Looking into Preseason Game #1 – @ Green Bay
It’s hard to believe, but the Cleveland Browns are finally going to be hitting the field once again. Following a tumultuous 2015 campaign, the team had massive turnover and will see how their next season goes. Up first is a travel to Lambeau Field against a perennial Super Bowl contender in the Green Bay Packers. The same goes for this year as it does every other one – the preseason is more about not looking bad as it is looking good. Let’s look a bit more into this matchup.
Quarterback – I don’t expect to see a great deal of Robert Griffin in this game. However, I would prefer to see him take a few chances when under center. This mainly refers to looking downfield and squeezing the ball in tight windows. As far as backups are concerned; will Josh McCown be the guy, or will he be traded away? I am eager to see what rookie Cody Kessler is able to do in a game. Granted, it will not make or break his career – but I need some sort of barometer.
Running Back – This matchup will likely feature the battle for the third option at running back between Terrell Watson and maybe Glenn Winston. Raheem Mostert is also listed at the position, but might only make the squad as a kick returner. An injury-free game for this bunch would be huge.
Wide Receiver – There are four rookie wide outs that were drafted by the Browns last April. I would venture to say that we should expect to see all of them in some capacity Friday night. Each player’s development will be interesting; Coleman appears to be head and shoulders above his counterparts. Meanwhile, there is little news of Jordan Payton and Ricardo Lewis. Regardless, the team desperately needs some production from this unit.
Tight End – With Gary Barnidge seeing limited time in training camp, other tight ends will be given a chance to shine. Will Connor Hamlett, E.J. Bibbs, or Randall Telfel be that guy? That remains to be seen, especially that each athlete fills a unique role. Bibbs was a preseason standout in 2015; a repeat performance heightens his chances of making this team again in 2016.
Offensive Line – The right tackle battle and the backups at center will be my focal point for the offensive line in this matchup. Rookies Spencer Drango and Shon Coleman look to duke it out for the edge of the right side – perhaps one guy can see an opportunity for a great deal of playing time this fall. Meanwhile, will Mike Matthews make this team? In what capacity will he serve? Perhaps this game will be the beginning of something special for the undrafted rookie.
Defensive Line – I’ll keep my eye on a pair of rookies during this contest. Carl Nassib and Emanuel Ogbah are expecting to begin as reserve defensive ends for this defense. The injury to Desmond Bryant will force some into action sooner than anticipated; however it will be exciting to see how the young guys respond. Will Danny Shelton transition from an underachieving rookie to a productive veteran? Friday’s game could be the beginning for the nose tackle. In the reserve role – Jamie Meder will attempt to lock up a spot on this team.
Linebackers – Will the Browns actually get to opposing quarterbacks this season? Let’s hope so, as it has not been their forte for the past few years. Joe Schobert and Barkevious Mingo are a tandum to keep an eye one. One is a rookie trying to break in with this team, while the other might be his last chance to be a member of the orange and brown. Will Scooby Wright be more than a special teams player? That is unlikely early, but some solid plays in the exhibition season surely would not hurt.
Secondary – The secondary is a huge question mark, especially without the services of Joe Haden. Someone has to step up on the outside, and it appears that Justin Gilbert will not be that guy. I hope he proves me wrong, but Charles Gaines (as an example) has proven more on the field than the former first round draft pick. What will Rahim Moore’s role be with this team? I would hope the veteran can prove he deserves with the starting unit – however he has been quiet up to this point.
Note: I will continue my tradition of not analyzing special teams or coaching during the preseason. There are a few reasons for this: the players vying for special teams roles in the regular season will be mainly on offense or defense (with exceptions) in the preseason, it will likely be Andy Lee and Travis Coons for the Browns at punter and kicker, and Hue Jackson and company will not be going all out when coaching this contest.