EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey –
1. Statistically, it doesn’t get much better than what Tyrod Taylor did over two series in Thursday’s preseason win over the Giants. This was the Taylor the Browns have seen from the day he arrived in March.
Taylor connected with Jarvis Landry for a 32-yard pass on Cleveland’s first offensive play. The drive stalled, but Taylor remained hot on a second possession that saw the Browns zip down the field and find the end zone for the first time in 2018.
Taylor hooked up with recently promoted first-team receiver Rashard Higgins on back-to-back plays, the first going for 6 and the next going for 21. The ball stayed in the air on the next play, when Taylor hit David Njoku in stride with an over-the-shoulders pass that allowed the athletic tight end to cruise into the end zone for a 36-yard score.
Taylor’s final numbers: 5-for-5, 99 yards, a touchdown and a perfect quarterback rating of 158.3.
“We wanted to push the tempo, we talked about it throughout the week,” Taylor said. “We were able to go out there and make some plays; the receivers did a great job winning their matches man-to-man and ultimately it ended with a big play with David ... the linebacker had to cover David and that's a great matchup for us. He did a nice job of getting his eyes around and making the play and finishing.”
2. Baker Mayfield did it a little differently than Taylor but the end result on his first scoring drive was the same: Touchdown Njoku.
Mayfield struggled a bit out of the gate on his first possession, a three-and-out that began deep inside Browns territory. He got rolling on the next drive by doing the same thing Taylor did, as he found Higgins for a 26-yard gain to get the Browns near midfield.
The most impressive part, though, was Mayfield’s poise on money downs. Faced with a third-and-18 following a holding penalty, Mayfield found C.J. Board for 21 yards. With nothing open on third-and-6, Mayfield scrambled the necessary 6 for the first down. Mayfield’s first opportunity on fourth down came just a few plays later, getting 8 yards on a scramble when he only needed 2.
Photos: Browns face Giants in preseason opener
The Cleveland Browns play the New York Giants in Week 1 of the 2018 preseason.
On the 14th and final play of the 72-yard drive, Mayfield bought time, went through his reads and threw it where only Njoku could catch it for the 10-yard touchdown.
Mayfield’s best highlight after the drive came midway through the third quarter, when he scrambled to his right on third-and-long and flung a pass to Antonio Callaway near the sidelines. Callaway’s toe-tapping catch was initially ruled incomplete but a video review confirmed he had both feet in bounds for the 24-yard grab. The two connected again early in the fourth quarter for even more yards when Mayfield hit Callaway on a slant that allowed the fourth-round rookie to flash his speed and sprint into the end zone for a 54-yard score.
Mayfield finished 11-of-20 for 212 yards, two touchdowns and a quarterback rating of 125.4.
“I thought he did some good things because I see him do them in practice every day,” Browns coach Hue Jackson said. “Obviously, the throws he made, the poise in the pocket, he demonstrated that all in college.”
3. It wasn’t all perfect, of course, and Jackson had a couple of very early penalties to file away as teaching moments for Cleveland’s new-look roster.
On a third down during the Giants’ first offensive series, rookie Denzel Ward was flagged for taunting after making a hit that would have forced the Giants to punt. New York took advantage of the second chance, drove a little bit more down the field and kicked a field goal.
Taylor’s 32-yard pass to Landry early in the first quarter only netted the Browns 17 because Landry was flagged for Cleveland’s second taunting penalty in a matter of minutes. Cleveland finished with 13 penalties worth 141 yards
"That was very disappointing and I told our team that,” Jackson said. “We can't win many games and have those kind of penalties ... we're not going to be a team that's undisciplined, and we're going to work through that."
While the Browns were prolific through the air, the ground game was a struggle from start to finish. Rookie Nick Chubb carried the ball 15 times for just 11 yards. Matthew Dayes had the team’s longest run, gaining 7 yards to set up Mayfield’s fourth-down conversion in the second quarter.
Cleveland’s defense surrendered a 39-yard run to rookie Saquon Barkley on the game’s first play but tightened up thereafter. The only touchdown surrendered came in the third quarter following a fumble deep inside Browns territory by Board on a punt return.