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3 Big Takeaways: Case Keenum leads a smooth, clean Browns offense

Cleveland’s veteran backup looked comfortable on a successful night

JACKSONVILLE, Florida — The Browns came away winners of their first preseason game, taking down the Jaguars, 23-13, on Saturday at TIAA Bank Field.

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

1. Case Keenum leads a smooth, clean Browns offense

Case Keenum took more in-game snaps Saturday than he did in all of 2020, and his performance served as a nice reminder of how good of hands the Browns are in with the veteran as their backup quarterback.

On a night when most of the Browns' projected offensive starters rested on the sidelines, Keenum played all of the first quarter and half of the second, completing 12-of-17 passes for 115 yards. He connected with Donovan Peoples-Jones on his very first pass — something Baker Mayfield has done quite often throughout training camp, too — and went on to get the ball in the hands of five others who are vying to fill key roles on the Browns offense this season. The Browns picked up two field goals on his three drives, which ran smoothly and featured just one penalty.

Keenum set the table for what was a similarly nice performance by Kyle Lauletta, who threw for 212 yards and two touchdowns.

"He prepares really hard," Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said. "I think he was excited to play. He loves this game. To see him out there and operate and have Baker out there to support him and have Kyle come in, I thought that was a really nice job of that room in general to take charge and lead this team up and down. Was it perfect? No. But pleased overall with how those guys operated."

Keenum, of course, came to Cleveland with plenty of experience as a starter but has fully embraced the role he's in behind Mayfield. He appeared just once in 2020, relieving Mayfield during the second half of a lopsided loss at Pittsburgh, and didn't have a preseason to get any live snaps with his new teammates. Still, Keenum's connection with Stefanski and command of his offense has made for an ideal match, and his positive influence on Mayfield has been apparent from Day 1.

Keenum's looked the part all throughout training camp — he was particularly good at the Orange & Brown Practice — and Saturday was simply a continuation of it.

Check out photos of the Browns against the Jaguars in week one of the preseason

2. A-OK for JOK

Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah wanted as many snaps as the Browns were willing to give him, and they certainly delivered.

The second-round linebacker out of Notre Dame made the most of his opportunities and then some with an electric NFL debut that featured a team-high eight tackles, three of which went for a loss, and a sack. Owusu-Koramoah's energy was clear from the moment he stepped on the field in the second quarter, and he kept it up all the way through the fourth, when he remained on the field for both defensive and special teams plays.

Stefanski lauded Owusu-Koramoah for staying up to speed with his role on the defense despite missing the team's first five practices while spending time on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. Owusu-Kormoah said Thursday he wasn't as up to speed as he thought he'd be but he certainly looked comfortable in his role Saturday night.

"He plays at a very high speed, he's twitchy, he defeats blocks," Stefanski said. "He did a nice job. I know already there's going to be things he can improve."

"It's football. When he's out there and they're keeping score and they're between the white lines, he's doing what he does."

3. Nice to see you

Saturday's first quarter meant just a little more to three Browns players.

On offense, there was T Chris Hubbard, who was back on the field after suffering a serious knee injury late last season. Hubbard, the versatile sixth man on Cleveland's top-ranked offensive line, played right tackle for the first few series before he was able to spend the rest of the night with his fellow veterans on the sidelines.

"It felt amazing," Hubbard said. "Thank God I was able to go back out there and do what I love to do. It was just fun to be around the guys."

On defense, the Browns had two players getting on the field for the first time since 2019 in DT Andrew Billings and CB Greedy Williams. 

Billings had a relatively quick hook, as the Browns allowed the numerous other defensive tackles vying for a roster spot to get in the action early, while Williams started and played into the second quarter. Williams, who was hampered all last season by a nerve issue in his shoulder, got involved before the Browns' defense even took the field, as he chased down and tackled Jaguars kick returner Chris Claybrooks on a long return that would be negated by a penalty.

"I told him and Hubb, to be out there in that first game coming off an injury, that's a great testament to how hard those guys worked in their rehab," Stefanski said.

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