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3 Big Takeaways: Browns get one last reminder of tough decisions ahead

Cleveland needs to cut its roster from 80 to 53 by Tuesday at 4 p.m.

The Browns came away winners of their third and final preseason game, taking down the Falcons, 19-10, on Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

Here are three things that stood out the most from the win.

1. Browns get one last reminder of tough decisions ahead

The Browns went a perfect 3-0 in the preseason — a mark that washes away the moment they step on the field for the season opener against the defending AFC Champion Kansas City Chiefs. Still, it's how the Browns got to this point that will make the next 48 hours difficult for EVP of Football Operations and GM Andrew Berry as he makes his final decisions on the 53-man roster.

The Browns were a playoff team in 2020 that advanced to the divisional round, but no stone was left unturned in the pursuit of improving the talent and depth all across the roster. And, as a result, the Browns showed throughout the preseason they have significant talent and depth at multiple positions on both sides of the ball. A number of those players who are fighting to make the team got to make one last push under the bright lights of Sunday Night Football. Though the second half wasn't the cleanest half of football, there were still plenty of moments in which these players shined. 

On offense, there was WR Davion Davis, who capped an exceptional preseason with his second touchdown catch. TE Jordan Franks caught four passes for 45 yards. OL Blake Hance continued to stretch his versatility as a center.

Defensively, it was a big night for the tackles, as Malik McDowell and Sheldon Day split a sack and Jordan Elliott recovered a fumble and registered a tackle for loss. DE Cameron Malveaux registered two sacks. LB Elijah Lee received extensive playing time for the second straight game. CB A.J. Green got the start alongside rookie CB Greg Newsome II.

The list goes on and on, and it won't be easy saying goodbye to so many players who logged months of work in the team's offseason workout program and training camp to reach this point.

"I wish we could keep every single one of them," Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said. "That's not the reality of the situation. I just told them I appreciate how they work. That's a group that's done everything I've asked them to do. I'm certainly appreciative of that and we'll see how it all shakes out."

Check out photos of the Browns against the Falcons in week three of the preseason

2. Baker was sharp, even in warmups

Stefanski had a good feeling about what he'd see from Baker Mayfield in his first and only action of the preseason. Even in warmups, the Browns' starting quarterback looked sharp, and it carried over into his two series of work.

"He was very excited to play," Stefanski said.

Mayfield finished 6-of-10 for 113 yards and a touchdown, but the stat line doesn't do full justice to the stretch of sound football he played with a group that included four of the five starters on the offensive line, his starting tight ends and RB Kareem Hunt (first series only). He led the Browns into the red zone on their first possession but the drive fizzled out when they couldn't convert on fourth down. Stefanski chalked some of it up to purposely vanilla play-calling.

There was nothing vanilla about Mayfield's second and final series, as he completed 4-of-4 passes for 70 yards and a touchdown, allowing him to end his night on the highest possible of notes. His pinpoint, 22-yard touchdown pass to KhaDarel Hodge came off a bootleg that required him to shift his hips and throw off his back foot.

Preseason or not, it was as good of a throw as you'll see from anyone playing the position. On this night, it was the latest sign the Browns are on track to be where they want to be for the season opener against the Chiefs.

"I know our guys are ready," Mayfield said. "They've been itching to go and we can feel how close it is. All that preparation you put in throughout the offseason ever since we lost to the Chiefs in January, we've been working for this point right now and I think the guys are ready to go."

3. Special teams talk

It was certainly an eventful night on Browns special teams.

Demetric Felton registered a 37-yard kickoff return and an 11-yard punt return. Versatile on offense as both a running back and wide receiver, Felton has attacked his opportunities on special teams, too, as he fights for a spot on the 53.

"It was definitely huge but I'm definitely not satisfied," Felton said. "I wanted to score, but I feel like I showed I could handle that, and that's pretty much all I wanted to do this camp, just show the coaches I'm able to handle a lot on my plate."

Chase McLaughlin made two field goals but came up just short on a 56-yard attempt at the end of the first half — his career long is 52 yards — and pushed an extra point attempt in the fourth quarter wide right. McLaughlin is the lone kicker on the roster but Stefanski and special teams coach Mike Priefer have made it clear the competition isn't settled.

"That's not easy. It's a challenging kick and I wanted to give him a swing at it," Stefanski said. "I know he's had that miss but he's done a nice job in camp and we value those practice reps, joint practice reps, game reps. It's all of them."

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