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Rookie WR Darius Jennings came prepared in NFL debut

Darius Jennings got word early last week that his hard work and patience was poised to pay off.

The rookie wide receiver just didn't anticipate his workload to be as heavy as it was in Sunday's loss to the Bengals.

Jennings was back for every kick, returning five, and played 39 snaps -- the second-most of any wide receiver -- in his NFL debut. He hauled in his first career catch in the first quarter and finished with five receptions for 35 yards.

The number of snaps he played, which understandably increased after Travis Benjamin and Marlon Moore went down with injuries, may have been a surprise, but little caught Jennings off guard between the lines.

"I just prepare every week like I'm going to be the starter because you never know," Jennings said. "I just waited my turn, stayed patient and it showed on the field today."

Jennings was one of just two players who was named to the Browns' Week 1 practice squad and remained with the team each week up until Sunday. Defensive back Kendall James, who is still on the practice squad, is the other.

Injuries to Taylor Gabriel and Andrew Hawkins, both of whom missed their second consecutive game Sunday because of their respective concussions, prompted Jennings' promotion Saturday. What he's done behind the scenes for months made the transition as smooth as it went Sunday.

Jennings was one of the two players mentioned by Browns coach Mike Pettine unprompted as he cited some of the positives that emerged from the 37-3 loss.

"He's a guy that's been on the practice squad all year and he's done everything we asked," Pettine said. "We tell guys prepare like a starter, and this guy prepared like a starter … We knew there was a chance he'd be up. He's a good football player and he went out and he showed it."

At the University of Virginia, Jennings made his mark as both a wide receiver and kick returner, and he showed that kind of versatility during the preseason. Along with his seven receptions for 76 yards, Jennings returned nine kicks for 210 yards, including a 54-yarder, before he was released on the final cut-down day. On Sunday, he took back five kicks for 112 yards in a role he could very well return to next week against the 49ers.

Already short on receivers, the Browns could be even more depleted depending on the injury status of Benjamin (shoulder), Brian Hartline (thigh) and Moore (ribs). That means a snap count like the one Jennings saw Sunday could be repeated or increased next week.

In his first post-game press conference of the season, Jennings shouldered some of the responsibility the Browns offense will take into what it hopes is a bounce-back performance.

"We just weren't clicking," Jennings said. "We just have to fine-tune things and get back to the film. We have to learn from our mistakes and try to correct them moving forward for next week."

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