue Jackson challenge. Callaway followed on Mayfield’s last drive with his 54-yard catch-and-run. He finished with three catches for 87 yards.
5. Tyrod comes through: Nobody would say it, but the Browns had to be relieved Taylor put up a touchdown against the Giants’ first-team defense. Taylor came out in a no-huddle on his second series and zipped the offense 66 yards in four plays. Taylor completed the drive with a nice, back-shoulder throw to Rashard Higgins for 21 yards, and then a bulls-eye to tight end David Njoku, who was streaking past linebacker Alec Ogletree on a seam route, for a 36-yard touchdown. In two series, Taylor was 5 for 5 for 99 yards.
6. Oh, remember him: It didn’t take Saquon Barkley long to tweak the Browns for not taking him first overall. The Giants running back, taken right after the Browns chose Mayfield first in the draft, carried the ball on the first offensive play of the game, scooted around the right edge and ripped off a 39-yard run.
7. Bless ‘em: The Browns don’t carry themselves like an 0-16 team because of the influx of new players. Two of them drew taunting penalties early in the game. Cornerback Denzel Ward drew one on his first defense of a pass, which was dropped by Hunter Sharp. While Sharp bobbled the ball, Ward’s helmet clearly crashed into Sharp’s facemask. But instead of a helmet hit, he was flagged for taunting Sharp after the play. Then, on the Browns’ first offensive play, Landry drew a flag for taunting after making a catch for 32 yards over Giants cornerback Janoris Jenkins. It appeared Landry was flagged for spiking the ball in the direction of Jenkins.
8. Tackle shuffling: There was some clarity on the backup offensive tackle situation. When the second team took the field, Greg Robinson lined up at left tackle and Shon Coleman at right tackle. This move, coming after Coleman was removed as the front-runner to succeed Joe Thomas, would indicate that Coleman’s days at left tackle indeed could be over.