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Browns vs. Giants, NFL Preseason Week 2: Position Battles to Watch

Can Brock Osweiler do a better job of staking his claim as the Browns’ starting QB against the Giants? That is one of five things to watch this Monday.

Erik Drost on Flickr

The Cleveland Browns take on the New York Giants on Monday Night Football for their second game of the preseason. Will we get any more clarity on the quarterback position? 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:

OG Joel Bitonio (knee)
OT Cameron Erving (calf)
C Gabe Ikard (concussion)

On defense, the following players are not expected to play:

DT Danny Shelton (knee)
DT Caleb Brantley (shoulder)
DE Cam Johnson (knee)
CB Marcus Burley (face laceration)
SS Ibraheim Campbell (concussion)
FS Ed Reynolds (knee)

Five Things to Look For

1. Establishing a Rhythm: Even though QB Brock Osweiler has the prestige of starting in prime time, if you look at the way things have been playing out, things are set up for QB DeShone Kizer to claim the starting job by the end of the preseason. Kizer has already jumped to second on the depth chart, past second-year man Cody Kessler. That’s because Hue Jackson wants to see him against better competition in the first half of a football game.

If Osweiler wants to keep his starting role another week, it won’t come easy. The left tackle position already cost him a couple of drives in the first preseason game. This week, not only is Joe Thomas resting again, but Cam Erving is also out, forcing rookie left tackle Rod Johnson to start against a tough defensive front. Some might see that as a bit of a blessing, but trust me -- Johnson isn’t much less of a liability than Erving is at this point. John Greco also has to start at left guard for the injured Joel Bitonio.

Since the first preseason game, we’ve really seen Osweiler start to build some chemistry with Corey Coleman. David Njoku will also be ready to make his debut this week. Despite some of the flashy downfield throws Osweiler has had in camp, he’s been at his best when he hits receivers on bullets and in stride on throws around the 10-15 yard range. Jackson doesn’t need to see touchdown drives from Osweiler this week, but he needs to see something other than a handful of three-and-outs. If Osweiler can’t achieve that, then I’d expect Kizer to seize the opportunity and be in line to start the third preseason game.

2. A Little Bit of the Kickers: Head coach Hue Jackson has said that someone has the edge in the kicking competition between Cody Parkey and Zane Gonzalez. In terms of overall kicks this camp, it’s been pretty even. But Gonzalez had the upper hand in the one session I went to, which included a make from 56 yards out.

The first preseason game didn’t see any regular field goal attempts, but Gonzalez was the guy who attempted both extra points. I’ve said all along that if the competition is even, then Gonzalez will win it, and that appears to be the case right now. But with three preseason games to go, I’m sure Jackson wants to get the rookie tested in live action against the Giants, so don’t be surprised if there are fewer fourth-down conversion attempts this week.

Jackson and company desperately wanted to get that “winless” taste out of their mouths in the first preseason game, so the actual “result” of this one becomes less important, as long as they are able to see some more guys in situations that fit them.

3. David Njoku’s Debut: The first week or so of training camp was not kind to rookie tight end David Njoku. A few drops cooled some of the hype surrounding him, and then he missed the first preseason game with a back issue. He is expected to debut on Monday and quietly came off a week of practice in which he cut down on the dropped passes. Cleveland desperately needs a go-to receiving option, and Njoku will have his first shot at showing what he can do...although it won’t come easy if Pro Bowl safety Landon Collins is covering him.

4. Myles Garrett vs. Ereck Flowers: We’ve all seen what rookie DE Myles Garrett has been doing in practice, eating up players not named Joe Thomas on the depth chart. Last week, Garrett didn’t have a chance to register a sack, but he still had his fair share of plays that made the highlight reel. This week, Garrett will be going up against Ereck Flowers on the Giants' offensive line. To say that Giants fans aren't pleased with his abilities would be an understatement. I mean, the first Twitter search I did on his name saw a fan tweeting at Flowers that we "really need you to just tear an ACL, bro" [so you aren't starting anymore]. Cripes!

But there was some disagreement among fans and what actually happened. Some believed he gave up two sacks to the Steelers in limited time. Pro Football Focus disagreed and had him grading perfectly in his 12 pass-blocking snaps:

But fans know what they’ve been seeing in training camp too -- case in point, look at this play, which looks very much like what Garrett has been doing to left tackles in Cleveland’s sessions:

5. The Safety Position: For the second week in a row, the safety position makes the Top 5 things to watch. Last week, I can’t say that the Saints’ backup quarterbacks really worked Cleveland’s safeties in coverage. The Giants feature a more dynamic group of receivers with you think of Brandon Marshall, Odell Beckham, Sterling Shepard, and Evan Engram.

Cleveland remains very inexperienced at the safety position. Calvin Pryor is the team’s most experienced player at the position, but still appears to be playing with the third teamers. Ed Reynolds and Ibraheim Campbell were next up in terms of experience, but both of them are out with injuries. Derrick Kindred is still an experiment as the starting free safety, and Justin Currie is now with the first-teamers. Rookie Jabrill Peppers should see more work with the first-string this week, and he had one day of practice last Monday that allowed for a compilation of highlight-reel plays.

Game Thread

Our game thread on Dawgs By Nature will go live at 7:00 PM ET on Monday, which is an hour before kickoff. Be sure to check in for the second preseason game of the year!