Greg Newsome II made a mistake.
But just like he showed throughout training camp and in his three preseason opportunities, the first-round rookie out of Northwestern quickly regrouped and didn't make the same one twice.
The scene was the Browns' Week 2 matchup with the Houston Texans. The mistake came on the first play of the fourth quarter, when he and Brandin Cooks were stride for stride with each other as Davis Mills lofted a deep ball down the sidelines. Newsome never turned his head around and made contact a hair too early, resulting in a costly, 27-yard pass interference penalty. The Texans would score a few plays later to slice into Cleveland's lead.
The redemption came on the very next series.
Mills looked for Cooks one more time when he faced a third-and-10 from the Texans' 22. Newsome and Cooks were once again stride for stride with each other, but this time Newsome was in much better position to make a clean play. He knocked the ball down and never gave Cooks a chance to catch it, forcing a fourth down and a Houston punt.
"I think you are going to see examples of these rookies growing throughout the season for sure," Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said. "That defensive pass interference, that is a tough play. He is in great position – just have to wait for the receiver's hands to go up and then your hands go up. He is in a good position so that is a good place to start."
Newsome is certainly off to a good start through his first two NFL games, and he'll look to build off the momentum he's generated Sunday against the Bears. It'll be a matchup against his old hometown team in his new city.
Perhaps this will be the week Newsome sees more than a handful of opportunities to make plays. Thus far, opposing quarterbacks have been reluctant to throw his way. The two plays with Cooks — one bad, one good — were among the very few in which Newsome had a chance to get his hands on the ball.
Knowing the nature of the league and the typical willingness of opposing quarterbacks to target rookie defensive backs, defensive coordinator Joe Woods doesn't expect that trend to last very long. Still, he feels good about how Newsome will handle it — whenever it happens to be.
"He is a confident guy. He plays clean technique," Woods said. "I think each game, he is getting better and he is believing in his ability. I am sure somebody is going to come out and try to throw six or seven balls at him, but I think mentally, physically and athletically, he can handle it."
Check out exclusive photos of the Browns preparing for their game against the Chicago Bears
While the capacity crowd at FirstEnergy Stadium screamed with delight as rookie Demetric Felton spun out of a tackle on the way to a 33-yard touchdown, offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt had a different thought on his mind.
"Ball security," Van Pelt said. "The biggest thing was ball security so that has been addressed this week. He has a target on his back. That ball was a little loose at times. Great job breaking tackles. We just have to do it with great ball security."
Felton made a big impact in just three offensive snaps of action Sunday. Along with his 33-yard touchdown, Felton added a key, 18-yard reception on the Browns' game-sealing drive.
A running back by trade, Felton made his plays Sunday out of the slot — a place he occupied during the first half of training camp while a number of wide receivers dealt with injuries. Van Pelt said the play that netted Felton his first career touchdown was actually designed for Jarvis Landry, who was injured in Sunday's first quarter and has since been placed on injured reserve.
"He is a young guy who has done it the right way all the way through learning two positions, playing multiple positions in the receiver spot inside and outside and then really stepping up," Van Pelt said. "He really did a nice job of stepping in. He is one of those guys we expect to take some of that production load off of with missing Juice out there obviously."
The Browns were once again without LB Sione Takitaki (hamstring), T Chris Hubbard (triceps), T Jedrick Wills (ankle) and C JC Tretter (knee) at practice Thursday. Takitaki and Hubbard are considered week to week.
LB Tony Fields II was added to the injury report with an illness and did not participate in Thursday's practice.