The importance of Case Keenum and more from Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Browns coach Kevin Stefanski pointed to a play in the first half on Saturday night when discussing Case Keenum. His backup quarterback was going to go on a quick count but noticed the wide receivers were aligned wrong. He had to slow it down and communicate to his linemen that the quick count was off.

“Little things like that, I think all the young players can learn from,” Stefanski said.

Keenum started against the Jaguars which, he pointed out after the game, was his first serious playing time since his final start in Washington in Week 17 in 2019. Keenum threw 37 passes in a loss to the Cowboys on Dec. 29 to close that season. He relieved Baker Mayfield in the Browns’ Oct. 18 loss to the Steelers last year, completing 5 of 10 passes.

The 33-year-old in his second season with the Browns didn’t get the offense into the end zone against Jacksonville, but he went 12-for-17 for 115 yards and a rating of 89.1. He led the Browns on two field goal drives.

“It was good to get back out there and knock some of the rust off and see the field,” Keenum said on Saturday night. “It’s just different in games than it is in practice.”

The importance of Keenum in situations like Saturday’s isn’t about his performance. Playing behind the second offensive line -- he went out of his way to name each player and credit them with protecting him -- and working with a mix of young skill position players, the presence of a quarterback who just knows how to make things run can help those young players get into situations where they can perform and show the coaches what they’re capable of doing.

“That’s a big part of playing that position, how you are in the huddle, that the guys believe in what you’re selling them and that you’re speaking to them clearly,” Stefanski said in a Zoom call with reporters on Sunday, “and I think there’s so much that goes into playing quarterback and Case has a bunch of games under his belt.”

Stefanski was happy with the operation as a whole on Saturday night.

“I liked the communication with the coaches, I thougth the communication between the coaches and players was really good,” he said. “I thought on the sideline the guys were doing a nice job of making corrections and then taking it out to the field, so they were on-point. Definitely things we can clean up. The presnap penalties are the ones that are really inexcusable.”

A big part of things running smoothly was having a player like Keenum guiding the ship for most of the first half.

Cleaning it up: Rookie linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah was the star of the Browns’ preseason opener, leading the team with eight tackles, collecting a sack and three tackles for loss. He played 47 defensive snaps, the second-most on the team, and added 15 special teams reps.

“He did make splash plays,” Stefanski said. “He made good tackles along the sideline, made a nice play on that screen. He needs to clean up his eye progression and he understands that and the coaches are working very hard. To really play the fast in this league it’s when you’re not thinking.”

Stefanski said the decision to move young players around on the depth chart happens on a case-by-case basis and wouldn’t get into specifics about what’s ahead for his young linebacker.

Quick hits

* Rookie running back Demetric Felton played exclusively at wide receiver on Saturday, but Stefanski said there is a plan to play him at running back this preseason.

“At some point, we want to get a look at him at that position,” he said, “but I’m not ready to say it will be (Sunday vs. the Giants).”

* Another rookie who played a significant amount was offensive lineman James Hudson. The fourth-round pick played 47 offensive snaps, the second highest total on that side of the ball.

“I thought James did a nice job for his first night out there,” Stefanski said. “It wasn’t perfect. It was pointed out to him that it wasn’t perfect and I think (Offensive line) coach (Bill Callahan) does a great job of being very clear with those guys of what he expects in terms of technique. I thought James had some nice moments, some moments I know he wants back, he played both sides of the line for us, he’s somebody we’re going to continue to grow and the kid wants to work, he really wants to be coached.”

* The Browns are entering a four-day block of practices and the final two of those four will be joint practices with the Giants leading into Sunday’s preseason game. Stefanski said the team will be smart going through the week.

“Tuesday and Wednesday will be lighter days,” he said, “and as we get the Giants in here, those practices will be ramped up in terms of reps.”

The importance of Case Keenum and more from Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski


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