FANSIDED: Nick Dudukovich - Considering the Cleveland Browns played mostly backups in their preseason debut against the Jaguars, coach Kevin Stefanski’s group put together a solid performance in their first live action against another team–a 23-13 win.
Now, the Browns will get the New York Giants for a Sunday kickoff at 1 p.m. This contest features an interesting dynamic in that Cleveland will have had two joint practices with New York at the team’s Berea based practice facility.
The action during these practices always get intense, so it’ll be interesting to see how hostilities built during the week translate into the game on Sunday.
Hopefully, the Browns get through the game without any injuries as kickoff against the Chiefs in Week 1 is almost here. There was a lot to build on after last week, and the team has already started making roster decisions.
Here’s five Cleveland Browns who need a good game against the Giants.
1. Cleveland Browns WR Davion Davis
The relatively unknown wideout was one of the starts of the preseason opener, making the most spectacular grab of the game on a touchdown catch near the back pylon of the end zone.
That said, Davis was the longest of long shots before the game, and truthfully, his future with the team hasn’t changed all that much.
Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. command the top of the depth chart, while Donovan Peoples-Jones up-and-comer status flashed in the preseason opener. After that trio, there’s third-round pick Anthony Schwartz, who finally practiced Tuesday, as well JoJo Natson and Demetric Felton.
Something’s got to give and Davis is still facing an up hill battle to make the final 53-man squad.
Davis may not have a future with the Browns, but the opportunity to put together game tape for other teams is still there. If it’s not with he Browns, Davis would certainly like to be playing somewhere in 2021.
That means standing out for a second-straight week when the Lions come to down.
2. Cleveland Browns S Richard LeCounte
Grand Delpit returned to practice this week, only to leave the same day with an Achilles injury, serving as a reminder that the 2020 second-round pick is unable to get on the field.
The Browns are supposedly interested in playing three safeties on 40 percent of the team’s defensive snaps, so having that extra man to be out there with John Johnson and Ronnie Harrison is a necessity.
Enter LeCounte, a fifth-round pick who was stellar against the Jags. He deflected two passes and added an interception to his stats by picking off a Hail Mary at the end of the first half. His performance was good enough to earn him the second-highest game grade by a rookie defensive back, according to PFF.
The story with LeCounte is the same as it is with Davis. Doing it in one game is great. Now, let’s see it again.
Opportunity is certainly there for LeCounte because besides Delpit’s misfortunes, veteran safety Sheldrick Redwine is also hurt (ankle). I’ve heard very little coming out of camp regarding Redwine.
3. Cleveland Browns DT Malik McDowell
McDowell was on this list a week ago, but his oblique kept him from game action.
Fortunately, the defensive tackle’s ribs healed enough that he was able to return practice ahead of Cleveland’s joint practices against the Giants.
He seemed to be trending in the right direction, until the injury sidelined him ahead of the preseason opener. He certainly looks the part, but obviously, the issue will be watching McDowell on the field.
Now, with that game in the books, McDowell really needs to excel as Cleveland’s defensive line, constructed mostly of backups, was excellent in Jacksonville. Notably, Sheldon Day had the opening down sack of No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence. Second-year veteran Jordan Elliott also played well.
If McDowell has anything in the tank, the Lions game will be his prime opportunity to show Cleveland took a flyer on him and signed him during the offseason.
4. Cleveland Browns RB Demetric Felton
f any player is trending toward a roster spot, it’s Demetric Felton. Felton co-lead the Browns, along with D’Ernest Johnson, for four catches and 44 yards.
Felton was certainly one of the offensive stars of the game, but it jumped out how Cleveland didn’t bother to hand the guy–who was drafted as a running back–one carry.
That doesn’t mean Cleveland’s giving up, as Stefanski indicated this week that Felton will get more looks at running back.
Based off that nugget, we’re looking for Felton to get a few carries against the Lions.
Even if he doesn’t, something’s going to have to give with the final roster. Felton looks like he’s trending toward a roster spot, so what does that mean for JoJo Natson and D’Ernest Johnson.
Heck, you can add Khadarel Hodge and Anthony Schwartz to that list.
5. Cleveland Browns DE Joe Jackson
Following preseason game No. 1, Cleveland’s depth on the defensive line certainly looks strong.
Starter’s Jadeveon Clowney and Myles Garrett didn’t even play, and it didn’t matter much as Cleveland’s front four did an excellent job of putting pressure on Jaguar quarterbacks.
Jackson, a fifth-round pick, played well, and he needs a good game because he’s probably behind Cameron Malveaux and Porter Gustin on the depth chart.
Jackson played well in the opener, getting a hand on the shoulder of Gardner Minshew, which made the JOK sack possible. He also initiated contact on a key rushing down early in the game, that allowed his teammates to finish the playoff off.
Jackson probably still has an uphill battle, but with Takk McKinley still out, opportunity to at least start the season on the roster could be knocking. It’s been said McKinley has a non-football injury, so the PUP is a possibility. If Jackson can continue to impact the game, it’ll be hard to let him go.