Cleveland Browns: What to watch for against the New York Giants

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 27: Odell Beckham
CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 27: Odell Beckham /

The Cleveland Browns have the rare opportunity of a national TV stage when the New York Giants come to town tonight. What should fans be watching for?

Tonight marks the first of three games in a very short span of time for the Cleveland Browns. Even though these contests do not count toward the team’s record, the implications are extremely high.

Positions are on the line, including the starting quarterback job. Fans are also getting acclimated with the rookies who will take the field for just the second time against another opponent.

It will also be the final opportunity for fans to see the team live at FirstEnergy Stadium before the beginning of the regular season, since the final two preseason matchups are away games. It should be quite an intriguing matchup from beginning to end, with each string of every position producing storylines.

Can Osweiler move the ball?

It seems a bit oversimplified, but the bottom line is, whether or not Brock Osweiler wins the starting job is dependent on whether or not the offense can move the ball with him under center. It’s evident that the style of offense the 26-year-old would run would lack explosive plays, so a methodical approach in the first quarter of this one is the way to go.

A reasonable goal for the first series of this one is to avoid a turnover or a three-and-out. Osweiler and company need to show signs of progress and the ability to gain a set amount of yardage. This means converting third downs, and avoiding penalties and negative plays. This starts at the quarterback position and will help to make the decision.

Is Dayes a legitimate backup RB?

Scoring a touchdown on one of his three carries last week, the Browns used Matthew Dayes heavily in the preseason opener. The seventh-round draft pick out of North Carolina State could fit in Cleveland’s offense which should keep another running back besides Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson.

Especially if the Browns do indeed use Johnson as a slot receiver as well as ball carrier, they will need another back to step up at some point in order to meet their needs in the backfield. With this in mind, Dayes may not just be fighting for a roster spot on Monday and beyond, he may be indicating to the coaching staff just how much they can count on their third back, which could help to shape their entire offense come September 10.

Offensive line flexibility

As is always the case, this team’s offensive line is vital to the success of the quarterbacks and all around offensive production the Browns enjoy. This season, this unit looks a little bit improved on paper, but is still extremely unorganized.

After Cameron Erving‘s very poor Week 1 performance, Shon Coleman looks to have the starting right tackle job.

But the chaos and intrigue coming into Monday is the question of how versatile some of the linemen are in case of injury. John Greco can play multiple positions, as well as Spencer Drango. Each should get ample playing time, which will be revealing as to just how deep the offensive line is since fans can not be sure yet of how flexible the backups are.

A crowded cornerbacks room

There are a lot of intriguing position battles yet to be sorted out, but the secondary is quite possibly the most confusing.

The Browns currently have 11 cornerbacks and eight safeties in camp. That’s far more than they will be able to keep, quite possibly about twice as many. This underscores the significance of these final three games for the individuals who make up this unit, especially after the second-stringers exit.

Marcus Burley, Darius Hillary and Trey Caldwell are names to watch for those fighting for spots. Behind them on the unofficial depth chart are defensive backs who most likely won’t make the final roster, but will be given a chance to shine in the remaining preseason contests. Channing Stribling is a rookie with some potential, as is Alvin Hill.

When it counts

Since this is a preseason game, it obviously never really counts. But how much of a boost for a reeling fan base would a 2-0 home start to the preseason? Although this guarantees nothing about the regular season, it does establish a winning attitude which can prove to be valuable. There’s nothing wrong with more optimism around Berea.

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Not to mention, a close game late in the fourth quarter much like the opener against New Orleans would provide another opportunity for those still needing to prove themselves to get roster spots.

When making the difficult decision of whether or not to keep a player, sometimes performance under pressure makes the difference. And there’s no better way to measure this than actual pressure in an actual game.

Taking the field on Monday Night Football will be the experience of a lifetime for some Cleveland players.

Hopefully, they can turn their nervous excitement into positive energy which helps to build confidence as the team moves closer to the regular season.

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And while not everything, a win sure would be a nice bonus for the fans coming out to the stadium and watching on ESPN.