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?