The preseason concludes tonight in Chicago for the Cleveland Browns. These are the things I’ll be watching for…
Let’s be honest, once you heard the majority of the starters weren’t going to play in this one you tuned it out didn’t you? Is there anything worth watching in this game?
Well there are a few things. First of all, I want to see what David Nelson looks like against competition (assuming he does in fact get in the game.) This would be Nelson’s first action of the preseason. Even though coach Rob Chudzinski said that he expects Nelson to play tonight, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he ended up sitting it out. Call it a hunch I guess.
If he does play, what kind of shape will he be in? Can he separate from defensive backs? A healthy Nelson could seriously help the team while Josh Gordon is suspended. He is 6’5″ and has demonstrated the ability to go up and grab passes out of the air in Buffalo. Keep your fingers crossed.
Speaking of Josh Gordon, he supposedly will be one of the starters playing tonight. I’m not quite sure why. Believe me, I’m all for Gordon working on routes and improving his game. I just wonder if it makes a ton of sense to play a guy who will be suspended for the first two weeks of the regular season tonight. You subject him to injury for one thing, and let’s be honest there could be an issue of motivation for him. I know, there shouldn’t be. But we’re realists right?
There are a few spots still up for grabs tonight. Following the release of Trevin Wade, there could certainly be a defensive back spot up for grabs. I will be watching Leon McFadden tonight. This is the kind of game that you would like to see the third round pick shine in.
As far as the rest of the team goes, Oniel Cousins will start at right guard. I’m still not sold on Cousins as the replacement (albeit temporary) for Lauvao and Pinkston. I’m not sure what he proves against a second string Bears defensive front though.
There are a couple of new linebackers on the roster since the last preseason game. Eric Martin and Paul Hazel will suit up for this one. Will either of them take a spot away from one of the guys who have been in camp the whole time? If the Browns like Martin it could mean trouble for James Michael-Johnson or Tank Carder. I think that the Browns like Carder. I had him making the team. Johnson is the one on the bubble it appears. Doesn’t it seem unlikely though that a team would go with an undrafted rookie free agent who you have seen for a couple of days over guys that have been in meeting rooms and on practice fields learning your systems for months? Wouldn’t they have to think the incoming player was a huge upgrade?
The kicking situation is another area to watch. While the release of T.J. Conley had most of us thinking that Spencer Lanning was going to be the punter, the Browns brought in Colton Schmidt who apparently does more than just punt. Schmidt can also kick-off, which would put to rest one of the Browns’ fears about going into the season with Shayne Graham. Graham doesn’t have the big leg that rookie Brandon Bogotay has, but the injury to Bogotay put a damper on those plans. If Schmidt can boom kick-offs, then the Browns have the best of both worlds, a guy with a big leg for touchbacks and an accurate place kicker inside the 45.