Cleveland Browns: 7 Things to Watch for in Preseason Opener
Jul 28, 2014; Berea, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer (6) and Johnny Manziel (2) throw passes during training camp at Cleveland Browns training facility. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
- Kyle Shanahan’s new offensive schemes
This is one of the most important areas the Browns will be working on. The new offense will definitely be an improved version of last year, except at the wide receiver position for an obvious reason. Look for Kyle Shanahan to work Ben Tate and Terrence West early in the game, but not over work them. The key here will be the passing game, and the “Manziel Package”. Johnny has said he has had trouble with the playbook, but hopefully he will be ready for the preseason opener. The Lions are weak in the secondary and tough up front, so look for a few heavy schemes against the first team, and the run heavy schemes against the backups with Manziel.
- Johnny Manziel
Manziel will play with the second string this Saturday and look for him to have a decent game. With Terrence West running the ball, a slew of receivers that are trying to prove their worth, and the Lions’ second team defense, look for Johnny to make some plays. The Lions’ secondary is still pretty weak, Manziel will be able to make throws and beat defenders. The biggest struggle that Manziel will face is his offensive line. The line will need to give Manziel the time to find his receivers or the ability to get out of the pocket. Manziel will have plenty of time this preseason to show that he is more than just a party king and can actually hang in the NFL.
- How good is the defense?
The biggest news out of the training camp so far has been how great the defense is going to be this year. The Browns’ were in the top 10 last year for defenses and predict to stay there with the talent they have brought in. With depth on the defensive line, linebacker, and the defensive backs, this defense should have no problem with leadership as well with guys like Donte Whitner, Jabaal Sheard, and Karlos Dansby. Look for Barkevious Mingo to make a huge impact with the first team (look below for more) as he has worked hard on gaining some weight and speed. Also look for a lot of tough plays as this defense has been described as “chippy” and has caused fights in their own camp. Look for them to be matched with the first team, but after that I predict that the defense will dominate and may cause a defensive score.
- Wide receivers stepping up
The biggest concern this offseason has been the wide receivers. This weekend may be the last time the Browns will play with Josh Gordon until midway through the season. Look for other players to have to step up beyond Gordon as well. Nate Burleson will try to have a big game against his former team. He has even gone as far as to say he will get a fine for a celebration when he scores. Also look for Miles Austin, Andrew Hawkins, and Travis Benjamin to step up as the go to man. The main area to watch here is the unknown players like Willie Snead, Charles Johnson and Marlon Moore. One of these guys will need to have a big game to make sure they solidify a slot on the final roster. They should have a decent game with a weak secondary.
- Offensive line
The Browns offensive line has drawn criticism for years about their blocking. Look for a tough battle against the defensive front including Ndamnakong Suh and Nick Fairley. Rookie Joel Bitonio will be tested, but look at the starting five to have a decent game opening up holes for Ben Tate, Terrence West, and others in the committee. The key here is the battle for the Right Guard position between John Greco and Garret Gilkey. Both players are looking to show they deserve to be up front with the likes of Joe Thomas and Alex Mack. The key to the game won’t be the passing, but making sure the line gives clear holes to the running backs and enough time to pass (or run) for the quarterbacks. If the line succeeds, the Browns will dominate the game.
- Rookie Defense
The Browns have a ton of rookies on defense including 1st round pick Justin Gilbert, Christian Kirksey, Pierre Desir, and surprise line man Jacobi McDaniel. As of the depth chart now, none of them are starting including Gilbert, who was put second after Buster Skrine. These rookies will all be part of the second team, and will cause chaos for Dan Orlovsky and Kellen Moore. Gilbert is still trying to win that starting corner opposite of Joe Haden, but Skrine is doing everything he can to prove to Mike Pettine not to pull him yet.
- Running Game
Another key area of the new offense will be the running game. With basically a completely new running back regime with Ben Tate and rookie Terrence West, the Browns will be running the ball easily after the first team duo of Suh and Fairley are out. Veteran Browns’ players like Dion Lewis, Edwin Baker and Chris Ogbonnaya are looking to show they deserve the position more than undrafted free agent Isaiah Crowell. With the new running schemes that Kyle Shanahan is putting in, look for a lot of runs including read options with Manziel. The run game will rely on how well the line performs but will have to work with what they are given.
- Players who may surprise you 1.Barkevious Mingo
Mingo will take first-string touches and is looking to improve after a disappointing rookie season. Mingo has showed up to camp with more weight and muscle then last year, and looks to be the pass rusher that the Browns were expecting from him last year. He will benefit greatly from players like Paul Kruger, Jabaal Sheard, and Karlos Dansby. Mingo will look to pressure from the outside and his speed will cause problems in the backfield. The defensive line will give Mingo the opportunity to go after those sacks that he failed to get last year.
- Brian Hoyer
With the battle of the quarterbacks heating up, look for Hoyer to have a solid game and make a statement of who will be the starter against the Steelers. Hoyer will benefit from playing with the first team line and Ben Tate. Although he may only play for the 1st quarter, he will have to minimize his mistakes and capitalize on setting up the run game and hitting the defense with a big pass. With Jordan Cameron out and Josh Gordon possibly not playing with the first string, look for Hoyer to rely on veterans Miles Austin and Nate Burleson.
- Josh Gordon
This will probably be one of the last games we see Josh in until at least Week 10 against the Cincinnati Bengals. Gordon may not play with the first team and will benefit from any playing time at all. Gordon will play like the Pro Bowler that he is and if he plays against the second team, him and Manziel will probably hook up on some type of crazy play. Hopefully the thought of his suspension won’t affect his game.
- Pierre Desir/Justin Gilbert
This will be a fun tandem to watch against the second team offense. Look for them to play as if they were the veterans of the field. Add in a tough secondary line and fellow rookie Christian Kirksey and Jabaal Sheard at linebacker, and I believe we will see at least one turnover during their time on the field. This will be a great preview of Justin Gilbert to take over the starting position that Buster Skrine has right now.
The Browns have always been great in the preseason, and it won’t stop this year. The Browns will be slow at first in this game, but will eventually pull out the win with a tough defensive mind. The offense will impress everyone and the Browns will come out of Detroit with a solid showing and hopefully a win.
How do you think the Preseason Opener will go? Comment below: