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Could the Browns be using Week 17 as a “preseason” finale?

San Diego Chargers v Cleveland Browns Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

In Week 17, NFL coaches treat the games differently depending on the circumstances of their team.

The Packers and Lions will have no choice but to go all out in hopes of winning the NFC North title (and possibly clinching a playoff spot). The Cowboys might not want to rest their starters the whole game, in fear of a two-week layoff creating some rust when they host their first playoff game. The Bills are going with a new quarterback because of a coaching change and a difference of opinion in the front office. The Steelers know they’ll have a first-round playoff game the following week, and don’t want to risk injury to their big guns against the Browns:

For Cleveland, I think we’ve seen more than a handful of weeks in which head coach Hue Jackson has had his playing time decisions influenced by wanting to get that first win. That monkey is finally off his back heading into the final game of the season, and we’re expected to see Cody Kessler start if Robert Griffin III remains in the concussion protocol. While I’m sure Jackson will not take a knee every play to “throw the game,” I can see him treating this one as more of a “preseason finale,” in which he gets some advance tape on certain players heading into 2017. That thought was fueled by comments made by Cameron Erving after practice today:

Remember that the Browns just waived Jonathan Cooper, the starter for the past three games at right guard. So we knew something was going to change on the offensive line in Week 17, but now the changes could be more drastic. If I really decide to play in to this possibility, we could see something like:

  • LT Joe Thomas
  • LG Spencer Drango
  • C Anthony Fabiano / Gabe Ikard
  • RG Austin Pasztor / Alvin Bailey
  • RT Cameron Erving / Shon Coleman

The most fluid position could be on the offensive line. For those preaching chemistry, we’re at a point where Cleveland has been allowing like ten sacks a game over the past month. I’d say this is a rare case where making changes can only improve the on-field results, at least when it comes to pass protection.

What other positions could see some changes? Duke Johnson (ankle) and Terrelle Pryor (finger) both have minor injuries, so what about letting one of the other two running backs or rookie receivers a few more reps? On defense, could we see a little bit more of Joe Schobert, or will Dominique Alexander finally get a couple of reps on defense? In a game where you want to compete (against backups) and maintain the No. 1 pick without completing laying down, increasing the reps for the back end of the roster might be the best route to take.