Game: Cleveland Browns (1-1) vs. Denver Broncos (1-1)
Where: INVESCO Field at Mile High (Denver, CO)
When: 9:00 PM EST (Browns Pre-game for Cleveland viewers is at 8:30 PM)
Romeo Crennel didn't waste any time naming a starting quarterback for the most important game of the preseason. Charlie Frye will take control of the offense, and if he doesn't screw up royally, it would be safe to assume that he would lock up the starting quarterback role. If he throws several interceptions, then we may hear the talks of Derek Anderson starting spark up again. The quarterbacks aren't the only players competing for spots, because this will be the last time that many players have to impress the coaching staff enough to keep them on the roster.
What We're Looking For:
- Quarterbacks: As I stated above, Charlie Frye was named the starting quarterback for this game against the Broncos. Crennel has declined to state how much time Frye will have with the first unit, or how much time the other quarterbacks will have, but here are my projections. I believe Frye will play until there is about four-five minutes remaining in the first half. Then, I believe Derek Anderson will enter the game and finish off the half. Coming out of the half, I expect to see Brady Quinn take over the offense until the mid-way point of the fourth quarter. This would allow Quinn to not only get some deserved work in, but we'll have a chance at seeing him against the Broncos' first-string defenders for a series or two. Finally, Ken Dorsey would come out and play a series or two to close out the game.
- Running Backs: We saw Jamal Lewis receive a decent dose of carries last week, and I would be stunned if he didn't have around 15 carries against the Broncos. Denver is a good defensive team with a solid secondary, meaning it would be worth it to set up the pass off the run. I have nothing against Jason Wright, but I think we need to see Jerome Harrison and/or Chris Barclay in the game during obvious third-down passing situations throughout the first three quarters. Starting fullback Lawrence Vickers is out with an injury, meaning Charles Ali should get the start. I just cut Ali on my roster projection, so this is actually a golden opportunity for Ali to show what he's capable of finally.
- Wide Receivers: I called for it last week, but I didn't get it. Hopefully we'll see a ball thrown to Joe Jurevicius this week. Jurevicius won't be able to out-run the Broncos secondary, but he can be a great target on sideline passes against them. We should finally see the first action of the preseason from receiver Tim Carter, who has been battling several minor injuries. With another veteran receiver added to the mix, will more options open up for Frye? Finally, the receivers after Joshua Cribbs and Travis Wilson will have one final impression to make upon the coaches to keep them on the practice squad. In particular, I hope to see a lot of Steve Sanders, who I currently do not have on my practice squad.
- Tight Ends: We haven't seen much of Kellen Winslow during the first two games, and I expect that to change in this game. Frye isn't going to be able to beat Dre Bly and Champ Bailey consistently, making Winslow the No. 1 target for the quarterback out of Akron. Ryan Krause has had two great games catching the football, and a third one could put him on the final roster. With Vickers out of the lineup, I hope to see either Darnell Dinkins or Kraue line up in the backfield at fullback.
- Offensive Line: The Browns won't have the pleasure of shoving down the Browncos defensive line since it's been dismantled. I'm pretty confident that our pass protection will do well all-around this season, but this will be a huge test for our run defense. The Broncos typically defend the run very well, and if we can't provide enough penetration for Lewis to find some holes, then it won't look good heading into our Week 1 matchup with the Steelers. There is one specific roster battle I'm interested in here still: Fred Matua and Isaac Sowells. Both play the guard position, and only one of them should make the team.
- Defensive Line: The defensive line has not been a powerhouse, but it does seem like they are doing a better job at opening holes for linebackers to blitz through than what we saw last year. We'll be going against a quality NFL running back finally in Travis Henry, a good test for a half or three quarters to show just how good we can stop the run this year.
- Linebackers: Again this week, the progression of Leon Williams is going to be key. I was very impressed with how quick Williams was able to get to the running back last week compared to Andra Davis. No one is really saying anything internally, but Williams could seriously be pushing Davis for a starting role, or at least a cut into his playing time. Between the backups, it's do-or-die time for guys like David McMillan, Kris Griffin, or Mason Unck. Sure, I have all three of them making the roster, but you never know what can happen in the NFL.
- Defensive Backs: Due to his injuries throughout camp, DeMario Minter really hasn't had time to show himself off. He'll probably be kept around another week for sure, but his chances of making the team have to be in jeopardy. Leigh Bodden says that he's fine, but I hope we don't see an ankle tweak again - it scares me every time. With Gary Baxter not being as far along as hoped, the fourth spot on he depth chart at safety is wide open. Will Mike Adams take the spot by default, or will a cornerback show that he can convert over and multi-task?
- Special Teams: I wasn't worried about Phil Dawson's missed kick last week. I'd hope to see him get an attempt from beyond 45 yards in tonight. Even though Joshua Cribbs has the punt return job locked up, he really hasn't had too many cracks at a return. I think we should see less of Syndric Steptoe and Brandon McDonald at punt return, and more of Cribbs. Or, if they want to test Chris Barclay at punt return instead, I wouldn't mind seeing that just to fulfill my own curiosity.
This is the official gameday topic for the third preseason game of the year, featuring the Cleveland Browns against the Denver Broncos. All comments regarding the game should be posted in this topic. Last, but not least, GO BROWNS!!!