1. Baker Mayfield stays sharp in last action of preseason
In what was expected to be his last, on-field action for the foreseeable future, Baker Mayfield looked as sharp as he's had all preseason during a productive first half.
Mayfield led scoring drives on Cleveland's first three possessions Thursday, making some of his biggest throws early in drives to put Detroit's defense on its heels. His first pass of the game went 41 yards to tight end Devon Cajuste, and he jump-started the Browns' second possession with a 30-yarder to running back Matthew Dayes. He flashed the pinpoint accuracy Cleveland coveted on two third-down throws to extend the game's opening drive and on a 21-yard dart to rookie Damion Ratley in the second quarter.
Mayfield finished the night 9-of-16 for 138 yards, completing passes to seven different receivers. For the entire preseason, he went 35-of-61 for 501 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
"I thought he did some really good things," Browns coach Hue Jackson said. "I thought he played good and I expected he would. He made plays with his legs, he made plays with his arm and he led the team down to score. That was a good game for Baker.
"I just think he improved every week."
2. 'Bubble' guys come up big, but injuries could complicate roster decisions
Nate Orchard, Dayes, Cajuste and a handful of other roster hopefuls appeared to make the most of their final opportunities.
Orchard, the former second-round pick who is entering his fourth season with the Browns, showed off the athleticism he brings to the defensive line, as he leaped to intercept a Matt Cassel pass and ran it back 64 yards for a touchdown near the end of the first half. It was a nice moment to cap what's been an up-and-down preseason for the second-team defensive end.
"He made a play. He made a real, big-time football play right before the half. Intercepts the ball and returns it for a touchdown, that's huge," Jackson said. "Everything is going to be evaluated for our players. The most important thing is we put the right 53 guys on the team."
Cajuste, who has become a household name because of HBO's "Hard Knocks," caught two passes for 48 yards on Cleveland's opening drive. He finished the preseason with five catches for 101 yards.
Dayes, a former seventh-round pick who is entering his second season, racked up 111 yards of offense, 42 of which came on a touchdown run. Dayes, who was sidelined in Thursday's second half with an ankle injury, was on the Browns' active roster all last season and plays on all of the special teams units.
Cornerback Denzel Rice, a journeyman squarely in the mix for one of the final spots in the defensive backs room, was active early and often, finishing with eight tackles and two passes defensed.
Justin Currie, who switched from safety to linebacker during the offseason, picked up the Browns' lone sack and finished with six tackles. He left in the second half with a knee injury.
3. Bring on the regular season
The Browns ended the preseason with a 3-1 record, beginning the four-game stretch with a big night through the air against the Giants, a run-first attack against the Bills, a lights-out defensive performance against the Eagles and Thursday's inspired effort from a lineup of mostly second- and third-team players.
General manager John Dorsey and his player personnel group will begin paring down the roster early Friday. Cleveland has to get its squad down to 53 players by 4 p.m. on Saturday, and it will require plenty of tough decisions. The Browns also have first priority on the waiver wire.
Needless to say, it will be a much different atmosphere when the team comes together at the start of next week to begin its official preparations for the Steelers.
"This is a different football team, new players. This is 2018 and we're going to have to go play our tails off to make sure we secure a victory week in and week out," Jackson said. "I think in the locker room is a really good football team."