Even the most die hard of Cleveland Browns fans cringe at the thought of the fourth preseason game. And those aren’t the season tickets holders who are forced to pay full price to watch backups.
Moreover, you’ll watch. I know I will.
Of course every Browns game has a plot line and this one is no different.“(Brandon Weeden) is not going to play,” Browns coach Pat Shurmur said Tuesday.
Colt McCoy, the Browns starting quarterback last season, gets the nod. This accomplishes two things. One, it rests the rookie before the grind of an NFL regular season. Two, it gives McCoy another chance to showcase his wares to a team in the market of a backup quarterback. And there are plenty, most notably the Green Bay Packers.
By the way, if you’re a quarterback and the Browns have cut you in recent years, you must be bad. Eh, Graham Harrell?
As for Weeden, he has three NFL preseason games under his belt before the games begin to count Sept. 9. Traditionally, NFL teams allow their starters to play one series in the preseason finale. Yet with such a young offense, why not play Weeden the entire first half? Does he really need the rest?
“I think he’s very prepared,” Shurmur said. “I think he’s had an outstanding camp. I thought he had an outstanding offseason. Really he’s kind of improved every day. For a guy that’s going through this for the first time as a pro, I think he’s very ready.”
Instead, this game falls in line with tradition and is reserved for the 22 players who are on the bubble. The Browns need to trim their roster from 75 to 53 players Aug. 31.
McCoy isn’t expected to be among the cuts, but his demotion has caused some debate. Keep McCoy, who proved to be a capable back up, behind the rookie quarterback or deal McCoy to a team in need? Does this team want a clean break or the lingering doubts not if, but when Weeden struggles?
Now, it seems it depends on the offers.
This preseason, McCoy has completed 75 percent of his passes (18-for-24) for 234 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions.
McCoy isn’t the only Browns player who will want to put his talents on display Thursday night.
In order to fill out the roster, the Browns will need to identify players who could bolster their depth at key positions in the secondary, at linebacker and pass catchers.
Those players include strong safety David Sims, cornerback Trevin Wade, strong side linebacker James-Michael Johnson and weakside linebacker Craig Robertson.
Offensively, wide receiver Jordon Norwood is looking to rejoin the Browns 53-man roster in 2012 while the logjam at tight end is a battle among Alex Smith, Evan Moore and Dan Gronkowski.
Finally, can Adonis Thomas cause some conflict among the running backs that include Montario Hardesty, Brandon Jackson and Chris Ogbonnaya?
In other words, Friday’s cuts will be very interesting.Orange seats will be aplenty and the intensity low during Thursday’s game. The best news is that after Thursday, the next game counts. Football season will finally arrive.