Heading into the last game of the preseason, the Browns will have most of their starters out resting to be full go for the Miami Dolphins. This game against the Bears will be comprised of mostly depth guys and players who will not be on the roster. So why should people watch? The fact is this game will feature players on both sides of the ball scratching and clawing to keep their dream alive in the NFL.
In addition to playing with everything and then some, players will take big risks and go for big rewards. Returners will try to bring out kicks they get several yards deep in the end zone, even on punts. Players will make big risks and try to make big plays as opposed to smart ones in hopes of getting a splash play. The biggest focus of this intensity will be involving line play as offensive and defensive linemen trying to make an NFL roster and there will be wars down there. Players will be playing through the echo of the whistle in hopes of making an impact. It is important to remember that while they may not make the Browns, they are auditioning for other teams and other leagues.
Jason Campbell was scheduled to start the game but will be an emergency backup if needed, so Brian Hoyer, the local kid, will get possibly all 4 quarters to make plays. He will have plenty of opportunities to get in a rhythm and drive the offense down the field. The always adorable Tony Grossi is trying to make a story where one does not exist by suggesting that Hoyer could end up as the backup and this is an ongoing competition.
According to the Browns, the competition between Brandon Weeden and Campbell for the starting job was close before ultimately naming Weeden the starter as everyone in the universe predicted. Nowhere in that discussion was Hoyer, but fans are to believe that Hoyer was close enough to take the backup job? Nice try. If there was any concern that Campbell was not set in his status as the backup, he would drag himself into the game and fight for the spot, regardless of how sick he is. The fact he is not suggests the Browns are content with their depth chart there.
The defensive line will still be good at the start of the game with Billy Winn, Ishamaa’ily Kitchen, and John Hughes. Potentially, an interesting battle to keep an eye on is James-Michael Johnson as he is not listed as a starter. Unless he is either not playing or they are content with his status, he might be on the bubble with players like Tank Carder and L.J. Fort to make the final roster as an inside linebacker. If for whatever reason Johnson were unable to make the team, he would be the third draft from last year that the new front office has rid themselves of including Ryan Miller and Trevin Wade, a move that was made yesterday.
Other areas worth keeping an eye on include running back as Jamaine Cook and Miquel Maysonet will get the game to show what they can do. They are not only competing potentially against each other but against anyone else that could end up on waivers. It is the same situation at cornerback and tight end. Last, but certainly not least, how many wide receivers are the Browns going to keep? Josh Gordon is going to play because of the suspension that will keep him out for the first two weeks and David Nelson will get his first preseason action while Travis Benjamin might get his longest look at receiver in this game. If the Browns keep five, the five are pretty clear: Gordon, Greg Little, Davone Bess, Benjamin, and Nelson. If they keep a sixth, it could be Josh Cooper or one of the remaining undrafted rookies or a potential waiver wire player.
One last thing to keep an eye on is how much Brian Sanford plays. The Browns obviously tried to trade him once and it seems incredibly unlikely he will be retained as he seems like the eighth defensive linemen, but the Browns would like to move him. If they feel like they have a deal in place, they may not play him a ton, but if not, they may have him play as much as possible to really show him off to other teams.