Thursday night's preseason opener was nothing new for Joel Bitonio, but it was the veteran offensive lineman's first start at left tackle since moving there earlier this month. Cleveland's longtime guard continues to look like a natural on the edge.
"I think he did a good job. He kept himself between the rusher and the quarterback. From that standpoint, it was good," coach Hue Jackson said. "I think there are still some fundamental things he has to continue to work at – he will be the first to tell you that – where he places his hands, his sets and those things."
The Browns moved Bitonio to left tackle following months of uncertainty at the position. He effectively replaces future Hall-of-Famer Joe Thomas, who retired in March after 11 seasons and 10 Pro Bowls. Jackson hopes the decision to switch Bitonio — by all accounts one of the best guards in the NFL — to left tackle early in camp means he'll have no difficulty come September.
"It was great that we made the decision when we did," he said. "He got to play a tremendous rusher last week. He will play another one this week. He will play another one a week after that. Hopefully, by the time we get to the regular season, if that is the situation we are still in, we are ready to go."
-- David Njoku's big night against the Giants came in front of more than two dozen family members and friends.
The second-year tight end and New Jersey native was buoyed by the comforts of home in Thursday night's preseason win at MetLife Stadium in which he caught two passes for two touchdowns.
Njoku was feeling the good vibes and it showed. "It is always great doing things like that in front of your family and friends – people that you care about," he said.
"I would probably be just as happy if it were anywhere else."
Njoku will look to keep that momentum going when the Browns host the Bills on Friday.
— In 16 snaps, rookie cornerback Denzel Ward had a pair of open-field tackles in Thursday's preseason win over the Giants. It was a promising showing from the former Ohio State star and fourth-overall NFL Draft pick (save for a taunting penalty that Jackson and Walker lamented).
"He's not a scared player," defensive backs coach DeWayne Walker said. "He definitely has some punch in his play. Do not let his size fool you."
— The same could be said for Terrance Mitchell, whose strong camp earned him a starting spot opposite of Ward in the defensive secondary.
"The one thing about Terrance, he makes a lot of plays," Walker said. "His biggest nemesis was two plays for us, one play for the other team. I think that he has done a good job of making plays and not giving up plays. Plus, he is a pretty aggressive tackler, too. I just felt like he was doing a lot of good things from a play-making standpoint and from a tackling standpoint."
Mitchell, who signed with the team in free agency this spring, had four interceptions in Kansas City last season.
— Browns starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor shined in his first start with the team, completing 5-of-5 passes for 99 yards and a touchdown. Quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese believes the former Bills three-year starter can be a game-changer for a Cleveland team that's long struggled to find stability at the position.
"I think it is the tip of the iceberg for Tyrod," he said. "I think he is an untapped player in the league. He has done some really nice things so far in the league, and I think it is only going to get better."
— What wasn't as great, however, was the Browns' run game. They finished with 33 carries for 50 yards as neither Carlos Hyde, Duke Johnson nor rookie Nick Chubb were able to get much of anything going. Jackson made his expectations moving forward clear. "Not good enough. There is nothing else to say about it," he said. "It was just not good enough, not to our standard. We will get better."
— Between a colorful lecture in financial planning and an unrequited crush on Taylor Swift, Carl Nassib was a star and fan-favorite in his "Hard Knocks" debut last week. Jackson's reaction? "That is the real Carl Nassib," he said. "There is no doubt about it. Do not let him fool you. That is who he is."