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Preseason takeaways: What we saw in the Browns-Giants game

Giants Browns Football
Posted at 5:18 PM, Aug 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-22 20:03:46-04

CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Browns beat the New York Giants Sunday afternoon, 17-13, and while most of the starters didn't play again, the game was competitive and shed a little more light on the upcoming regular season.

Here are the takeaways from the Browns second preseason game:

Standout play:
Wide receiver KhaDarel Hodge put the Browns on the board first with a 4th-and-goal touchdown reception from quarterback Case Keenum. Hodge had a similar moment in red zone drills at training camp Friday, which he got to replicate for real on Sunday.

"I've been trying to get in the end zone for so long. I thank God, I just thank God," Hodge said after the game.

Hodge even got to celebrate with his signature guitar strumming move and even though he doesn't play the instrument in real life, he's looking to learn.

"I want to learn so if anybody out there is giving out lesons I'm really open to learning," Hodge laughed.

If there's one thing for certain in Sunday's game it was that running back D'Ernest Johnson is working hard to earn his spot on the 53-man roster. With four carries for 36 yards and four receptions for 23 yards, Johnson reminded the team and fans that he can end up on the roster.

But the versatile Demetric Felton also made a name for himself at running back, carrying the ball often and finding holes in the line nearly every time, pushing the Browns down the field consistently. Felton carried the ball eight times for 25 yards and had a 12 yard reception in addition to taking snaps at punt returner, gaining 21 yards in three returns.

Keenum, starting with Baker Mayfield sitting the game out, struggled through the first half, overthrowing several passes and getting picked off in the end zone in the second quarter trying to throw it to tight end Jordan Franks. Not long after, Keenum was sacked by linebacker Carter Coughlin, forcing the Browns to punt it away. Keenum ended his day throwing 9-for-12 for 74 yards and an interception.

Kyle Lauletta took over just before the start of the second half, showing off some mobility on a 32-yard run, which he fumbled but saw Johnson recover it to end the half. Lauletta threw 14-for-23 and 152 yards.

Rookie offensive lineman James Hudson III saw reps at both left and right tackle, which he said was a goal of his, working on being versatile and able to play on either said.

Fullback Johnny Stanton had standout plays on Sunday, nothing back-to-back receptions for 14 yards and 19 yards, respectively. Lined up at tight end, Stanton, who is competing against Andy Janovich for a roster spot at fullback, began making a potential case for himself at tight end—a position dwindled with Stephen Carlson suffering a season-ending knee injury last week.

"It's always fun to have your number called. They told me this week I'd be a tight end and I said 'Alright let's do it,'" Stanton said after the game. "I'm willing to do whatever it takes to make this team."

Kicking battle
Cody Parkey took the first extra point attempt, nailing it. Chase McLaughlin made the second PAT attempt, also nailing it.

McLaughlin hit a challenging 49-yard field goal attempt into the Dawg Pound with just over 2 minutes left in the fourth quarter.

Last week, Parkey made a 34-yard field goal attempt and a 48-yard field goal attempt while McLaughlin made his 37-yard field goal attempt.

Unfortunately, Parkey suffered a quad injury at some point in the game. Head coach Kevin Stefanski said he does not yet know the severity of it or how it happened.

With a rash of injuries to the linebacker room, rookie Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah got the start Sunday, although his day was quiet compared to his debut last week against the Jaguars.

Cornerback Troy Hill started Sunday as well, but as a starter, wasn't necessarily expected to. Perhaps it was just for different looks and reps, perhaps it was because he was involved in a fight with Giants wide receiver Sterling Shepard after Friday's joint practice. Either way, it was still a welcomed sight for Browns fans to get a real look at a defensive starter on the field.

Rookie Greg Newsome II got both inside and outside work on Sunday, continuing the Browns plan to make the cornerback a versatile threat on defense.

The defensive tackles were a group to watch on Sunday as the position battle tightens each day the season draws nearer.

One of the leaders of the defensive tackle room who has stood out among the others is Sheldon Day, who made several good plays on Sunday. His productivity and consistency have been one of the among the best of the group. But Malik McDowell also had an impressive outing Sunday, getting pressure on the quarterback and notching a sack in the contest.

Jordan Elliott started a bit quiet Sunday but just before the end of the fourth quarter made his way in to a pressured pocket and recorded a sack of his own.

The game ended with an interception by rookie safety Richard LeCounte III, who has been a secondary standout through training camp.

The following players left the game Saturday with injuries:

CB Greedy Williams (groin)
LB Montrel Meander (Achilles)
OT Alex Taylor (ankle)
K Cody Parkey (quad)

A passion for Cleveland

    During an in-game interview on News 5's broadcast, safety John Johnson showed love to his new city, a prime example of the culture change within the Browns organization.
    ”Cleveland is a blue-collar, hard-working city. You want to fight for this town and go hard and win for this city. That's the first thing. The second thing is everybody wants to win. That's something that I saw going through free agency. You have those teams that are just primed to turn the corner and win a big one and win the Super Bowl. It was the opportunity of a lifetime, and I'm happy I'm here,” Johnson said.

    The Browns have one more preseason game left on the schedule and more practice sessions ahead to get more clarity on the roster and more experience for some of the rookies and new Browns players.

    But five more players will have to be cut by Tuesday, Aug. 24. Stefanski and general manager Andrew Berry will have another challenge on their hands determining which 80 players make the next round of cuts.

    Camryn Justice is a digital content producer at News 5 Cleveland. Follow her on Twitter @camijustice.

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