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3 Big Takeaways: Karl Joseph the latest Browns player to step up when opportunity arises

Veteran safety had one of his best games of 2020 on Sunday

1. Karl Joseph the latest Browns player to step up when opportunity arises

Karl Joseph began the season as Cleveland's starting strong safety, and it's the position he holds as the Browns begin their preparations for a very important Week 16 matchup with the Jets.

In between, Joseph dealt with the adversity of a hamstring injury and eventual ceding of his first-team role to Ronnie Harrison Jr., who was acquired in a trade shortly before the start of the regular season.

Joseph, though, stayed focused and stayed prepared. Ever since Harrison went down with a shoulder injury, he's helped stabilize the back end of Cleveland's defense, which has been hit as hard by injuries as any position group on the team.

Sunday was a crowning moment for Joseph, who signed with the Browns in March after four years with the Raiders. He led the team in tackles, was at the center of a number of big plays and even made an impact on special teams.

"I thought I made some plays to help our team win. Hopefully, it is not my best game as a Brown," Joseph said. "My focus and goal is always to continue to get better every week and keep raising the bar for myself and for our team."

Performances like Joseph's are one of the main reasons why the Browns sit where they are today: 10-4 and in control of their postseason destiny. Injuries have hit Cleveland hard at nearly every position group, forcing the team to not only turn to their depth players at big moments in games, but also for extended stretches of time.

Having Joseph, a former first-round pick in his fifth NFL season, at the ready and available reflects on the improved depth Cleveland added in the offseason. No matter the position, the "next man up" has provided minimal dropoff and kept the Browns in the thick of the playoff race in the hotly competitive AFC.

"That is part of the reason I came here. I felt like I saw the potential that we had obviously with the talent we had on the offensive side and I know the talent we had on the defensive side, as well," Joseph said. "Obviously, I did not know much about anything else as far as the coaching staff, but I knew that they were putting a good staff together that was going to come in and try to build this thing up the right way. I am happy I made that decision to come here."

Check out the best photos from the Browns win over the Giants last week by the Browns photo team

2. He's Heating Up

Jarvis Landry got hot when the weather warmed up on a trip to Jacksonville and he's remained that way for the past month.

Ever since that memorable performance against the Jaguars, when Landry caught eight passes for 143 yards and his first touchdown of the season, the veteran wide receiver has been one of the NFL's busiest pass-catchers. Over the past four games, Landry has 29 catches (38 targets) for 318 yards and three touchdowns. 

A lot of these haven't been easy, either. The degree of difficulty on his 2-yard touchdown catch Sunday against the Giants was as high as it gets, and so have plenty of others that have gone for big gains and important first downs. This has all happened while more and more defenses devote their top resources toward limiting Landry, who has taken over as the Browns' No. 1 wide receiver in the wake of Odell Beckham Jr.'s season-ending knee injury.

Browns coach Kevin Stefanski was asked Monday why he thinks Landry has surged in recent weeks. He couldn't pinpoint just one reason.

"I think his health certainly plays a factor into it," Stefanski said. "I just think the games and how they have unfolded have obviously played a factor. He is a very reliable target for the quarterback. Again, I will point to the touchdown catch. He is covered, and Baker (Mayfield) makes a great throw and Jarvis makes a great catch, a strong catch. He made a strong catch on the seam route later in the game. 

"I just see a very dependable player, but to comment on a resurgence, I would be giving an incomplete answer without studying the whole thing."

3. The Circle of Life

Nick Harris had a feeling of deja vu when he was summoned into the game Sunday to replace an injured Chris Hubbard at right guard.

Harris, a fifth-round pick out of Washington, was drafted to play center, a position at which he thrived during the final part of his college career. He was the center for the first-team offense for most of training camp while JC Tretter recovered from knee surgery but has yet to take a snap at the position during the regular season. Still, as the season unfolded, Harris prepared for anything as he worked on the practice field, mostly with the scout team.

It's exactly how his college playing career began, after all.

Harris was recruited to play center at Washington. He was also expected to redshirt. He did neither for his first two seasons, as he started twice at left guard and twice at right guard during a season that ended in the College Football Playoff against top-ranked Alabama. He went on to play another full season as a guard before switching to center for his junior year.

He reflected on the coincidence with his mother shortly after the game.

"It is just like the circle of life. Everything just repeats itself, I swear," Harris said. "Everything happens for a reason … Here I am, and I played earlier than I thought I would in my NFL career. I just have to go about it how I did in college. Like I said, just continue to just keep getting better, keep grinding, just keep my focus on the right path, just build off of what I did in this game and keep stacking the days pretty much."

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