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Browns Combined Practices with Giants Matter More than You Think

Combined practices are increasingly the most important aspect of the preseason schedule and the Cleveland Browns face off against the New York Giants this week ahead of their preseason game on Sunday.

The most competitive part of the preseason takes place this week as the Cleveland Browns and New York Giants have two days of combined practices before the two face off on Sunday. It also happens to be the most important aspect where the Browns will face off with another team.

If the Browns are looking to make a statement relative to how dominant they can be, this is when it will happen. Not in preseason games, but here, where it doesn't necessarily draw press and attention. It's entirely the nature of these practices and how they work.

Coaches love combined practices for a number of important reasons. First, they aren't televised, so 31 other teams aren't watching what the Browns are doing. Just one - a team they won't face in the regular season.

As a result, the Browns won't feel the need to be as cautious in terms of being generic in their calls or what they are working on in preparation for the season. They can go all out, should they choose.

That's not just reserved for play calls. It also applies to personnel. At times, teams will avoid exposing certain players to much preseason action because they are hoping they might be able to get the player back on their own practice squad after passing through waivers. The less information other teams have, the less likely they will place a claim.

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Control over the environment is also a critical element. Preseason games are relatively chaotic. Teams can organize practice periods that reduce the amount of time players end up on the ground, have opportunities to roll up on each other and any number of other foreseeable issues that games provide. It's obviously not full proof, but it makes a major difference.

The one caveat to this is the potential for a brawl. Unlike in games where players are subject to NFL discipline, these practices are a free for all. There have been any number of examples where teams including the Browns have gotten involved in them. The Giants already faced discipline from head coach Joe Judge for having one within the team in a practice and it's unlikely Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski has any appetite for them.

So the Browns can conceivably get everything they want to see from their starters in practice, sparing them any further risk in the game. The Browns sat 29 players out in their game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. That's a number worth keeping an eye on as it pertains to the Giants.

The Browns have an incredibly soft preseason slate. The Giants are likely to be the most competitive team they will face. The Jaguars struggled to compete with most of their starters against the Browns rolling almost entirely with their twos. The Browns finish out their preseason slate with the Atlanta Falcons, who could be a worthwhile test for young players in the secondary, but their overall talent level is not great. They are slowly transitioning into rebuilding.

The best team the Browns will face in the preseason is the Browns. It's not close either. Every rep that occurs between the first team offense and first team defense is the best competition each will face until the Browns travel to Kansas City to open the season against the Chiefs.

It's all the more reason the Browns shouldn't expose any of their entrenched starters to a single preseason rep. They don't need it to get in shape, get accustomed to crowd noise or any other contrived crap. That can be handled in practice and the Browns are a veteran team even as young as the roster is overall.

How the Browns perform against the Giants in the combined practices is important, the players who are able to participate will also be important. More roster cuts are looming after this week, so it's a huge opportunity for players to help themselves in making the final 53-man roster.

READ MORE: The Good and Not so Good of the Browns Preseason Debut