CLEVELAND — It was the Browns' defense that helped lift the team to a win over the Giants Monday night, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that several defenders shined in last night's second preseason game.
Here are five players who stood out:
DB Jason McCourty: McCourty, who effectively gave the youth-laden Browns another veteran presence when he joined the team this past spring, showcased that savvy Monday, stripping Giants receiver Sterling Shepard shortly before halftime to set up Cleveland's first touchdown.
It was a turning point in a game dominated by defense and highlighted why he and other vets could have a big impact this fall.
"I think our guys on defense are making plays, making stops and are doing things really well that helps our football team win," head coach Hue Jackson said in his postgame news conference.
McCourty, who spent his first eight seasons with the Titans, has recorded 506 tackles, 72 pass breakups and 13 interceptions.
DB Briean Boddy-Calhoun: Another week, another goal-line stand for the second-year defensive back. Boddy-Calhoun, who stuffed the Saints on fourth down last week, came up big again Monday, intercepting a Geno Smith pass on third down in the fourth quarter. The takeaway effectively denied New York a chance at a go-ahead touchdown.
A former undrafted free agent who joined the Browns a week before the 2016 season, Boddy-Calhoun is poised to have a significant role this fall after making three interceptions and 11 pass breakups last year.
LB Joe Schobert: Schobert continues to impress as he competes to be the Browns starting middle linebacker. In his first start of the preseason, the second-year player and former Wisconsin standout was seemingly all over the field as Cleveland's defense flexed its muscles in the first half. Schobert, a fourth-round pick in 2016, led the team with six tackles (including one for loss), a sack and pass breakup in just 23 snaps.
DB Jabrill Peppers: After shining in the final week of training camp, Peppers — the former Michigan star and 25th overall NFL Draft pick — earned his first start Monday, lining up at safety opposite of Derrick Kindred. But the "ultimate Swiss Army Knife" of college football stood out on special teams, returning his first punt of the night 31 yards and, in the process, lifting the crowd at FirstEnergy Stadium to their feet.
Peppers, however, said he's very much still learning. "I still feel as though I'm a little bit behind, still figuring a lot of things out, still getting over the idea like, 'I'm actually playing against guys I grew up watching' and things like that," he said.
"I definitely think I'm moving in the right direction, we're moving in the right direction. It's a lot of work that needs to be done in all parts in all aspects. That's what the preseason is for to work out all the extra kinks and gear up, be ready to go by the first game."
RB Matthew Dayes: Outside of Cleveland's quarterbacks, no player had the ball more than the rookie running back from N.C. State. Dayes had 10 touches (five runs, five catches) for 44 yards in his second preseason game.
The second-to-last pick in the Draft, Dayes has used that dynamic as motivation since coming to Cleveland and, in the process, impressing the coaching staff.
"He has flashed. He has flashed every day," Jackson said last week. "He's really competitive. He's further along than even I thought he would be. He makes plays in the running game. He makes plays in the passing game. He's not afraid to pass protect. So he's a young man who demonstrates three-down ability."
Dayes ran for 2,856 rushing yards and 34 touchdowns in four seasons with the Wolfpack.