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Keys to Victory

Keys to Victory: What we'll be watching against the Eagles

The Browns, after losing their first preseason game since 2016, will take on the defending Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles at FirstEnergy Stadium on Thursday.

The third preseason game is often referred to as a "dress rehearsal," and Browns coach Hue Jackson wants to see many things from his starters. They'll likely play the entire first half. The Eagles provide the Browns with an opportunity to gauge where they lie in the NFL's landscape.

Just because he said the first-team will play the first half, it doesn't mean Jackson won't play them longer if he has to.

"Obviously, I reserve the right to stick them back out there if need be," Jackson said. "I think that the guys know what I am looking for is just improvement. We just have to keep getting better each and every time that we go out. I saw that the last time. I need to see it again and in some other areas – how hard we play fundamentally"

— One starter who will play at least the first half is quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who is entering his first season in Cleveland. Taylor knows the Eagles are one of the most talented teams in the league, and he's been breaking down their film. It's not from the Super Bowl, though. It's a new season, and Taylor is watching the Eagles' first two preseason games in anticipation. Oh, and he obviously watched the Super Bowl in February.

"So I think after watching cut-ups and just throughout your film study of course those plays come out, but I also specifically watch just the Super Bowl," Taylor said. "Try to find out what teams schematically matches up with yours, and some schemes that you can benefit from as far as studying."

— Behind the first team, No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield will lead the second-team offense when the time comes. Mayfield's second preseason game was filled with ups and downs, and he was faced with things he hadn't previously seen in the NFL.

"We just saw a couple of different looks," Mayfield said. "Saw some different stuff thrown at us down towards the goal line – blitzes and playing (cover) zero. Something that we have not seen. We have seen it in practice, but that is stuff that you have to adjust to on the fly. Different looks that when you actually game plan you will be prepared, but when it is like that you have to adjust on the fly."

Different teams are on different schedules, and the Eagles first-team defense may have a series or two against Mayfield and the second-team offense. Either way, Mayfield will go up against a tough defense; Philadelphia's defense is deep, and it'll provide a good look for the rookie.

— Rookie left guard Austin Corbett has a tall task against Philadelphia. Fletcher Cox, Timmy Jernigan and Haloti Ngata provide a big challenge for the youngster, and he'll need to hold his own in the Browns offensive attack. He's excited for it, and he'll use the challenge to see where he's at in his progress as a rookie.

— The linebackers have received much attention in July and August. With Mychal Kendricks, Jamie Collins, Joe Schobert and Christian Kirksey, the Browns have a talented room littered with versatility. But a fifth-round rookie from Memphis has been making noise. His play is making the defensive coaching staff shuffle rotations to get him on the field. Genard Avery has been everything — and more — Cleveland hoped for. It's not a question of if to play him. It's where to play him.

"The question was going to be where do you play him because he is versatile in that way," Jackson said. "He can play linebacker. He can rush. He can do a lot of different things. He is not surprising. I think that you guys started to see what he can be a week ago. I think that the more he plays, the better he is going to get. I think he is going to be a real contributing member of our football team."

Avery earned first-team reps in last week's loss to the Bills last week, and he's likely to earn more against the Eagles.

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