DeShone Kizer's game-winning touchdown pass Thursday was a big moment in Cleveland's ongoing quarterback competition but it also meant a lot for the recipient of the throw, second-year wide receiver Jordan Payton.
The former fifth-round pick caught one pass for 3 yards during a rookie season that ended with a four-game suspension for violating the NFL policy on performance enhancing subjects. During the spring, senior offensive assistant/wide receivers coach Al Saunders jokingly asked "did we get a new 84?" as he praised Payton for his noticeable improvement.
"This guy is running fast, he's coming out of breaks, he's catching the ball, he's a competitive guy," Saunders said. "I know one thing, he can play in the National Football League. He's playing at a level much greater than he did last year."
Payton's 45-yard touchdown catch was his biggest play in a Browns uniform and it came at a key moment in a wide-open competition to land one of the final spots in Cleveland's wide receivers room.
"There are always things you can clean up across the board, starting with myself," Payton said. "Every day is a day to get better, and that is another opportunity to get better. I think that we competed really well and that we are moving in the right direction so we just have to get back after it today at practice and get to work."
-- Getting all five of Cleveland's projected starting linemen together on the field is tough during training camp, as four of the five -- Joe Thomas, Joel Bitonio, JC Tretter and Kevin Zeitler -- have all received at least one day of work off to the side of the field. It's a strategic plan by the Browns to get players recovering from injuries, veterans and players they're counting on for big snaps in 2017 -- all of which are represented on the offensive line -- at the most optimum health and freshness by the start of the season.
Thomas, who is entering his 11th season, didn't play in Thursday's preseason opener, and it's unclear when or if he will get on the field for any of Cleveland's remaining tune-ups. When Thomas is out, Shon Coleman or Cameron Erving, who are competing for the starting right tackle job, fill his spot at left tackle.
That's made the time in the meeting room all the more important for the group.
"You miss the team reps, but the amount of time we spend in the meeting room and walk-throughs where we are able to get everyone out there because it is low-contact, you have to take advantage of that time," Tretter said. "A lot of it is just talking through things and making sure we have expectations for each other on where we are going to be on certain calls and things like that."
-- Isaiah Crowell likes the prospect of sharing the field more with fellow running back Duke Johnson Jr.
Johnson has seen extensive work with the wide receivers during training camp and lined up all over the field in Thursday's preseason game. That could mean more work out of the backfield for Crowell, who has improved each season as a receiver and is ready for as many carries as the Browns are willing to give him.
"I don't feel like there are too many carries in the game that I could have," Crowell said. "I am just trying to do whatever I can to help my team get as many wins as possible."