The Cleveland Browns' quarterback situation will have eyeballs glued to ESPN on Monday night, as football fans across the country debate whether the franchise should start Brian Hoyer or Johnny Manziel Week One against the Steelers.
But what's getting lost in the shuffle is that the Browns will be finalizing all of their other competition battles, using Monday's Redskins game as the last final test.
Will rookie inside linebacker Chris Kirksey unseat Craig Robertson and end up starting next to Karlos Dansby? Or will Pettine platoon both in a rotation?
With Buster Skrine out with a thumb injury, rookie cornerback Justin Gilbert has been inserted into the starting lineup. But because of Skrine's tremendous training camp, Gilbert will have to play lights out to hold onto the starting spot alongside Joe Haden.
Then of course there's wide receiver number two – pending Josh Gordon's appeal. It appears Miles Austin has all but locked up the number one spot, but who will line up next to him. Travis Benjamin was wide open all week during practice and could get some reps early on in the game. Nate Burleson was brought in to be that guy, but a nagging arm injury has sidelined him for a good portion of training camp. Andrew Hawkins has been stellar, but ideally, he's not a player you want receiving 50-plus snaps a game – to keep him healthy. Anthony Armstrong, Taylor Gabriel and Willie Snead will have a real chance to shine on Monday night in front of a national audience.
- Browns offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan returns to Washington, following a four-year stint with the Redskins. Don't be surprised if you hear cheers when Shanahan's name is called. A majority of Redskins fans adored the play caller, who helped lead the team to its first NFC East title since 1999. Wide receivers coach Mike McDaniel was also an assistant with the Redskins for three seasons.
- Quarterback Rex Grossman and wide receiver Anthony Armstrong are former Redskins now with the Browns. Quarterback Colt McCoy and guard Shawn Lauvao are former Browns now with the Redskins. Browns head coach Mike Pettine hinted Grossman would likely not receive any snaps against Washington.
- Redskins head coach Jay Gruden was born in Tiffin, OH.
- Running back Terrance West went to Towson University, which is less than an hour away from FedEx Field.
- The last time the Browns and Redskins met in the preseason was back in 2001. Tim Couch and Jeff George were the starting quarterbacks.
- To appease Gruden's pass first approach, the Redskins added wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts in the offseason. Experts are regarding the unit as one of the best in the entire NFL.
- Last season the Redskins had a historically bad special teams unit, which led to their demise in many games. Under new special teams coordinator Ben Kotwica, a former New York Jets assistant and member of the military, Washington's special teams play seems much improved.
- How much will Robert Griffin III play? Having zero repetitions in the 2013 preseason hurt the former offensive rookie of the year winner. Even though he's fully healthy, many are arguing it would be wise for Griffin to play nearly all of the first half.
*The Storyline *
It's Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel. We wrote this in our What To Watch For preview.
- In the final stretches of the competition, the job is there for the taking. If the quarterback competition is as neck-and-neck as it seems, the decision on who to choose as the starter might come down to which quarterback finally gets Cleveland in the end zone. The Browns have only settled for field goals in their scrimmage and their lone preseason affair. Each time the Browns pass midfield and don't come away with a touchdown, the monkey grows larger on their backs.