Cleveland is technically still in the rebuilding stage, but if its promising rookie class blows up, it’ll be a team on the rise. Green Bay obviously has its eyes on another Lombardi Trophy. Each, though, would love to escape the preseason with plenty of momentum, and of course, their health.
Here’s everything you need to know about their exhibition matchup.
Where: Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin
When: Thursday, August 16 at 8 p.m. EDT
Listen: Sirius XM Radio: 93 or online at NFL Audio Pass
Betting Line: Green Bay by 4, according to Bovada
What’s At Stake
Cleveland's and Green Bay’s undrafted free agents and training camp invitees’ NFL careers will be on the line. Other than that, Colt McCoy will play like he still has a shot at a starting job. For the Packers, their greatest goal is to basically not lose anyone to a long-term injury.
Browns Injury Report
According to ESPN, Cleveland’s offense could be thin this week. Trent Richardson is still questionable as he recovers from a knee injury. At wide out, Mohamed Massaquoi is also questionable with a concussion while Travis Benjamin is listed as probable.
On the other side of the football, Scott Paxson and Dimitri Patterson sustained injuries against the Detroit Lions on Friday and are questionable.
Packers Injury Report
Green Bay is even more depleted on offense than the Browns with John Kuhn, Brandon Saine and James Starks questionable while Alex Green is probable. And that’s just the backfield, as Greg Jennings and Jermichael Finley are also questionable—Jennings with a concussion and Finley a quad injury.
Their casualties on defense consist of Desmond Bishop who’ll require surgery on a hamstring he injured against the San Diego Chargers. Davon House also got hurt against the Chargers and is questionable with a shoulder (via ESPN).
What They’re Saying
Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that Browns offensive coordinator Brad Childress doesn’t plan on hiding Brandon Weeden to protect the rookie from making mistakes. He said:
You rarely want to sit on that ability. A lot of times discretion is the better part of that valor of trying to stick it through the eye of a needle. But we want him to be aggressive. We him to keep shooting. Whether it was the fumble or interception, you want him to keep shooting where he's supposed to be shooting, so we won't dissuade him on that front, at least not right now.
Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that the newly acquired Cedric Benson still has some lofty rushing goals despite the fact that the Packers have a pass-first offense. He tweeted:
Benson: "I definitely have a goal to still rush for 1,000 and things like that, 1,000-plus, and set up some big numbers."— Tyler Dunne (@TyDunne) August 13, 2012
Browns Player to Watch: Brandon Weeden
Last week it was Weeden too, but I don’t think that’ll change this entire preseason. When a team drafts a quarterback and hands him the reins from day one, all eyes will always be on him throughout his transition to the pros. Weeden’s ability to adapt to the speed of an NFL defense will determine if the Browns are relevant this season.
Packers Player to Watch: Nick Perry
Perry recorded his first sack in his first preseason game this past weekend. If he stays hot, then the Packers just found their future bookend to Clay Matthews. Having two lethal pass-rushers instead of one would be the difference between Green Bay’s defense either reverting back to its 2010 form or performing like it did in 2011—poorly.
Key Matchup: Josh Gordon vs. Tramon Williams, Charles Woodson and Sam Shields
No one has a better trio of corners than the Packers. With Massaquoi’s ability to suit up in doubt, Gordon could be thrust in to the starting lineup. Against Green Bay’s top-notch CBs, the rookie will take a test that’ll reveal if he’s polished enough to make a consistent impact in 2012.
On the Hot Seat: Pat Shurmur
Pat Shurmur just took over in Cleveland last year. If the Browns take a step back this season, would Mike Holmgren really fire him so soon? Not likely, but if Shurmur fails to inject at least a little hope in to the ball club, his job security will vanish.
Green Bay has so many injuries that its starting lineup could look unrecognizable compared to the squad that’ll take the field in the regular season. On top of that, Cleveland has more players than the Packers who need to produce in the preseason—Weeden and Colt McCoy in particular.
Cleveland by 3
David Daniels is a featured columnist at Bleacher Report and a syndicated writer.