Heading to Browns' preseason opener ...
August, 8, 2014
By Pat McManamon | ESPN.com
Catching up on the Cleveland Browns not named Manziel or Hoyer as the Browns head to the preseason opener against the Lions on Saturday:
- Several Browns did not make the trip to Detroit and will not play: LB Darius Eubanks (shoulder), OL Reid Fragel (lower leg), OL Randall Harris (knee), LB Eric Martin (concussion), OL Alex Parsons (knee) and OL Nate McDonald (wrist). McDonald is on the non-football injury list. Jordan Cameron (shoulder) made the trip but is not expected to play.
- Coach Mike Pettine named the right guard spot as one he'll be watching closely. It seems interesting, though, that John Greco returned to the starting spot shortly after he missed a week with injury when Garrett Gilkey received plenty of chances with Greco sidelined. Greco is not a superstar, but he's the kind of hard-nosed, tough player teams need. He also seems to fit the mold Pettine wants. Gilkey will continue to get opportunities, but it would seem that Greco has the best chance to start.
- The Browns need another receiver to make strides. There is no reason other than hope to believe that Josh Gordon will not miss a healthy portion of the season -- and perhaps all of it. Without Gordon, the Browns need someone other than Miles Austin. Undrafted rookie Willie Snead has had a strong camp. Veteran Nate Burleson will have a chance. Charles Johnson remains the great mystery. Anthony Armstrong seems to have leveled off. The Browns desperately need someone to start alongside Austin who will fit between Austin and slot receiver Andrew Hawkins.
- The Browns' run game will be under the microscope. It appears as if Ben Tate has a solid lock on the starting job, to the point that he even said the other day that he welcomes help. That's a change from the guy who has wanted to be a team's feature back. Tate will get reps, and so will Terrance West. Given Gordon's situation, the Browns will need to run the ball -- especially early.
- It will be interesting to see how the coaches use Gordon. Do they start him? Do they play him a short time because he might not be around, or a long time because he might not? Do they play him early with the starters, or late with the backups? All this discussion shows the tough spot in which Gordon has placed the team.
- Several rookies will get a healthy dose of NFL football for the first time, with quarterback Johnny Manziel the most prominent. Joel Bitonio will get reps at left guard with the starters; he has looked like a natural from the second he walked on the field. Cornerback Justin Gilbert and linebacker Chris Kirksey have a chance to take the progress they've shown in practice to the field. And cornerback Pierre Desir has shown himself to be a lengthy, aggressive corner. He will get plenty of time, as well. Among the undrafteds, the most interesting is Snead. He brings a certain attitude, and it will be interesting to see whether that attitude translates to the field.