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Cleveland Browns vs. Washington Redskins Game Preview

Who: Washington Redskins

When: August 13 (Thursday)

Where: FirstEnergy Stadium

Preseason series history (Last meeting): 3-9 (Redskins 24, Browns 23 in 2014 at Fed Ex Field)

The coach: Jay Gruden

The stakes: Two second-year coaches in Gruden and Mike Pettine look to show off polished programs aiming to finish above .500 in 2015.

Matchup to watch: Alfred Morris vs. Browns run defense. Cleveland will debut their two rookie defensive linemen (Danny Shelton and Xavier Cooper) and tweaks up front against Washington's workhorse running back. Morris has averaged 1,320 and nine touchdowns per year in his first three NFL seasons.


Offseason storyline: General Manager Scot McCloughan. The former 49ers and Seahawks executive was hired in January by owner Dan Snyder and he's putting his stamp on the Redskins. McCloughan retooled a defense with three new projected starters in the secondary and given Robert Griffin III a vote of confidence by picking up the quarterback's contract option.

Biggest addition: DT Terrance Knighton. And he's literally the biggest addition at a gargantuan 364 pounds. Washington got him on a one-year deal, meaning Pot Roast will be trying to cash in as the beefy run stuffer in the middle.

He gone: LB Brian Orakpo. Drafted in 2009, Orakpo's tenure with the Redskins was productive but marred with two torn pectoral injuries and inconsistencies in big game situations. The Titans are banking on Orakpo to return his rookie form when he posted a career-best 11 sacks.

The star: LB Ryan Kerrigan. Outsiders will argue it's Desean Jackson with his flashy 70-yard touchdowns and BET reality show. But it's the 26-year-old Kerrigan with his 13.5 sacks last season and his embracement of D.C. that has Washingtonian football fans swooning.

The X-Factor: QB Robert Griffin III. Life in the NFL can become blurry, quickly. In 2012 RGIII won the NFL's Rookie of the Year over Colts quarterback Andrew Luck and led the Redskins to an NFC East crown. In 2014 he was benched in favor of Colt McCoy. If Gruden can properly marry Griffin's athleticism to effectively running the offense, Washington has enough weapons to outscore teams each Sunday.

They'll make the playoffs if...: Griffin plays all 16 games and scores 30 touchdowns; if rookie right tackle Brandon Scherff becomes an immediate stud and if the secondary turns into a strength instead of a weakness.

The season will go south in a hurry if...: Griffin is turning the ball over; if Kerrigan is the only player consistently rushing the passer and if Gruden has repeated missteps in his second season in command.

Expert's take -- John Keim, "The offseason went well. They hired Bill Callahan to coach the offensive line. They hired a quarterbacks coach (Matt Cavanaugh), which the sorely needed. And in free agency, they were very smart. Contracts were structured in a way that will benefit them."

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