The Browns are heading into their third and final preseason game Saturday against the Bears with the goal of playing QB Jacoby Brissett and most of the other starters, which means the first few series of the game will be among the most important of the preseason.
Brissett hasn't played yet in the preseason, and the Browns will be looking for him to put the offense into a rhythm and build some momentum as they prepare for him to be under center through the first 11 games.
"We felt like Jacoby should get some reps out there and get some snaps out there with the ones in a game setting," head coach Kevin Stefanski said. "He's doing a really nice job getting a ton of reps out here, as well."
How he performs will be one of the biggest questions of the afternoon, and there's a few other questions worth keeping in mind before rosters have to be trimmed to 53 players Tuesday by 4 p.m.
1. How does the offense fare with Brissett?
How Brissett performs will of course be the biggest takeaway from Saturday. It will be the second time this preseason that he's gone against a defense that's not the Browns' own, with the first being the two joint practices the Browns had against the Eagles last week. Brissett looked fine in those practices and didn't throw an interception, and it would be pleasing to see him show some chemistry with other receivers who will be slotted behind Amari Cooper on the depth chart.
"We want to see what we do in the drives that Jacoby is in there," Stefanski said. "If we feel like he needs more time or if we feel like he needs certain plays full speed in a game setting, we will do that. It's just a constant communication with the coaches to make sure we get what we need."
Check out photos of players and coaches working to prepare for the teams final preseason game against the Chicago Bears Saturday
2. Which other starters will play?
Stefanski didn't name any starters who will or will not play Saturday besides Brissett and OT Jack Conklin, whom Stefanski said will not play. Conklin has been gradually working back in practice the last few weeks since returning to the field from a season-ending knee injury last year.
Outside of Cooper, the Browns might look to play WRs Donovan Peoples-Jones, Anthony Schwartz, David Bell and TEs David Njoku and Harrison Bryant, who all figure to be among his other top target options come Week 1. Defensively, it's worth noting that CB Greg Newsome II returned to practice Thursday from a hamstring injury that sidelined him for a week and DE Myles Garrett returned to practice last Friday after he was excused for four days due to a personal reason. When the Browns started Week 1 of the preseason with most of their starters, Newsome, Garrett, Jadeveon Clowney, S John Johnson III and LB Anthony Walker Jr. were all among the defensive starters who did not play.
3. Can any of the WRs build a big game?
The Browns have been looking for anyone behind Cooper and Peoples-Jones on the depth chart to step up and flash in a preseason game. That hasn't happened so far, and the group has one game left to do it.
RB Jerome Ford is the only player to catch a receiving touchdown, and the Browns would love to see some big plays among a group that includes Schwartz, Bell, Javon Wims, Ja'Marcus Bradley, Mike Harley Jr., Daylen Baldwin and Easop Winston. Bell, the third-round rookie WR from Purdue, could be one player who receives a big chunk of playing time after he caught three passes for 46 yards in his preseason debut last week.
4. What other position battles are still ongoing?
Outside of WR, the Browns are still looking to solidify some backup roles across the roster. DEs Isaiah Thomas, Isaac Rochell, Curtis Weaver and Chase Winovich, who hasn't practiced the last two weeks due to a hamstring injury, are competing for rotational spots. CBs A.J. Green and third-round rookie M.J. Emerson Jr. are competing for the fourth spot in the cornerbacks room, and there's an important battle ongoing between Miller Forristall, Nakia Griffin-Stewart, Zaire Mitchell-Paden and Nick Guggemos for the third spot at tight end.
And ever since Jakeem Grant's season ended with an Achilles injury during training camp, the Browns have been searching for their next kick and punt returners. RB/WR Demetric Felton is slotted at both positions on the unofficial depth chart, but Harley, Winston, Peoples-Jones, Ford and S Ronnie Harrison Jr. have all taken turns in those roles in the last week, too.