Peeking into Preseason Game #4 – Browns vs. Bears
Once first cuts are completed in the near future, the remaining Browns face their annual rival in the preseason finale. As per usual, this contest holds little weight – in terms of the top portion of the lineup. This matchup will more than likely determine who will or won’t be on the opening day roster. Alas, let’s delve into this game.
Quarterback – This will be a tremendous opportunity to see how rookie Cody Kessler has progressed since the preseason opener in Green Bay. Outside of a touchdown toss on his first play (during that game), not much has gone right for the signal caller. Facing not so stellar competition, there’s a chance that he could succeed on Thursday night. Going through progressions and making the right decision are two things I want to see.
Running Back – The Browns have not featured their running attack these past four weeks, and rightly so as they want to limit possibilities for injuries. However, Hue Jackson will likely want to get out of this game as soon as possible and running out the clock might be a game strategy. Raheem Mostert and Terrell Watson should be in line to get a majority of touches; I hope to see one stick out and make the club as the team’s third running back (Mostert appears to have the advantage).
Wide Receiver – Rashard Higgins had a tough outing in Tampa Bay, but I am still encouraged at what I have seen from him thus far. The rookie should see a great deal of opportunities in this contest – how he responds to last outing ought to be intriguing. I don’t believe Taylor Gabriel makes the final squad, as the veteran’s lack of size makes it extremely difficult to move the ball down the field. In his absence, Jordan Payton and Ricardo Louis could nab that roster spot.
Tight End – I thought Connor Hamlett took a step ahead last contest, and he has a pretty good shot at making the opening day roster. A few guys I would like to see in this matchup are E.J. Bibbs and Seth DeValve; as the Browns can do multiple things with these athletes. Will they keep both, cut both, or place them on the practice squad? I hope the decision is very difficult after both play well against the Bears.
Offensive Line – The reserve offensive lineman has been underwhelming this exhibition season – exemplified by the fact that the team has had no offense once the starters depart the contest. Spencer Drango and Shon Coleman are two rookies I am eager to watch play; their roles with this franchise can vary greatly, so I want to see how they perform. Will John Greco be the lone backup center, or will the Browns keep another guy around? That might be answered during Thursday’s matchup.
Defensive Line – Will the Browns ever be able to stop opposing teams from running the ball? That would be a welcomed sight, even if it occurred by reserve athletes. Nick Hayden and Jamie Meder are the two guys who I would like to see play – as each are fighting for playing time in the fall. Rookie Carl Nassib got the start on the edge last contest, but did not play as well as he did in the first two contests. Can he excel against reserve athletes? I need something positive for this position group, as it has been ugly up to this point.
Linebacker – Speaking of which, the linebackers have not been exceptional during the preseason. Once again the rookies are the guys I would like to see (Dominique Alexander, Scooby Wright, and Joe Schobert) – as they can make their imprint with this defensive unit. I don’t anticipate on witnessing a tremendous amount of pass rushes by the team – even by Emmanuel Ogbah, so it will come down to neutralizing the play in the middle of the field (which has been evasive for the orange and brown).
Secondary – I cannot believe the Browns could be worse in the secondary than they were in 2015, but it is shaping up to be that way so far. Undrafted Tracey Howard got his shot in Tampa and was torched by Mike Evans. Who will step up for this team; are Charles Gaines, Derrick Kindred, or Rahim Moore possibilities? I am pretty down on both the safeties and cornerbacks, but one solid outing mind change my attitude.
Conclusion: A fast game with good plays and no injuries are all I want to see for the orange and brown. The team desperately needs a win, as they are likely not going to witness a lot of them once the regular season begins. Nonetheless, I am very excited for the season to finally begin!