The Cleveland Browns won their fifth consecutive preseason game on Thursday as they defeated the New York Giants.
While being the preseason champs is fun and everything, it would be nice if this team could figure out how to put together a few wins when the games actually count.
That day may be coming soon, however, as there were some good things to come out of the game at MetLife Stadium.
Here are four takeaways as we wait for the Browns to return to practice on Sunday in preparation for their preseason home opener against the Buffalo Bills on Friday.
David Njoku can be a nightmare for the defense
David Njoku was targeted three times in the game and finished with a pair of receptions, both of which went for touchdowns.
The second-year tight end’s athleticism was on display on his 36-yard catch-and-run touchdown in the first quarter. But it was his dedication to his route on his second touchdown reception that caught the eye of quarterback Baker Mayfield, according to clevelandbrowns.com:
“He just did a great job winning. You know, the coverage he was in, he’s got to beat his man across and make it all the way out and so [I was] going through my read and he won, so I put it up there for him and he’s a big dude, so I put it up only where he could get it and he made a great play.”
Those two catches highlight why the Browns selected Njoku in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft and indicate the matchup problem he can create for opposing defenses.
The running game needs to be better
It was only one game, but the Browns running game was horrific against the Giants.
The primary running back trio of Carlos Hyde, Nick Chubb and Duke Johnson combined to rush 17 times for a total of 13 yards.
Not all of that falls on the running backs, especially in the case of Chubb, as the offensive line did not always carry the water in the run game:
Per @PFF Nick Chubb had 15 carries for 11 yards.....he had 26 yards after contact.— Nathan Zegura (@NathanZegura) August 10, 2018
Do the math...that means he was contacted on average 1 yard behind the line of scrimmage on EVERY Carry..... that must improve...I know it was 2nd team OL, but that’s not good enough
The thought of quarterback Tyrod Taylor and, eventually, Mayfield lighting up the stat sheet in the passing game is fun, but the reality is the Browns are going to need to be able to run the ball if they want to have any hope of success on offense.
And if there are more days like Thursday? Well, then it is going to be a long year.
The penalties have got to stop
Fans saw an all-too-familiar sight on Thursday as the Browns were flagged for 13 penalties.
A couple of the penalties were clearly of the dubious nature, most notably the taunting penalties on wide receiver Jarvis Landry and cornerback Denzel Ward in the first quarter, but the Browns are simply not good enough to overcome that many mistakes.
Simply put, the team needs to tighten things up.
The optimism might be validated this time
This is always the best time of year to be a Browns fan as anything seems possible.
Then the regular season starts and reality hit.
But this year it feels different.
Taylor and Landry bring a level of professionalism to the offense that the Browns have not had in years. The running game should work itself out, and Njoku and Johnson provide some explosive playmaking options for the offense.
The defense is filled with a mix of veterans, including Jamie Collins, Christian Kirksey, Mychal Kendricks, and young players who can be difference makers in Myles Garrett, Emmanuel Ogbah, Ward and Jabrill Peppers.
There is still a long way to go, but for the first time in a long time the upcoming regular season holds the potential to finally validate the optimism that Browns fans show this franchise on an annual basis.