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Browns vs. Buccaneers, NFL Preseason Week 3: Position Battles to Watch

Here are the things that Cleveland Browns fans should look for in Saturday's preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Browns will take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Saturday for their third game of the preseason, otherwise known as the dress rehearsal for the regular season. Here is a preview of what you should look for in the game from the Browns.

Injury Report - Who's In, Who's Out?

On offense, the following players are not expected to play:
QB Johnny Manziel (elbow)
QB Connor Shaw (right thumb)
RB Glenn Winston (knee)
FB Luke Lundy (concussion)
TE Randall Telfer (foot)
OL Michael Bowie (shoulder)

On defense, the following players are not expected to play:
DL Ishmaa’ily Kitchen (groin)
OLB Barkevious Mingo (knee)
CB K’Waun Williams (abdominal)
CB Justin Gilbert (hip flexor)
CB Robert Nelson Jr. (hamstring)
CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (knee)
S Jordan Poyer (concussion)

Five Things to Look For

1. The Debut of Duke Johnson: We are entering our third game of the preseason, yet the running back position still remains unsettled. We could start to get a little more clarity this week as rookie Duke Johnson will make his debut after returning from a hamstring injury. Johnson is expected to have a role on offense regardless as a third-down receiving type of back, but with Wilbert Montgomery calling out the players at the position a couple of weeks ago, could he end up taking the starting role?

It's a tough situation from a coaching standpoint to find enough time to give Johnson some reps, while also making sure either Isaiah Crowell or Terrance West get their reps too, if they are still expected to start as the No. 1 back. Shaun Draughn will also play this week, but only on special teams. Johnson could also get some reps as the kickoff returner.

2. Does Terrelle Pryor Look the Part? Barring another tweak-of-the-hamstring, Terrelle Pryor is expected to make his first appearance as a wide receiver in the NFL. Pryor's utilization this week will go a long way in planting the seed as to whether or not the coaching staff believes he has a shot at making the roster. It's not like he's an undrafted free agent who the coaching staff wants to keep hidden -- I think the Browns truly want to know if he's capable of taking hits at the position and getting open against press coverage. The only way to find out is throwing him into the fire. If that means that guys like Darius Jennings, Josh Lenz, and Shane Wynn lose some reps, then so be it. The coaches should already have their minds made up on those players -- now is the time to see what Pryor can offer.

3. Another Test for the Kickers: Both Carey Spear and Travis Coons have made their kicks this preseason, and the competition is viewed as being neck-and-neck to this point. This week's game features another important test for NFL kickers, and that's kicking on the road. To make matters more complicated, the forecast is calling for a possible thunderstorm at the beginning of the game. I know it's fun to go for it on fourth down during the preseason at times, but this is a week where putting field goal attempts on the board isn't a bad idea to test each kicker.

4. Defense is Back Together: Although K'Waun Williams and Barkevious Mingo will miss this week's game, the entire starting defense should be able to play this week. Even though the Browns are facing a high-profile prospect in Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay's offense should face their fair share of struggles to begin the season. I've circled the first three games of the season for Cleveland as the ones where our defense should be expected to get off to a great start. If the defense doesn't look crisp against the Buccaneers or can't get off the field on third downs, though, it'll provide some cause for concern.

5. Keeping Josh McCown Upright: I think Johnny Manziel will end up being fine for Week 1, but the Browns can't afford to let Josh McCown take a beating. If something happens to him, that means the team would be down to Thaddeus Lewis as the No. 1 quarterback for the next two games, throwing the quarterback position into a bit of disarray leading up to the opener. Pat Devlin is not expected to play this week, but the team will burn off his arm for a decent portion of the fourth preseason game.

Game Thread

Our game thread on Dawgs By Nature will go live at 6:00 PM ET, which is an hour before kickoff. Be sure to check in for the third preseason game of the year!

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