Baker Mayfield, Browns Beat Lions 35-17 in Final Preseason Game

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistAugust 31, 2018

Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield scrambles during the first half of an NFL football preseason game against the Detroit Lions, Thursday, Aug. 30, 2018, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Paul Sancya/Associated Press

The Cleveland Browns finished their preseason with an impressive 35-17 victory over the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on Thursday.

Cleveland ended the preseason 3-1, while Detroit went 1-3, but Thursday's game was all about No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield, who was making his first NFL start while most of the primary contributors rested.

Mayfield's offense was dominant in the first half, and he went 9-of-16 for 138 yards while directing three scoring drives.

                        

Baker Mayfield Looks Like a Star in the Making

Yes, the fourth preseason game comes with all the necessary caveats since the starters weren't on the field, but Mayfield's offense was unstoppable when he played and took a 25-0 lead into halftime.

"It's another opportunity for me," he said of the chance to start, per Matthew Florjancic of NBC Cleveland. "I've been saying it over and over again. I need to take advantage of my opportunities, and this is a great one to come out and show what I can do from the get-go, set the tone not just for the offense, but for the whole team just kind of mindset-wise and just executing."

Take advantage of it is exactly what he did, demonstrating a rocket arm on deep balls, soft touch on underneath routes and screens, and awareness in the pocket when the protection broke down. His ability to evade pass-rushers and keep plays alive led to multiple first downs for Cleveland and hinted at what he is capable of.

He was a step above the competition with many second- and third-teamers sharing the field, and his numbers would have been better were it not for mistakes from teammates, such as drops and penalties.

It was exactly the type of showing Mayfield needed in what may be his final action for a while since he'll sit behind Tyrod Taylor. Head coach Hue Jackson even said on Tuesday's episode of Hard Knocks the Oklahoma product isn't taking snaps with the first team because the starter is learning a new system.

Still, Taylor is only under contract through this season. If the Browns get off to another lackluster start, there is no reason to hold Mayfield back since his development is more important to the franchise than this season's record.

He has the combination of skills to star in the NFL, and the poise he demonstrated Thursday was a sign of things to come.

         

Browns' Fringe Roster Candidates Flash Talent to Make Team

The fourth preseason game is the last opportunity for those fighting for roster spots to make a live-action impression before cuts.

Multiple Cleveland players seized those chances.

Tight end Devon Cajuste hauled in a 41-yard reception and another catch for a third-down conversion on Cleveland's opening drive, which set up a Nick Chubb touchdown run. The showing came after Cajuste drew praise during Tuesday's Hard Knocks episode on HBO for his blocking in the previous preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Cajuste didn't find the end zone, but running back Matthew Dayes and defensive end Nate Orchard did.

Dayes (eight carries for 77 yards) unleashed a burst of speed on a 42-yard touchdown run while mixing in a 30-yard catch. It was the type of versatility and quickness in holes he needs to make this roster, especially since he is fighting an uphill battle with Carlos Hyde, Chubb and Duke Johnson already on the running back depth chart.

Orchard showed off his athleticism by leaping and intercepting a short Matt Cassel pass near the line of scrimmage and then taking it to the house. He is fighting for a roster spot with Carl Nassib and others and picked the perfect time to stand out.

Cajuste, Orchard and Dayes flashed enough skill to make Cleveland's roster, which is all they could have asked for from Thursday's contest.

Even if they fall victim to the number crunch and are cut, other teams will see the highlights they put on tape Thursday. There will be spots waiting for all three somewhere.

             

What's Next?

Both teams shift their attention to the regular season. The Browns face the AFC North-rival Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, Sept. 9, while the Lions play the New York Jets the following day.

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