The Winning Mix

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The Winning Mix: 3 keys for success in Saturday's preseason opener

With the majority of starters resting, a real opportunity exists in key roster battles

The Browns will participate in a preseason game for the first time under head coach Kevin Stefanski when they travel to Jacksonville to take on Urban Meyer and the Jaguars on Saturday. The preseason has really evolved over the last few years and in keeping with the trends around the league, the Browns will be resting the vast majority of their starters in this game. Instead, the principle players will be the rookie and sophomore classes as well as veterans and young players alike fighting to carve out a role on the 2021 Cleveland Browns.

Victories in the preseason are not measured by wins and losses, but we can still certainly find a few keys to ensuring that this game is a success regardless of the final score.

1.     Stay healthy

The Browns already have a pretty sizable MASH unit headed into this game, especially on the defensive side of the ball where all three levels have been hit.  Coming out of this game without adding any names to the injured list would be a big win for the Browns as they get ready for a critical week of work against the Giants in a series of joint practices at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus.

2.    Run the operation efficiently

Stefanski says that every play is about "assignment, alignment and technique." The first two are mental exercises for the players and the ability to consistently line up and understand their assignment play in and play out will go a long way to earning the trust of their teammates and coaches, alike. Utilizing the proper techniques that have been drilled over and over during training camp will increase the chances that the players can execute their assignments effectively and produce winning plays.

Look for the Browns to really emphasize getting lined up correctly, getting in and out of the huddle quickly and efficiently, as well as having no blown assignments for four full quarters. If they can check those boxes off, players will be one step closer to making this roster, and the Browns will be one step closer to being the deep and efficient team they know they will need to be to play deep into the playoffs again in 2021.

3.    Separation Saturday

 The Browns coaches and front office would like nothing more than to see players separate themselves in some of the key position battles. In the safety room, the Browns could be without the top four players on the depth chart, so second-year players Javonte Moffatt, Elijah Benton and rookie Richard LeCounte III will receive many chances to make an unforgettable impression.

Among the defensive ends, a similar opportunity exists with Myles Garrett, Jadeveon Clowney and Takkarist McKinley out for the contest. Porter Gustin is the only end on the roster who spent the entire 2020 season on the Browns' active roster. Cameron Malveaux and Joe Jackson both spent time on the active roster a year ago for the Browns. Curtis Weaver, who missed his entire rookie year with a foot injury, will finally get to put on a Browns uniform and will be joined by UDFA Romeo McKnight in making his Browns debut. The Browns would love one or more of these young pass rushers to be disruptive against the Jags and take a step toward cementing a roster spot and a pass rushing role.

Malveaux knows that his raw power can really help a defensive end get game-changing sacks. That's why the tall and long defensive end devoted himself to adding muscle and raw power this offseason.  The investment has paid off, as Malveaux added 20 pounds of muscle and has had one of the better starts to the season of any young Browns player. He will look to use that speed, length and raw power to notch a sack Saturday and take a huge step toward making this team.

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