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Keys to Victory: 4 things to monitor in Browns' preseason opener

GREEN BAY, Wisconsin -- Yes, it's finally time for some football.

Days have turned into hours as we count down the time remaining until the Browns take on the Packers at historic Lambeau Field. Fourteen days since a soggy start to training camp, Cleveland will get its first crack at someone in a different jersey.

It's preseason, of course, but the opportunity for so many young players on the Browns roster can't be underscored.

"I'm going to be very, very into watching our football team play," Browns coach Hue Jackson said. "I'm probably going to have to catch myself because I have so many responsibilities as we go through this. I am very excited about our guys going out and competing against somebody else for a change."

Here are the four things we'll be watching with a little extra emphasis tonight.

1. Robert Griffin III debut and Browns QB rotation

The bright lights will be shining for Cleveland's starting quarterback, and it will serve as a long awaited return to the field.

Robert Griffin III will be behind center in an NFL stadium for the first time in nearly a year. He's just a few days removed from being named the Browns starting quarterback and will be looking to build off what's been a very solid training camp. His continued progress and handle of Jackson's offense is the reason why he won the job. Now, it's time to build off that momentum in a game setting.

And then there's what happens behind Griffin tonight. How much of an opportunity will rookie Cody Kessler get in his first NFL game? And where do Josh McCown and Austin Davis fit into the equation? Jackson has said he would like to play all four quarterbacks in some capacity but hadn't decided how much each would play the last time he met with reporters.

2. Who steps up and makes plays at WR?

The Browns crowded wide receivers room has been one of the top storylines throughout training camp, and it promises to be one all the way to the end. The performance of these players, many of whom are in their first couple of years in the NFL, in a setting like tonight's will go a long way toward how Cleveland selects the six or so who make the 53-man roster.

"I think if you took our roster and looked at every single receiver we have, in my opinion, every one of those guys has the capability of playing in the National Football League," senior offensive assistant/wide receivers coach Al Saunders said. "Now some qualities and some needs from other teams and from our team will differ, but I think they all have the physical skills to be able."

Snaps may be more abundant for some players than initially expected, as rookie Corey Coleman and veteran Andrew Hawkins won't be available because of hamstring injuries. Josh Gordon remains out as well with a quadriceps injury.

The Browns traveled to Green Bay on Thursday for the first game of the preseason.

3. Who's bringing the rush?

Defensive coordinator Ray Horton was blunt last week when asked about Cleveland's pass rush.

"I don't have an answer right now. I don't know," Horton said. "I'll find out a little bit more when we go to Green Bay next Friday, when we play Chicago, when we play Tampa Bay. I'll find out a little bit more of who can do what. Right now, I don't know. I don't have that answer yet."

Second-year outside linebacker Nate Orchard has performed well during training camp and has appeared to seize the first-team role on the opposite side of Paul Kruger. Rookie Emmanuel Ogbah, who was drafted by the Browns with the first pick of the second round because of his pass rushing ability, has primarily worked on the defensive line in the wake of Desmond Bryant's season-ending injury.

A couple of players in this area to monitor: Barkevious Mingo and Cam Johnson. Mingo is entering a very important fourth season and is looking to make the kind of impact he had in Horton's defense as a rookie. Johnson is an under-the-radar player who has had a good training camp.

4. The ongoing development of young Browns secondary

It will be a homecoming of sorts tonight when veteran Tramon Williams returns to the stadium where he spent the first eight seasons of his NFL career, but it will be what the rest of Cleveland DBs do that gives us a clearer picture of what to expect in 2016.

"We're just going to go out and we're going to compete," Browns secondary coach Louie Cioffi said. "There are guys competing at many positions, and I think that will all become clear as we move through the preseason. I'm excited that these young guys will have an opportunity to show what they can do."

With Joe Haden still working himself back from offseason ankle surgery, defensive backs such as Justin Gilbert, Jamar Taylor and Charles Gaines have big opportunities to show why they belong on the 53-man roster. Also keep an eye on undrafted free agent Tracy Howard, who has looked solid in training camp and snagged an interception at the Orange and Brown Scrimmage.

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