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Browns-Bears: What To Watch For

Posted Aug 26, 2014

Six things to monitor during the final preseason game on Thursday

1)      Nate Burleson

Burleson needs to play against the Bears, no ifs, ands or buts. Everyone in the Browns entire organization loves Burleson as a person. There’s no doubting the role model effect and positive energy he’s brought to the wide receivers classroom. But it will be extremely hard for Cleveland to hold onto one roster spot for someone they haven’t seen play in a live game.

2)      Other wide receivers

Miles Austin, Andrew Hawkins and Travis Benjamin are locked in at receiver. Burleson, Taylor Gabriel, Charles Johnson and Willie Snead are competing for the other two spots. It seems like if any one of these four stands out with 75 yards receiving or more, they could make the squad. In terms of plays made and consistency, it seems like Gabriel heads into the final game with a leg up on his competition.

3)      Battle for the last cornerback spots

Three spots are reserved for Joe Haden, Buster Skrine and Justin Gilbert, and almost certainly a fourth for rookie Pierre Desir. Aaron Berry, Leon McFadden, Isaiah Trufant and K’Waun Williams are all battling for the final spot. McFadden’s strong performance against the Rams will be heavily considered. The corner held his own and played 81 of 85 total snaps on defense.

4)      Third running back spot

Pettine has pointed out this is Dion Lewis’ position to lose. With Ben Tate and Terrance West likely to rest most of the game, Lewis will be splitting carries with Isaiah Crowell and Chris Ogbannaya. Crowell is a wild card who has looked the part in practice, but has just a handful of carries in the preseason. Ogbannaya can do it all – including tackling on special teams. As good as Lewis has looked, this still is not an easy decision.   

5)      Rex Grossman vs. Connor Shaw

Pettine indicated on Monday the coaching staff needs to assess where Grossman is, and he will likely start the third quarter. Because of Grossman’s familiarity with the offense, it might make sense for Connor Shaw to see all the fourth quarter reps. As iffy as Shaw has looked at times in practice, there’s no denying he led the team down the field against the Redskins, nearly walking away with the victory. It’ll be a tough balance, but it would be an educated guess to say we see all four quarterbacks play against the Bears.

6)      Johnny Manziel

Obviously, Brian Hoyer is the starting quarterback of the Cleveland Browns. So, when will we see Manziel again? Pettine has not been clear if the Browns plan to use Manziel in a package on offense – probably on purpose. Having a rookie weapon on the bench like Manziel is a strong advantage for Cleveland. Remember this: Kyle Shanahan did not unleash the read-option with Robert Griffin III until Week One of the 2012 season in New Orleans. It’s been well documented the San Francisco 49ers also eased in Colin Kaepernick in certain packages back in 2012, while Alex Smith did the heavy lifting. Manziel showed progression last week against the Rams’ reserves. As the rookie keeps gaining more and more NFL experience, it would be wise to expect to see similar results against the Bears.

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