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Mayfield throws two TDs in preseason opener

By MARY KAY CABOT • Aug 9, 2018 at 10:45 PM

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Baker Mayfield saved his best for last.

The No. 1 overall pick ended his promising debut in Thursday night's 20-10 victory over the Giants in the preseason opener with a 54-yard touchdown pass to rookie receiver Antonio Callaway.

It may have provided a glimpse of the future of the Browns' offense.

It was Mayfield's second TD pass of the night, including a 10-yarder to tight end David Njoku, who also caught a 36-yarder from starter Tyrod Taylor.

Mayfield, displaying all the moxie that made him a national sensation at Oklahoma, completed 11-of-20 attempts for 212 yards and the two TDs in seven series. He earned a 125.4 rating for a rousing start to his career. He also carried the ball three times for 13 yards.

He also helped the troubled Callaway rebound from a horrible first half. Callaway, who was cited for marijuana possession at 2:59 Sunday morning, had two passes go off his fingertips in the first half and dropped one. But in the second half, he caught three for 87 yards, including the 54-yard catch-and-run from Mayfield.

Mayfield hit the receiver with a short slant to the right and he shook off cornerback Leonard Johnson and raced the final 48 yards to the end zone.

On Mayfield's second drive, he marched 72 yards in 14 plays and hit a leaping Njoku in the back of the right end zone between two defenders.

Coming off the bench to replace Tyrod Taylor after two series, Mayfield showed off his big arm, his nimble feet, his pocket presence and his toughness.

Mayfield went three-and-out on his opening drive, not the way he hoped to start his NFL career. Nick Chubb was stopped for no gain, Mayfield overthrew tight end Darren Fells and Chubb was stuffed again for no gain to end the drive.

But the Heisman Trophy winner stormed back on his second possesion with the long Njoku TD drive. After the score, he attempted a two-point conversion pass to Callaway, but it went off the receiver's hands in the end zone. It marked the second ball that glanced off the rookie's fingertips, and he flat-out dropped another.

Mayfield's second play on the drive, against the Giants' second-team defense, was a 26-yard backshoulder throw to a leaping Rashard Higgins at the right sideline in single coverage. Higgins and Mayfield brought some of their training camp magic to MetLife Stadium, also connecting on the next drive for a 13-yarder.

But on that scoring drive, Mayfield also stepped up in the pocket on third-and-long and found C.J. Board for a 21-yard diving catch.

An on-target go-route went off Callaway's fingertips near the end zone, but Mayfield came back and scrambled for 6 yards to the Giants' 21. He threw off his back foot and missed an open Njoku at the right side of the end zone, but made up for it two plays later when he ran for 5 yards on fourth and 2 to the 8. That set up the perfect toss in the end zone to Njoku, who threw it into the stands in celebration only to have it fired back.

In the second half, with the Browns ahead 13-10, Mayfield drove to the Giants' 28 on completions of 9 and 24 to Callaway and 10 yards to Da'Mari Scott, but the drive ended with a thud when defensive lineman Robert Thomas stormed up the middle and tossed Mayfield to the ground like a ragdoll for an 11-yard loss.

Mayfield popped up and tossed the ball to the ref like he hadn't even been touched.

All in all, the Browns had to be happy with the rookie's first outing.

Tyrod Taylor's night

Taylor played only two drives, but made the most of his second and final one.

Operating out of the no-huddle, he fired the 36-yard touchdown pass to tight end David Njoku to to put the Browns up 7-6 with 2:55 left in the first quarter.

Taylor went 3-for-3 on the drive with passes of 6 and 21 to Rashard Higgins, who served as the third receiver. Higgins caught the 21-yarder on starter Eli Apple to set up the TD.

The drive accomplished Taylor's goal heading in.

"Positive plays,'' he said Tuesday. "Of course, you don't want to get in the habit of having negative plays. Getting the ball out of your hands. We have tremendous playmakers so the more we can get those guys the ball and allow them to go out there and make plays, the better off we are as a team.

"Of course, putting points on the board is definitely a key factor to success. It is just the first preseason game. You want to take it game by game and go out there and improve on something different each game."

Taylor opened with a 32-yard completion to Jarvis Landry over Janoris Jenkins down the left side, but Landry had a little too much "Juice" after the catch and spiked the ball to earn a 15-yard taunting penalty.

Taylor went right back to Landry for a 4-yard pass over the middle, but Carlos Hyde was dropped for a 1-yard loss and then Taylor ran for two yards and slid on third and 7 to bring out the punt team.

Callaway's redemption

Callaway has been he must stay on the straight and narrow. He seemed rattled in the first half, when he failed to secure any of three catchable balls. But he hit his stride with Mayfield in the second half when he caught three for 87, including the 54-yard TD. Callaway also stayed in bounds on a 24-yard sideline catch that was first ruled out of bounds. It was the kind of acrobatic catch the Browns expected to see from the fourth-rounder.

Higgins' Big Night in the Big Apple

Mayfield has made a star out Higgins in camp, and the third-year pro had a big night in the Big Apple, including a big play against a big Apple.

Playing only the first half, Higgins caught 4-of-5 targets, including a 21-yarder from Taylor over former Buckeye Eli Apple, and a 26-yard leaping catch from Baker Mayfield. He finished with 66 yards and made a strong case for more playing time. He served as the third receiver behind Jarvis Landry and Callaway.

Denzel Ward's debut

Ward's night began with a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after he hit receiver Hunter Sharp on the fourth play of the game. But after officials review the play, they may find Ward led with his helmet on the hit.

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