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Training Camp

Browns vs. Bills: 5 things to know for Cleveland's 2nd preseason game

The Bills and Browns have spent so much time together this week, and their playing styles mirror each other so much, doctors could soon rule the teams to be the NFL's Siamese twins.

We made 20 observations from our two days at St. John Fisher College watching the two teams practice together Monday and Tuesday. Here's what we'll look for from the Browns on ESPN tonight at 8 p.m.

Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell


Coach Mike Pettine has been adamant he is not panicking about his pair of second-year running backs, but how comforting would it be to see these two rip off some chunk runs in the open field?

Remember a year ago, Crowell used the preseason as a springboard to not only make the roster, but carve out a role as a legitimate touchdown machine with eight  in 2014. West has relayed his enthusiasm about an increased role as a pass-catcher in Cleveland's revamped offense, but August has been a quiet month thus far from the 5-foot-10, 225-pounder.

The preseason is often taken with a grain of salt, but if Crowell and West gain significant yards against a Rex Ryan scheme and one of the strongest fronts in the NFL, it'll be something to build upon. Suffice to say, the offensive line will have to pave holes for the running game to start churning.

Defensive line competition is thick


Youngsters Jamie Meder and Dylan Wynn are putting significant heat on some of the Browns' incumbent veterans.

Meder was Cleveland's highest graded player last week against the Redskins, according to Pro Football Focus, and he's much stronger than his 295-pound frame indicates. Wynn has coaches gushing because of his "Play Like A Brown" characteristics and disruptive potential alongside fellow Pac-12 rookies Danny Shelton and Xavier Cooper.

Pettine has time and time again said the 53 best men will make the Browns roster. Nobody is going to be handed a spot.

"Those are going to be some real tough decisions," Pettine said at a recent press conference.

Billy Winn (ankle/knee) returns to the field Thursday against the Bills. Expect the 26-year-old to be firing on all cylinders to prove he's still a playmaker who can be counted upon.

Johnny Manziel


What we've learned from nearly a month of training camp from Manziel is this: He's become mentally sharper with everything on the field – calling audibles, setting offensive line protections, knowing when and where to throw the ball. The progress is uncanny at this point for those in the media who have watched him practice for two straight years.

What we still need to see is simple: Manziel has to stand in the pocket more comfortably. If he feels pressure brushing up on him, step up in the pocket; don't flee. His scrambling outside the pocket habit won him a Heisman trophy at Texas A&M, but it's an instinctual habit he's still trying to ween off in the NFL.

"Just progress. Really that's it," Manziel said when asked about what he wants to see from himself against the Bills. "Do better than last week. We scored once last week. Let's get in twice this week."

The kicking competition


When media members speculated about Cleveland's 53-man roster back in July, a portion suggested the Browns Week 1 kicker wasn't even on the roster yet. Surely, general manager Ray Farmer would opt to sign a released veteran over two players who've never kicked in a regular season game. Right?

Well, maybe not.

So far Travis Coons and Carey Spear seem to be in a dead heat. At the Orange and Brown scrimmage in Columbus, Coons banged home kicks from 53 and 47 yards, while Spear nailed a 47-yarder last week against Washington. Both have shown the ability to boot the ball deep in the end zone. Both have more than a fighting chance to kick this season for the Browns.

Kendall James and Charles Gaines


With Joe Haden, Pierre Desir, K'Waun Williams and Justin Gilbert all likely out against Buffalo, and with Tramon Williams only likely to play the first quarter, cornerbacks Kendall James and Charles Gaines are expected to log heavy snaps.

There's all kind of ways to do the Browns 53-man roster math, and there are certainly scenarios where both could make the team. But more than likely, this pair will be fighting for a single spot on the active roster as a special teamer and reserve cornerback to be called upon in an injury pinch.

The coaches like how physical the 5-foot-10, 180-pound Gaines plays. Meanwhile, the 5-foot-11, 180-pound James has opened eyes on the staff because of his instincts and eyesight as a ball hawk. Because the starters and key backups are expected to play a big role in preseason game No. 3 against the Buccaneers, Gaines and James will come into big focus Thursday night.

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