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Keys to Victory

Keys to Victory: What we're watching against the Lions

1. Tyrod Taylor and the Browns' starting units won't play

Browns head coach Hue Jackson made clear almost all of the team's starters won't play against the Lions in Thursday's preseason finale. With less than two weeks until the season opener, the goal is for Cleveland to play Pittsburgh at full strength.

"I don't want to take a chance. Our guys, the best team that we're going to have for the 2018 season is going to be the team that we will trot out against Pittsburgh," Jackson said. "I think that I have to keep them healthy and get them ready to go. I think that I've seen enough in practice and in watching a lot of the tape. There are some things that we need to get better at. There are some things that we have to improve on. I think we can do those things in practice and get better at them."

2. Baker Mayfield makes first NFL start

With Taylor and Co. not expected to play, rookie Baker Mayfield is set to make his first NFL start. Jackson said the plan is to play the youngster for at least a half. "It just depends on how all of that unfolds, how many plays we get or don't get," he said. "You never know what the flow of it's going to be. He's definitely going to start the game and play as long as I want to see him out there."

Mayfield, the former Oklahoma star and first overall pick in the draft, has displayed plenty of promise and poise through three preseason games.

"It's another opportunity for me. I've been saying it over and over again, I need to take advantage of my opportunities," he said. "This is a great one to come out and show what I can do from the get go. Set the tone not just for the offense but for the whole team mindset-wise and just in executing."

3. Antonio Callaway, Kevin Zeitler, Austin Corbett to see action

While Cleveland's starting offensive and defensive units won't play, Jackson said starters in right guard Kevin Zeitler, left guard Austin Corbett and wide receiver Antonio Callaway will see action Thursday night. Zeitler has been sidelined the past month with a calf injury; Corbett's a rookie still learning his way; and Callaway (another rookie) missed last week's win over the Eagles with a nagging hip injury.

Jackson said receivers, including Callaway, "have to get into a rhythm of playing and being out there other than what the first game was. It is just so important for a young player that way. I see that position maybe a little different than others."

Zeitler, meanwhile, will play for the first time since the 2017 season finale. Jackson, however, said the veteran won't be out there long. "I just want Kevin to prepare for a full game, to go out there and feel it, be in the game for a moment and then get him out," he said. "Kevin is really important to what we do. I don't want to expose him too much, but I do need to make sure that he is ready to play."

4. Roster spots up for grabs

The preseason finale in Detroit marks the final opportunity for players to earn a spot on the active roster. The Browns wil trim their squad from 90 to 53 members in the coming days, parting ways with more than three dozen hopefuls. Jackson said there's "less than a handful" of position battles as the final structure Cleveland's new-look roster began taking shape weeks ago. But "there are some up for grabs," Jackson said, "there's no question about that."

Among those competitions include a receivers room where newcomers like Damion Ratley, Derrick WIllies, C.J. Board, Jeff Janis and Da'Mari Scott are hoping to round out a talented unit that includes Jarvis Landry and Josh Gordon. We have some battles on our team that we have to decide," Jackson said, "but that's definitely one of them."

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