As if this preseason can’t get any stranger.
On Friday, the Cleveland Browns play host to the Philadelphia Eagles in the first home preseason game. Typically, the third preseason game means the starters will play into the third quarter. In other words, it is known as “the dress rehearsal.”
Only there is one problem this year, the Browns open the season at home with the Eagles on Sept. 9.
Honestly, this has been one bizarre preseason.
It’s not that plenty of Browns fans haven’t already seen this team practice amid the news of the team selling, injuries to key players like Trent Richardson and a looming suspension to Joe Haden. This week, the team announced more than 37,000 fans attended the 14 training camp sessions in Berea. This is a team coming off a 4-12 record. You gotta love Brownstown.
Officially, training camp is closed, but the Browns still have camp-like work to do, according to Browns coach Pat Shurmur.
“I still like to think we’re in training camp mode even though they’re moving out of the hotel, but we’re progressing in a way that I visualized,” he said. “I think what’s important now is we play these preseason games with great energy, great passion and try to put a bunch of good plays together. I think the guys in the game are charged with winning the game and if we put enough good plays together that will happen. If we play sloppy or we don’t do the things we need to do as players and coaches then you lose a game. So that’s part of the message as we go forward as well.”
As far as Friday’s game, Eagles starting quarterback Michael Vick will be sidelined with an injury. Does it really matter what type of injury? The guy is always dinged up. Unfortunately for the Browns, the Eagles expect Vick to start the regular season opener.
Vanilla will be the flavor of the night as Browns fans will get an up-close look at quarterback Brandon Weeden in game action and the rest of the large contingent of rookies, sans Richardson.
Weeden showed that progression Shurmur talked about from preseason game one to two. His numbers improved and so, too, did the Browns offensive output.
“I’m not where I need to be but I’m still making steps in the right direction,” he said. “There’s just a comfort level. There’s a confidence level/comfort level playing quarterback especially in this system, in this league. I think it takes some time. I wasn’t stressing out over what was going to happen. I was going to continue to learn. I think, moving forward in the right direction, I feel pretty good with where I’m at.”
Four days after the Browns’ third preseason game, NFL teams must cut its roster to 80 players. A a day after the Browns wrap up the preseason at home against the Chicago Bears on Aug. 30, teams cut down to the mandatory 53.
While you want to see progression from the projected starters, it is the guys playing in the second half Friday and most of the game next week that will need to continue to perform.
Who should you keep an eye on Friday night? Sure, Weeden, Gordon and the first-teamers are important, but so is depth.
Here are some names to look for come the second half on Friday: Josh Cooper (WR), Oniel Cousins (OL), L.J. Fort (LB), Dan Gronkowski (TE), Brandon Jackson (RB), Carlton Mitchell (WR), Chris Ogbonnaya (RB), Craig Robertson (RB), David Sims (DB), Thomas Adonis (RB), Owen Marecic (FB).
And as always, hope and pray for no catastrophic injuries during meaningless practice football.