The Cleveland Browns will take on the Chicago Bears on Thursday for their fourth game of the preseason. Here is a reader's digest of what you can expect to see from Cleveland in their final tune-up for the regular season:
What to Look For - Bears vs. Browns
- Playing Time: The rough plan for head coach Mike Pettine this week is to get all four quarterbacks into the game, with about a quarter of play each. Something like this would seem within the realm of possibility:
-1st Quarter: Brian Hoyer
-2nd Quarter: Johnny Manziel
-3rd Quarter: Rex Grossman
-4th Quarter: Connor Shaw
Manziel could possibly play into the third quarter a little bit. The Browns definitely want to give Grossman some reps, and that tells me that he's going to make the team. Why would they waste reps on him if they were planning to cut him two days later?
Nate Burleson's Revival: I'm going to sound like a broken record when it comes to WR Nate Burleson, but it's remarkable how his stock has increased so much by missing the first three preseason games. When our other receivers didn't look so hot, I started thinking, "maybe we do need Burleson."
Now that WR Josh Gordon has the one-year ban, it feels like we definitely need Burleson. We don't know how much playing time Burleson will get this week, but he's expected to make his preseason debut.
RB Battle: The Browns seem pretty settled with RB Dion Lewis being the No. 3 running back. The only two running backs still on the roster after that are RB Chris Ogbonnaya and RB Isaiah Crowell. If the Browns are hell bent on stashing Crowell on their 53-man roster, then this would be the week to give Crowell all of the second-half reps.
FB Battle: The Browns seem to be toying with the thought of keeping FB Ray Agnew, and if they do, it might be more related to how he looks on special teams. I don't think he'll make the roster, but Agnew could be on the verge of a job if he looks good on film.
WR Battle: Now that Gordon is out, the Browns have four receivers likely to make the team. I'd like to think the fifth will be WR Taylor Gabriel, but there's a chance that six receivers will now make the team. WR Charles Johnson is the favorite for that spot, but honestly, has he looked any better in camp than WR Tori Gurley ever did in the past? WR Willie Snead now has a little bit of hope for that sixth spot. WR Marlon Moore has an outside shot for his special teams contributions, but I don't see it because he hasn't been getting many receiver reps.
OL Battle: It's probably incredibly difficult to pick up two offensive linemen off waivers and then insert them into your offensive line at the last second. With that said, given how bad our second unit has been, I hope we see a lot of OL Donald Hawkins and OL Karim Barton. Even if they don't impress enough, what's the harm -- just waive them and look over the waiver wire for other teams' "better cuts" when rosters are trimmed to 53 players.
LB Battle: Even though the competition between ILB Chris Kirksey and ILB Craig Robertson is still on, I think it's rather clear that both plan on being utilized this season, so it's not like there will be a firm "winner" there. The No. 4 outside linebacker and No. 4 inside linebacker positions are still up-in-the-air, but they aren't the most exciting of battles.
S Battle: On the back end of the roster, the Browns still need to decide between S Jim Leonhard, S Johnson Bademosi, and S Josh Aubrey as their No. 4 and No. 5 safeties. Leonhard and Aubrey seem to be the better fits at safety, but Bademosi has the special teams accolades.
CB Battle: The Browns will be without their primary cornerbacks again, so this will be a redux of the Rams game: Justin Gilbert and Leon McFadden basically getting the starter treatment in a preseason game. Gilbert needs a rebound game, while McFadden continues to fight for his job and improve his chances by virtue of the injuries at the position.
Avoid Going 0-4: It's just the preseason, but it would be nice for the Browns to walk into the locker room with at least one taste of victory heading into the regular season.
Game Thread: Our game thread on Dawgs By Nature will go live at 6:00 PM ET, which is two hours before kickoff. Be sure to check in for the final preseason game of the year!