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Browns sit Baker Mayfield, several other starters against Colts

Nate Ulrich, Akron Beacon Journal on

Published in Football

INDIANAPOLIS -- Quarterback Baker Mayfield and several other Browns starters didn't play in Saturday's 21-18 win over the Indianapolis Colts in preseason game No. 2 at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Coach Freddie Kitchens explained he was satisfied with what the Browns accomplished during joint practices with the Colts on Wednesday and Thursday at Grand Park Sports Campus in Westfield, Ind.

So on the heels of two intense, competitive practices, Kitchens decided to give some of his key players the night off rather than risk injury in an exhibition game.

"I felt like if we got accomplished what we needed to get accomplished on Wednesday and Thursday that they would sit, and that's what happened," Kitchens said Saturday in his postgame news conference. "I would have liked to have sit some other guys defensively, but numbers-wise we just couldn't do it.

"But I'll tell you that's how they've bought into this. They sucked it up for the team. They knew they had to get some snaps in to prolong the inevitable of coming out of the game and being done and then you've got to go with what you've got. So (I) appreciate those guys. They know I appreciate that 'cause they kind of took one for the team."

With Mayfield sitting out, No. 3 quarterback Garrett Gilbert started for the Browns. Backup quarterback Drew Stanton is healthy, but the Browns wanted to learn what Gilbert would do with an extended audition in his quest to make the team.

Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. rested, as expected, because of a minor hip injury. Receiver Jarvis Landry and running back Nick Chubb were given the night off, too.

The starting offensive line, with Eric Kush at right guard, played one series. Running back Kareem Hunt made his preseason debut with the Browns and started after missing last week's exhibition opener, a 30-10 win over Washington, because of a groin injury. Receivers Rashard Higgins, Jaelen Strong and D.J. Montgomery started. Demetrius Harris started at tight end with David Njoku idle because of a knee injury.

Nearly the entire starting defense played.

The most notable exceptions were 2018 Pro Bowl selections Myles Garrett and Denzel Ward. Anthony Zettel started at defensive end in place of Garrett. Rookie second-round draft pick Greedy Williams started at cornerback in place of Ward, who's been limited in practice for a while with a minor, undisclosed injury.

After the game, Kitchens revealed Garrett suffered a minor injury in the final joint practice with the Colts.

"(He's) just a little banged up," Kitchens said. "It happened on one of the very last plays the other day, but he'll be fine. It's just if they're a little bit banged up, I'm going to make sure they're fine. If we'd have played a (regular-season) game today, he would've been out there."

 

Safety Eric Murray also started while Jermaine Whitehead sat out after suffering a leg injury in Thursday's practice.

Defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson and defensive end Olivier Vernon made their preseason debuts with the Browns. After injuries kept them idle in last week's opener, they each started and played three series against the Colts. The No. 1 defense played two series and got stops each time against the Colts and quarterback Jacoby Brissett, who's filling in for the injured Andrew Luck.

It remains to be seen how Kitchens, a first-year head coach, will approach preseason game No. 3 on Aug. 23 at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The third exhibition game, often referred to as "the dress rehearsal," typically features the most extensive tune-up starters receive for the regular season. Most teams use starters very little, if at all, in the fourth and final preseason game. The Browns will host the Detroit Lions for their exhibition finale on Aug. 29.

The Browns will kick off the regular season at home Sept. 8 against the Tennessee Titans.

Beckham said Thursday he'll be ready to play in the opener despite his hip injury.

Beckham hasn't participated in team drills during a padded training camp practice since Aug. 6, but the superstar looked sharp Saturday while he and Landry caught passes from Mayfield at Lucas Oil Stadium about two and a half hours before kickoff. At one point during the workout, Beckham even made a leaping, one-handed catch in the end zone.

(c)2019 Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio)

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