The Browns' first-string defense will face the Eagles' third-string quarterback, Nick Foles, Friday night.
The Cleveland Browns will play their third preseason game tonight against the Philadelphia Eagles. It will be the Browns' first game at home, but the unusual thing is that these two teams will play in the same stadium during Week 1 of the regular season. Whereas most teams in the league typically treat the third preseason game as their dress rehearsal, that will not apply to this game. The Eagles are without starting quarterback Michael Vick, and the Browns don't want to give Philly anything extra to scheme off of. Some brief notes to preview tonight's game are after the jump.
- Jim Donovan was at the Browns' final training camp session on Wednesday and will be back in the booth for tonight's game, according to Tom Reed of the Plain Dealer. It seems that he missed last week's game due to a cold. As for Bernie Kosar, if the Eagles' backup quarterback doesn't perform well, you have to imagine they'll get ripped like he did to Graham Harrell last week.
Michael Vick is out with sore ribs, but he is expected to play against the Browns in Week 1. Backup quarterback Mike Kafka has a hand injury that will keep him out this week. That means that Nick Foles, the Eagles' third-round draft pick in April, will get the start. Foles has had a pretty good preseason so far. Two weeks ago against the Steelers, he went 6-of-10 for 144 yards and 2 touchdowns. Last week, he played most of the game against the Patriots and went 18-of-28 for 217 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 1 interception. He is averaging over 15 yards per completion. He is fighting to be the Eagles' No. 2 quarterback.
- Even though the Browns don't want to reveal too much to the Eagles, with the third-string quarterback getting the start, you would hope that the Browns' first-string defense is able to have a solid outing. Defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin, linebacker D'Qwell Jackson, and defensive end Frostee Rucker have all missed the first two preseason games, but all of them practiced this week and might start against Foles. Even if Pat Shurmur only gets a quarter of work out of each of them, those 2-3 drives should be enough to get them prepared for the regular season, especially against some linemen and skill players they will be seeing again so soon.
- After Foles leaves the game, the Eagles will send in Trent Edwards. Yes, that's right -- the former starter of the Buffalo Bills entered camp as the Eagles' fourth quarterback. Based on how bad Edwards was with the Bills and then the Jaguars last season, our backup defenders should have a lot of opportunities to make some plays, just like they did against the Packers' backup quarterbacks last week.
- For the Browns, it would be nice to see a couple of drives with the top tier receivers in tact. Just think about it -- all four of the top guys were healthy heading into the Lions game, and on the first play, Mohamed Massaquoi was removed in fear of a concussion. The starters didn't play more than a quarter, and the following week, Travis Benjamin was unavailable due to "soreness." Jordan Cameron missed last week's game too. Against the Eagles, we could see a few series with Massaquoi, Josh Gordon, Greg Little, and Benjamin being rotated in.
- The player we need to see the most out of is Gordon. Brandon Weeden and Pat Shurmur have remained vocally confident in his ability to turn things around, but he cannot be on the field regularly in Week 1 if he does not improve over the final two preseason games. You hate to put so much pressure on one player, but we need to see zero dropped passes and him using his body better during live game action to shield off defenders.
- I don't think we'll learn much from the backup quarterback position this week. We already know what each of the guys behind Weeden have to offer, so now it is up to the coaching staff to unveil their decision. The sixth wide receiver spot, though, is a different story. Jordan Norwood is still the favorite in my opinion. Josh Cooper has not received many in-game reps with Weeden, and I don't expect that to change against Philadelphia. In camp, Rod Windsor has seen reps ahead of Carlton Mitchell. Even though Shurmur said Mitchell needs to show something over these final two games, I can't see him receiving many opportunities this week. If he does see playing time, it'll be against the Bears next week.
- I don't know if there are many bubble guys who can make a name for themselves in this game. LB Craig Robertson, LB L.J. Fort, S David Sims, and CB Trevin Wade are the youngsters who have already made a splash, so I don't think they are in jeopardy. The tight end situation is a bit difficult to project right now, so I will leave that alone. OT Oniel Cousins has struggled for two weeks, and he missed practice this past week. With him not expected to play against the Eagles, it will be interesting to see who plays with the second-string offense at left tackle. If that person impresses, maybe Cousins becomes expendable.
- It is another big day for Ronnie Cameron, who Tony Grossi featured in a feel-good article on Thursday. Cameron was involved in a couple of nice plays last week, and would end up making the final roster if Scott Paxson gets waived. Just because Cameron was not with the team to begin camp does not mean his chances are less. We saw the number of teams who put waiver claims on him.
If Phil Taylor begins the year on PUP and Paxson is released or IR'ed, imagine Ahtyba Rubin and John Hughes starting. Then, your backups are Billy Winn and Brian Schaefering. Is their a room for a fifth defensive tackle? My recent roster projection has the Browns keeping an extra defensive end over an extra defensive tackle. It's going to be a tough call to make, but that's where Cameron needs to flash again against Philly. Similarly, Marcus Benard needs to have his pass rush on display. No one is talking about the possibility, but what if Juqua Parker is the odd man out?
- Cut downs to 75 players take place on Monday, so this game could be the end of the road for those bottom-of-the-barrel guys. Even if they don't find a place on the Browns, they need to show maximum effort to ensure other teams have some good film on them.
What are you looking for in tonight's game?