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Why 'small victories' can add up to something big for Browns

Rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer tossed the game-winning touchdown pass to help lift the Browns over the Saints in last week's preseason opener.

Defensive end and No. 1 overall NFL Draft pick Myles Garrett had a tackle-for-loss and hurry that forced New Orelans off the field.

Briean Boddy-Calhoun's goal line stop on fourth down sent Cleveland's sidelines into a frenzy. Former practice squad member Trevon Coley's strip-sack set up a Browns touchdown. 

All of these things were what second-year head coach Hue Jackson described as "small victories" in a wide-ranging interview with MMQB’s Peter King.

Those little wins, he said, ultimately can add up to something big. "I think when we talk about it, it's making sure that our players — the guys who are our core players — let's find a way to let them have personal success," Jackson told King on a podcast following a 20-14 win against New Orleans. "We don't know what it's going to look like as a team. We know where we want our team to look like and be, but if players can start getting personal wins, then they turn into unit wins and then they turn into team wins." 

Those comments echo what Browns owner Jimmy Haslam said while meeting with the news media earlier this month.

"Wins and losses are a part of it – there's no doubt about that – but I think it's how our team performs, how do we come back and do we win close games?" he said. 

"Do we come from behind and win a game? Do we beat a good team? Do we win a game on the road? Are our younger players getting better? Both Hue and (chief strategy officer) Paul (DePodesta) talk about small wins." 

After a 1-15 campaign in 2016 that saw one of the league's youngest rosters struggle, the Browns are poised to improve this fall with a significantly retooled roster. 

They re-signed key players like Jamie Collins Sr., Joel Bitonio and Christian Kirksey, fortified their offensive line in free agency and curated a promising NFL Draft class that includes Garrett and two more first-round picks in do-everything safety Jabrill Peppers and tight end David Njoku. 

Jackson reflected on his first year with the Browns and why he's optimistic Cleveland is heading down a path that'll help it snap a string of disappointing seasons. 

"We have to get this done. That's something Dee and Jimmy and our executive team talk about all the time. We have to get this right," Jackson said. "There's not a thought that we won't, that we have to for our fans, for the players, for this organization, this once-proud organization that people need to look at and say, 'Hey these guys are doing something great.' 

"But at the same time, we understand that it doesn't just happen overnight, that there's a process to this and I know sometimes that's a hard word for (the fans) because I think they've heard that so much. They want to see results." 

Jackson believes last week's win — regardless of the stakes — was a good example of what happens when small victories add up to something more.

"It's small victories like tonight that says to them, 'OK, things are turning.' Because a year ago, we probably wouldn't have won that game there at the end and probably couldn't finish it that way and come out with the victory and we did — regardless of who was out there playing or whatever it was," he said. 

"That was significant improvement from last year to this year. So hopefully they can see the small victories that are happening within the organization and they'll see that those small victories are turning into bigger victories and will hopefully one day turn into championships."

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