The national television audience will see a familiar face under center for the Cleveland Browns on Sunday night in Atlanta.
The Browns will close out the preseason with a road game against the Atlanta Falcons and quarterback Baker Mayfield will be among a group of “select starters” who will see playing time.
That is according to head coach Kevin Stefanski, who dropped that little nugget of information during his media appearance on Friday, according to a team-provided transcript:
“The plan for the game, we will have some select starters play in this game. Baker Mayfield will play in this game. There are other guys who we are going to hold (out). We are just making decisions individually based on who needs to get some reps, making those decisions based on these practice reps, based on the joint practice reps and based on game reps so we will hold some other guys out.”
Stefanski did not go into specifics about who else among the starters will play or for how long, but with Mayfield playing it is reasonable to expect that the starting offensive line will be on the field as long as Mayfield is in the game.
It will be interesting to see how many of the starters on defense will play as well. While there is certainly some value to not having the first time that group sees live action be on September 12 against the Kansas City Chiefs, Stefanski said that every rep is a good rep, no matter where it takes place:
“For all of those guys, whether you are on the practice field, you are in a walkthrough or you are in a preseason game, I think it is a great opportunity for guys to communicate with each other, to change the front and to change the blitz on motion. All of that is invaluable. The guys that are out there on Sunday night will certainly get some reps, but I do not discount the reps that we are getting out here.”
The decision on how much to play the starters in the preseason is one of the trickier ones that head coaches face across the NFL. If you sit the starters and the team gets off to a slow start to the regular season, then you are criticized for not having the team ready. Play them and a key player gets hurt, then you are criticized for not protecting your best players.
Stefanski stressed on Friday that the team has a plan and, as with everything, they are being smart about the situation.
Hopefully, he does not have any regrets come Sunday night.