BEREA, Ohio -- The long wait for football has ended!
The Cleveland Browns begin the preseason this Thursday against the St. Louis Rams at FirstEnergy Stadium.
The Browns and Rams have a rich history in the preseason, going back to Cleveland’s 7-6 win in their first-ever meeting in 1951. The teams played every preseason from 1953 through 1974, but have met only four times in the 39 years since.
Overall, the Browns are 12-14-1 against the Rams in preseason action, but 3-2 in home games.
In the last meeting, which took place in the 2010 preseason, the Rams earned a 19-17 victory over the Browns on a rain-soaked night at then-Cleveland Browns Stadium.
In the first quarter, the Browns had four fumbles and lost two of them. The last fumble, on Joshua Cribbs’ lone punt return of the first half, led to a 39-yard field goal by Josh Brown.
Midway through the first quarter, quarterback Jake Delhomme fumbled a snap which was recovered by Rams defensive tackle Fred Robbins. Though the Rams had the ball first-and-10 at the Browns’ 23-yard line, they managed only three points on Brown’s 32-yard field goal.
After forcing the Browns to punt, the Rams had a 10-play, 65-yard drive on their first possession. Rams starting quarterback A.J. Feeley connected on five pass attempts, the last of which went to tight end Daniel Fells for a nine-yard score. Fells caught the pass at the four-yard line and muscled his way into the end zone with a defender draped on his hips.
The Browns posted two scores in the second quarter, but still trailed at halftime.
Former Browns kicker Phil Dawson kicked a 38-yard field goal with 38 seconds remaining in the first half to further cut into the deficit. The defense held the Rams at bay for the remainder of the second quarter.
Cleveland cut into the Rams’ lead with a sustained drive bridging the first and second quarters.
After driving to St. Louis’ six-yard line in 10 plays, Delhomme lofted a ball to the back of the end zone on second-and-goal. Tight end Benjamin Watson stuck his left hand in the air and hauled in the pass, but the back judge ruled an incomplete pass.
A coach’s challenge of the play led to the call being overturned after it was ruled Watson had possession of the ball and two feet down in bounds. It was Watson’s second touchdown of the preseason.
The Browns came back from a 13-point first quarter deficit, but allowed two St. Louis field goals in the fourth quarter of the loss. Brown booted 21 and 28-yard field goals in the fourth to close out all scoring and Lancaster, Ohio, native Bobby Carpenter sealed the win when he intercepted Brett Ratliff’s pass on third-and-10.
As the game unfolds, here are several things to keep an eye on:
Weeden finished the 2012 season second among rookies in passing yards, passing first downs (168) and 20-plus yard passes (48), and his 3,385 yards passing were the seventh-most ever by an NFL rookie quarterback. They were also the 10th most yards in a single season for a Browns signal-caller.
Last season, Weeden also threw for four of the top five single-game passing yardage totals, including the top three, and three of the top five longest touchdown passes by a Browns rookie quarterback. His three 300-yard passing performances were the most-ever by a Browns rookie and tied for fourth in club history for a single season.
His rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, carries, total touchdowns (12), points scored (72), and scrimmage yards (1,317) eclipsed the franchise’s previous marks, while the three 100-yard rushing games equaled the record set by William Green in the 2002 season.
Richardson finished in the top ten in scoring among non-kickers. He also finished third in receptions by a first-year player, third in both rushing yards and scrimmage yards by a rookie and fourth in first downs (54 total), and tied for second for points scored among NFL rookies.
In 2012, Kruger led the Ravens with nine quarterback sacks. During Baltimore’s march to the Super Bowl XLVII championship, Kruger had 4.5 sacks in the playoffs, including two against San Francisco 49ers signal-caller Colin Kaepernick in the Super Bowl.
Rams quarterback Sam Bradford. Bradford enters 2013 after completing 328 of 551 attempts for 3,702 yards and 21 touchdowns against 13 interceptions last year. Despite being sacked 35 times for 233 lost yards, Bradford carried an 82.6 quarterback rating and averaged 3.4 yards per carry when he ran out of the pocket.
