April 17, 2014

NFL Pre-season: What to Watch After Browns Starters Exit

Cleveland Browns head coach Pat Shurmur indicated that his starters will play the first quarter on Saturday when they take on the world champion Green Bay Packers.  Obviously, during that quarter, we’ll all be watching the same stuff.  How will Colt McCoy and the offense look against live action defense considering they are all learning a new offense?  How will Phil Taylor, Ahtyba Rubin, Jayme Mitchell, and Jabaal Shear perform against an opposing offensive line, QB and running attack?  Will any wide receivers step up and identify themselves from the rest of the pack, or will we be talking about tight ends all year long?

What about after the first quarter when the starters exit the game?  Here’s what I’ll be watching, amongst other things.

Cornerbacks: After Joe Haden and Sheldon Brown the competition should be good.  Buster Skrine has impressed in camp with his blazing speed and ability to jump routes.  James Dockery is the undrafted up-and-comer who has a nose for the ball so far this pre-season.  Dockery is fast and big, while Skrine is faster and plays a bit bigger than his frame.  Skrine is listed as Joe Haden’s backup on the depth chart.  Dockery is currently listed way back behind Sheldon Brown, Dimitri Patterson, and Coye Francies, so he has a long way to go, yet.

Linebackers: There isn’t a position on the team that has been talked about less than the linebackers, but the Browns could be very thin.  Fujita, Gocong and D’Qwell Jackson have starter’s spots lined up.  Fujita and D’Qwell Jackson both missed significant time last season with injuries.  So did one of their prospective backups, Kaluka Maiava, who is coming into his third season.  The other backups are Titus Brown and undrafted rookie signee Brian Smith.  Brown has been in Cleveland a couple years now and is a big thick guy amongst his fellow linebackers.  Maiava and Brown are somewhat known entities.  Keep your eyes on #53 Brian Smith.  He was a leader and played more games than anyone else in a four year span at Notre Dame.  Of all the positions on the Browns, this could be one where they might still need to import some depth as roster cuts are made around the league.

Wide Receivers: We’ve been talking a lot about the receivers already this pre-season, so it will be good to see these guys battle against another team for once.  I don’t have to tell you all to watch Greg Little and Jordan Norwood as those two have been pretty well documented.  I will be looking most closely at Carlton Mitchell, who was used very, very sparingly by Eric Mangini last season.

I’ll also be watching late in the game to see if undrafted physical freak Chris Matthews can be anything more than just a tall guy with decent hands.  The sleeper of the group is Johnathan Haggerty #86.  He isn’t overly flashy, but he has been very steady in camp.  He doesn’t have the measurables that make players stick out at scouting events, but he seems to find space and catches the ball.  That’s kind of the object, right?

Obviously this is just the first pre-season game and there will be plenty more.  What will you be watching for on Saturday?

  • mgbode

    ” There isn’t a position on the team that has been talked about less than the linebackers”

    Only because it’s August and we don’t want to give up hope :)

  • Vengeful Pat

    I’m most interested to see if Taylor and Rubin end up helping out the defensive ends… both guys are going to fill gaps and could possibly require double-teams on passing plays, which should leave the defensive ends and blitzing linebackers to have better matchups against RBs, fullbacks, and tight ends. I also want to see if those guys can clog the middle on running plays, and if so, do our linebackers have the speed to shut down the edge?

    Will the Browns take a risk on either Kirk Morrison or Lofa Tatupu at linebacker? They’d probably have to overpay either guy, and I’m not sure either would end up being a starter, but they would certainly be good depth. I’m not sure that Gocong should be an automatic starter though.

  • Andrew Koestel

    Sheard. With a D. First paragraph.

  • TSR3000

    I would love to see an actual Browns pass rush. I have heard about them, but they existed well before my time.

  • 216in614

    Remember last year the first time you #40 run and the dawg pound go crazy. I do.

  • stin4u

    Carlton Mitchell.

    I’m going to pout if he doesn’t make this squad.

  • Vengeful Pat

    I would very much like to see him do “The Carlton” as a touchdown celebration.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T3ANUkOyDNQ

  • TJ

    I’m hoping Marcus Benard gets a good amount of playing time. Also Carlton Mitchell for sure, Chris Matthews, and also Brandon Jackson/Montario Hardesty if he they’ll let him get hit.

  • Anthony

    Colt McCoy. He is by far the key to this team moving forward over any other single player.

  • kevin

    I’ll look at colt McCoy. Even though it’s a preseason game, I’m looking forward to see if he can perform. In the same vein, what is Peyton Hillis going to do.

    Finally of course the wide receivers. Does Mo Mass play? How well does Robiskie perform? What about Greg Little. I won’t make a definite judgement on those areas of course, but it’ll be a good indication.

    Although depth is important in football, the browns are trying to build, and I believe that it starts with… the starting unit (which makes sense I guess). That’s why I believe the 1st quarter will be the most interesting for the long term. BTW I think Shurmur should make the starting unit play more, especially with the shortened training camp

  • Chucky Brown

    Greg Little and Carlton are the 2 Im keeping the closest eye on

  • http://serandez.blogspot.com Ezzie

    Considering it’s the Packers, we’ll probably see a lot of the secondary. They might look OK, or they might look horrible.

  • bobby

    Outside of the starters, Im looking for depth in the front 7. Hoping from the 2nd quarter on we arent just letting guys run wild. Also would be cool to see how Eric Hagg is coming along.

    As for the starters/regulars, Im looking at the 2 position battles (Adams v Young and the WRs bunch). Haggerty seemed like a lock to make the team last year before getting hurt, so Im interested to see how he performs and if sloppy routes spell doom for Matthews. Apparently Castile is doing some good things, but he did not impress me too much when I was able to see a training camp practice. Then there’s always the Robo question. Is steady a steady good, or a steady he doesnt get better?

  • Shamrock

    Baltimore traded for Evans and it only cost a fourth round draft pick.

  • Brooks

    i will almost promise that mitchell makes the team. remember he was drafted last year on H & H’s watch

  • dood

    When is the last time the afc north was swept in a weekend?

  • RyInCBus

    I will be watching the super freaks we have at TE to see how they’re used. Lots of 2, maybe even 3, TE sets. Also, our RB depth behind Hillis & BJax with Hardesty likely not playing. And our Oline rotations/depth behind the starters.

  • Tenwatt

    I’ll be watching the run game with Marecic replacing Vickers. We have to be able to run the ball to win a single game this year.