For the first time in seven months, there’s an actual football game involving the Cleveland Browns to discuss.
Thursday night will be the first preseason game as Cleveland will take on the New Orleans Saints at First Energy Stadium.
Now I know it’s just preseason football and we shouldn’t get too excited or carried away by anything that happens during these four exhibition games but it’s football and we’ve been waiting a long time to see some actual on field action.
Here’s some things I’m hoping to see from the Browns against the Saints
Progress on Offense
The offense has been a disappointment so far through camp in the eyes of many fans and media members. Zac Jackson of the Athletic compared it to the 1999 and 2009 seasons as being that bad offensively.
Brock Osweiler will lead the offense as the man at quarterback. He’s been the best of the four in what’s been described as a below average quarterback group.
Cody Kessler, DeShone Kizer and Kevin Hogan will follow Osweiler in the quarterback rotation.
Hopefully Osweiler and head coach Hue Jackson rely on running back Isaiah Crowell to help the team move down the field.
The wide receivers are going to be a group to watch very closely. Outside of veteran Kenny Britt, the rest of the receivers have a big question mark attached to them and a lot to prove.
Corey Coleman has to shake off the injury woes that have been on him for the majority of his time in Cleveland. Would also be nice to see one of Ricardo Louis, Rashad Higgins or Jordan Payton show a flash of the improvement receivers coach Al Saunders said they each have made in the last year.
Watch out for Duke Johnson who is expected to play a huge role on offense as a running back and wide receiver.
All eyes will be on the tight end group who have some large athletic playmakers in third year player Randall Telfer and Seth DeValve who is expected to be a huge target in his second season.
Unfortunately, rookie David Njoku will not be playing Thursday night as he’s dealing with a back injury which is the best thing to do for now and the future.
This opens reps for undrafted rookie Taylor McNamara who is another large athletic playmaker who if he’s willing to commit as a blocker, can find a role on this team in some form if the browns elect to keep four tight ends
Don’t forget the offensive line who the organization made some high priced moves in free agency to upgrade it. The starters have been set with Thomas, Bitonio, Tretter, Zeitler and Coleman leading the first team.
3-4 spots will be left for reserves with rookie Rod Johnson, veterans John Greco, Marcus Martin, Cam Erving and second year player Spencer Drango fighting for those spots.
Set the tone defensively
Gregg Williams is making his debut as the defensive coordinator against his former team that he won a Super Bowl with.
He may be nice to them and reminisce during pre game but once the game starts, he’s going to want to dominate them.
Williams has brought a toughness and an attitude to the Cleveland defense that hasn’t been there for a long time.
Look no further for that toughness and attitude than the first two draft picks in defensive end Myles Garrett and safety Jabrill Peppers. Both have brought a swagger and confidence that comes with being a first round pick but it’s time to show it on the field with the lights on bright.
Garrett told reporters on Tuesday that he’s looking to “send a message” starting Thursday. He said it doesn’t matter if it’s a preseason or regular season game, he’s ready to make an impact. Joe Thomas has said he has the skill set to be an elite pass rusher, I think we all hope that shows as he goes after Saints quarterback Drew Brees.
Peppers is an addition to a secondary that was arguably the worst in football last season. Along with veteran Jason McCourty, they’re joining Joe Haden, Jamar Taylor and Briean Boddy-Calhoun who are looking to silence some critics after a poor 2016 season.
Two battles I’m watching on defense: the “Mike” linebacker and defensive tackle positions.
Joe Schobert and Tank Carder are the guys battling at the linebacker position. Carder has strictly been the special teams ace the last several seasons but is pushing for a starting role on this defense. Schobert has reportedly looked like a natural at this spot after moving from his outside linebacker spot in a 3-4 defense.
While it seems as if the starting spots at defensive tackle are set with Danny Shelton and Desmond Bryant, the depth behind them is up for grabs.
I would think they'll keep at least three defensive tackles and there's five players fighting for those spots. Veterans Jamie Meder and Xavier Cooper, second year player Trevon Coley and rookies Larry Ogunjobi and Caleb Brantley.
If I had to make a prediction now, Meder, Ogunjobi and Coley make the squad but it's still really early in the process to build this roster. Brantley being sidelined with a broken finger puts him behind for the time being.
The first team defense will be without somewhat of a tough matchup to start the season.
Quarterback Drew Brees and running backs Mark Ingram and Adrian Peterson will not play for New Orleans. Chase Daniel will get the start at quarterback and he’ll have second year wide receiver Michael Thomas and tight end Coby Fleener as his go to targets on offense for the first few series on Thursday night.
Win the game
I don't think wanting to see this is too obvious. I want to see the Cleveland Browns win every game.
Last year was the most difficult season of Browns football to watch as a fan and now as a writer. I think everyone knew it was going to be a long season but that one felt like an eternity.
They went 1-19 including the preseason.
It would be nice even if it's just a meaningless preseason game to go out and win and show that last season is behind them and this is the new start of how it's going to be for this regime and this organization going forward.
I think they have the right people this time running the organization and they're adding the talent and pieces to make this a winning football team. It might now show fully this coming season but in the words of the Philadelphia 76ers: we have to trust the process.