Rookie wide receiver Tavon Austin. In four years at West Virginia, Austin caught 288 passes for 3,413 yards and 29 touchdowns. The fact that more than 10 percent of Austin’s catches went for touchdowns in college coupled with him posting a low time of 4.3 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine made the Rams trade up in the 2013 NFL Draft to select him.
Rams defensive end Chris Long. Since being the No. 2 overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, Long has registered 182 total tackles and 147 solo stops. The son of former Oakland Raiders great and Pro Football Hall of Famer, Howie Long, Chris has collected 42.0 sacks in five seasons, with 24.5 coming in the last two years.
The Browns continue their preseason schedule next Thursday night against the Detroit Lions in the annual Great Lakes Class at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Rams return home to the Edward Jones Dome to host the Green Bay Packers next Saturday.
Browns offensive lineman
Browns special-teams coordinator Chris Tabor earned his Master’s degree from Columbia (Mo.) College, and later coached at Missouri (1997-2000), first as the offensive graduate assistant and then, the running backs and special-teams coach.
Tabor was the head coach of Culver-Stockton College in Canton, Mo., in 2001.
Cleveland’s inside linebackers coach, Ken Flajole, coached the defensive backs and outside linebackers at Missouri from 1989-93.
Steve Gera, the Browns’ assistant to head coach Rob Chudzinski, is a native of St. Louis, and graduate of Missouri.
Special-teams assistant Shawn Mennenga played defensive back for Missouri in 1992. He later coached at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Mo., first as a graduate assistant in 1994, and later, the secondary coach from 1995-96.
Mennenga also served as the defensive coordinator (2001) and head coach (2002-04) at Culver-Stockton College.
Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer is the son of former Browns coach Marty Schottenheimer.
St. Louis’ assistant special teams coach, Paul F. Boudreau, was a graduate assistant coach at the University of Cincinnati from 1998-99.
Andy Dickerson, the Rams’ assistant offensive line coach, served in the same capacity with the Browns in 2010. He was also the Browns’ defensive quality-control coach in 2009.
Rams running backs coach Ben Sirmans held the same position at Kent State University from 2000-04.
Rams linebacker James Laurinaitis and long-snapper Jake McQuaide went to The Ohio State University.
Laurinaitis started 39 of 51 games during his time at Ohio State and was just the seventh Buckeye ever to be a two-year captain. At the end of his college career, his 375 total tackles ranked seventh in school history. He was the second player ever to lead Ohio State in tackles in three seasons (2006-08).
During his time in Columbus, Laurinaitis earned All-America and All-Big 10 honors, and won the Bronko Nagurski Award, given annually to the best defensive player in the country.
McQuaide walked on at Ohio State, and eventually earned the long-snapper job for three years. He is a native of Cincinnati and went to Archbishop Elder High School.
St. Louis running back Isaiah Pead is a native of Columbus, and graduated from Eastmoor Academy before playing football at the University of Cincinnati. The former Ohio Division III Player of the Year broke two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin’s career rushing record in high school and was the 2011 Big East Offensive Player of the Year.
Rams offensive lineman Rodger Saffold is a native of Bedford, Ohio, and graduated from Bedford High School. A two-way lineman for the Bearcats, he earned All-Lake Erie League, All-District, and All-Ohio honors as a senior, and represented his school in the 2006 Ohio North-South All-Star Game.
Fans can watch Thursday’s game at 8 p.m./ET on local NBC affiliate, WKYC-TV 3. Jim Donovan, former Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar and sideline reporter Dave Chudowsky will be on the call.
The game is also available along the Browns Radio Network with Michael Reghi, Doug Dieken, and Jamir Howerton on the call. All radio broadcasts will be streamed live at ClevelandBrowns.com.
“What to Watch For is brought to you by Arby’s -- Try Arby’s new, bakery-quality California Turkey Croissant Sandwich today. Arby’s. Slicing Up Freshness.”