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3 Takeaways: Browns backup QBs thrive in final opportunity to impress


  1. Cody Kessler and Kevin Hogan made Hue Jackson's decision at backup quarterback a little more difficult Thursday, and that's a good problem to have after each experienced ups and downs throughout the preseason.

Kessler, in his most extensive playing time this preseason, got better as the first half progressed and threw his first touchdown pass of the preseason. Hogan rode the momentum he built in last week's appearance at Tampa by leading Cleveland on three scoring drives, including two that ended with touchdown passes.

It all added up to Cleveland's best passing performance as a team during the preseason.

"There are tough decisions we have to make but we'll make them and move on from there," Jackson said. "But again, it's a good problem to have, it's not a bad problem to have. We have guys we have to make decisions about and I think that's important."

Also in the mix is veteran Brock Osweiler, who started the Browns' first two preseason games but did not appear in the final two. With him and starter DeShone Kizer sidelined Thursday, Kessler and Hogan made sure not to let their final opportunity to impress in the competition to back up Kizer go to waste.

Kessler overcame a slow start by finding some momentum on an impressive second-quarter drive. He got rolling with a 22-yard completion to running back Matthew Dayes and fired back-to-back first down passes to Jordan Leslie and David Njoku. His next throw was quite possibly his best of his preseason, as he hit Rannell Hall on a back shoulder pass for a 27-yard touchdown.

"I just went out there and ran the offense. Obviously there were a couple sacks in there and I wish I would have gotten rid of the ball," said Kessler, who was 11-of-19 for 144 yards. "It was good. Some of our guys made some great plays."

Hogan made two big plays and a number of other good throws en route to completing 13-of-18 passes for 180 yards and two touchdowns. He found a wide open Randall Telfer for a 51-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter and connected with Leslie on a 21-yarder in the fourth.

"Kevin is on our team for a reason," Jackson said. "He's not here because we don't think he can play. He played last year for us, as a young player he made some plays in the Cincinnati game so we know he can play. But he has just gotten better. He keeps working at it and again, when these guys get their opportunity they have to nail it. I think we all saw the last two weeks he's done some really good things."

The Browns play the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field in the last game of the preseason.

  1. Jackson liked what he saw from the wide receivers who were competing Thursday to land spots on the 53-man roster.

Leslie led the way with three catches for 50 yards and his second touchdown of the preseason.

"It's definitely the training camp that I've gotten the most opportunities in," Leslie said. "Obviously I thank coach Hue for that and I just hope I've done enough."

Hall, a standout at last year's training camp before he went down with a season-ending injury, capped a productive preseason with his 27-yard touchdown catch. Rasheed Bailey added four catches for 46 yards and Ricardo Louis and Rashard Higgins were active during their respectively smaller amounts of playing time in the first half.

"We have to figure them all out. I thought Ricardo made some plays tonight. The ball was thrown at him," Jackson said. "We didn't get it to Rashard as much as I would have liked. But I think we have to make some tough decisions at that position, period. I think we understand, I know for me, one of the keys is that we have to continue to get better at that group and we'll work through that tomorrow."

  1. Offensive lineman Rod Johnson left Thursday's game in the first quarter with a knee injury. He'll undergo further tests to gauge the seriousness of the injury.

Johnson, a fifth-round pick out of Florida State, started at left tackle and is listed as Joe Thomas' backup on the Browns' latest unofficial depth chart.

Dayes suffered a neck injury near the end of the first half and will also be re-evaluated in the coming days.

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