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Cleveland Browns-Detroit Lions Preview


You never forget your first game as the head coach. Never.

Mike Pettine will downplay it. And to a degree, he's right.

This isn't the regular season. Losses sting. They aren't devastating. Some of the play will be sloppy. Some of the crowd might trickle out during the second half.

But preseason or not, you better believe there will be a moment where Pettine soaks it all up. From the high school sidelines, to the Ravens video coordinating room, to now, manning his very own football team.

"Absolutely," replied Pettine to a question about whether the first game will be a special one. "I'm excited for the guys, too. They've put in so much work and to finally get to go against somebody else. I know they're tired of smacking each other around. I think it'll be a special day, but, to me, it's more for the staff and the team then it is for me personally."

The reason for the excitement surrounding the Browns isn't that Pettine is here. It's what he's doing. Cleveland has fully bought in to Pettine's ways.

The Browns head coach let the media attend the conditioning test, sending a message to the players that they better be in shape, or the public will know. He's implemented the orange jersey competition, which has created some of the most fascinating and memorable practice instances – situations that sometimes feel like crunch time of a game, or what would be an epic scene in HBO's Hard Knocks. Pettine let Joe Thomas kick field goals to end practice on Thursday.

These subtle, little aspects of being a head coach have been noticed.

"Coach Pettine is a players coach, but he's also old school," said wide receiver Nate Burleson. "You need that. You need a balance. You need a guy who can pat you on the butt and crack a joke with you, but also tear you down if you make a mistake. You need a guy who can ask you about your family but at the same time challenge you to be better as an athlete and as a man. After you take the jersey off you can look at [Pettine] as a friend."

The Game

  • Burleson returns to Detroit, where he recorded 194 catches 2,083 yards and 12 touchdowns from 2010-2013. Even more notably, he mentored Calvin Johnson.
  • The Browns have played the Lions in every preseason since returning to the NFL in 1999, posting a 7-5 record.
  • Jim Donovan and Solomon Wilcots make their debut together in television booth at Ford Field. Tune into WKYC at 7 p.m. for our preview show Building the Browns. Kickoff is slated for 7:30.
    The Lions
  • Quarterback Matt Stafford told he's taking this preseason more seriously than he normally would. The Lions are implementing a brand new offense under offensive guru head coach Jim Caldwell.
  • "I'm being coached differently," said Stafford. "Our drops are different. Our reads are different. The plays are totally different. So it was kind of nice to scrap everything and start from new with the way they wanted me to do it."
  • Lions position battles: Right tackle, LaAdrian Waddle vs. Corey Hilliard; Defensive end, Jason Jones vs. Devin Taylor; Slot receiver, Ryan Broyles vs. Kris Durham; Cornerback. Darius Slay vs. Rashean Mathis vs. Bill Bentley.
    The storyline
  • Without question, it's Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel. Pettine has said time and time again this competition will be weighed heavily on how the quarterbacks play in the preseason. Here’s what we said about Hoyer and Manziel in our 11 players to watch.  
    There might not be any three-play, 81-yard drives from Hoyer against the Lions. That's fine. Hoyer isn't a lightning-rod quarterback. The 28-year-old's strength is methodically marching the Browns down the field and controlling the football – things head coach Mike Pettine has stressed he wants his program to be about. Look for Hoyer to show off his expertise of the offense, to get rid of the ball quickly and to keep the chains moving.

The strides Manziel has made in the last few days of practice is easily the most promising development during training camp. Now that he's confident of where he's throwing the ball, deep completions have become the norm. If Manziel can translate his growth into touchdowns on Saturday in Detroit, the coaching staff may not have any choice but to start him against the Redskins and Robert Griffin III on Monday Night Football.

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