The projected starters were mostly on the sidelines, but there was still plenty of important individual action to follow in Thursday’s win over the Lions.
Here are the five players who stood out in the 20-16 victory.
RB Dontrell Hilliard - Sidelined for the previous two preseason games because of a hamstring injury, Hilliard had fresh legs for his first game action in weeks. He made the most of it by finding running lanes when they were available and maximizing the opportunities that came his way. Hilliard had the Browns’ longest run of the preseason, going 22 yards on a second-quarter carry, and showed off his route-running and hands on a 7-yard touchdown reception, his final play in a half in which he amassed 75 yards of offense. He’s expected to be the change-of-pace option behind Nick Chubb when the games start to count.
DT Devaroe Lawrence - Freddie Kitchens called him “unblockable” during a memorable training camp practice earlier in the month, and that’s how Lawrence looked again in Thursday’s first half. He picked up a sack on the Browns’ first defensive play and induced a penalty two plays later. He finished the preseason with a team-best four sacks and appears poised to provide quality depth behind Larry Ogunjobi and Sheldon Richardson in the middle of Cleveland’s talented defensive line.
K Austin Seibert - It hasn’t always been pretty for the fifth-round pick out of Oklahoma, but he’s come on strong in the final weeks of the preseason. After connecting on all four of his field goal attempts last week in Tampa, Seibert followed up with a 36-yarder in Thursday’s second quarter, a 33-yarder in the fourth and made both of his extra points. Seibert handled all of Cleveland’s kicking responsibilities for a second straight game after rotating with incumbent Greg Joseph in the first two.
RB Trayone Gray - The undrafted running back out of Miami gave the Browns an offensive spark in the fourth quarter when the game appeared to be slipping away. Gray, one of Cleveland’s biggest running backs, caught a short pass and ran 19 yards to get the Browns inside the 10-yard line, followed with a 6-yard carry and eventually crossed the end zone on a 2-yard, third-and-goal run. Gray, who landed on the team’s 90-man roster after a tryout, missed the first part of training camp with an injury but was able to string together a solid second half to the month.
WR Ishmael Hyman - It wasn’t a great start for Hyman, who dropped back-to-back passes in the first quarter, but the former AAF star rebounded with a strong finish. He led the Browns with five receptions for 61 yards and was, by far, the most targeted receiver on either side. Whether it will be enough to land one of the final spots in Cleveland’s wide receivers room remains to be seen. Hyman was a consistent playmaker throughout OTAs and training camp, but the Browns are loaded with talent at the position. He’s competing with the likes of Derrick Willies and Braxton Miller for one of the final spots in the group.
Check out photos of the Detroit Lions at Cleveland Browns by team photographer Matt Starkey