Cleveland Browns: 5 Questions That Still Need to Be Answered This Preseason
This is the point where things really heat up in the preseason. The Cleveland Browns are heading into their second game and have just 10 days to name their starters. For some players, Monday night in Washington is for all the marbles.
Training camp can seem like an eternity, but each week adds new questions and develops new answers. If your team is going to be successful, then those answers should heavily outweigh the questions. For the Browns, there are still plenty of questions to be answered.
The glaring question is at the starting quarterback spot, but there are other areas of concern on both sides of the football. Young teams with a new head coach usually have to put things together on the fly, as there is always a feeling-out process. The Browns are no different.
Here are five questions the Browns still need to answer before the end of the preseason.
Will Hoyer Be Traded?
When the Browns signed quarterback Rex Grossman on Tuesday, it raised all kinds of red flags surrounding the quarterback position. The competition, which had been between Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel since the draft, now had a wild card added into the mix.
While no one in their right mind thinks Grossman would actually get the starting job, there is plenty of speculation around Hoyer possibly being traded. In an article on FanSided.com, Dan Zinski wrote that the Browns could possibly swap Hoyer for disgruntled Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson.
That article has since been removed, but the buzz was loud enough that the media had to ask head coach Mike Pettine if there was any truth to the scuttlebutt.
#Browns HC Mike Pettine said "stories" about team possibly trading Brian Hoyer are nothing more than "stories."— Nate Ulrich (@NateUlrichABJ) August 13, 2014
While the rumors might not be true now, if a team were to offer the Browns the right deal, they would at least have to listen. I would still have to file this one under “not likely” for the time being.
Who Will Start at QB?
Obviously if Brian Hoyer were traded away, that would make this a very easy question to answer. Let’s operate under the assumption that Hoyer will remain with the team and the quarterback competition will continue.
It is tough to say who has the edge right now. Hoyer has had more time with the first-team offense than Johnny Manziel, but their production has been very similar. As of late, the two have been sharing reps with the starters in practice.
Monday night’s game will go a long way toward deciding who the starter will be, and we still don’t know who will get to start that game, either. Mike Pettine said they will determine the starter and reps on Thursday while the players are off.
It is hard to imagine Pettine giving Hoyer another start here. I’m sure they want to see what Manziel will do against a first-team defense and with the starting offensive line. If he performs as well or better than Hoyer, then the competition is all but over.
If the two quarterbacks play so similarly that it is tough to decide, Pettine has to go with Manziel. The upside of the rookie far outweighs the minuscule starting experience that Hoyer brings to the field.
Can This Offense Produce?
Right now it wouldn’t seem to matter who was named the starting quarterback because the offense has been dismal. There have been no touchdowns scored through one scrimmage and one preseason game, and that has to be a concern.
Quarterback’s coach Dowell Loggains spoke with the media on Tuesday and said they have to fix the problem.
“It’s definitely something that we need to improve on as an offense, not just at the quarterback position,” said Loggains. “We need to finish some drives. I felt good about how we moved the ball. We need to finish some of those drives and end with seven points instead of three.”
So far the Browns have had very little rhythm offensively in games and especially in practice. One could say that is because they face a top-10 caliber defense every day. But if that is true, then they need to show some signs of life against Washington on Monday night.
What Receivers Will Step Up?
The longer the Josh Gordon suspension situation is drawn out, the more dire the receiver position looks for the Browns. According to a report from Mike Florio on ProFootballTalk.com Wednesday, there has been no movement in his appeal with the NFL.
Even if his suspension is reduced, the Browns still need to have other guys to make big catches for their quarterback. Nate Burleson has not practiced much and could very well end up missing the cut for the final roster if he doesn’t get out there and play soon.
Miles Austin has been good in practice but finished with just one catch for 13 yards in the preseason opener. He also had a huge drop that could have changed the way people viewed Brian Hoyer’s overall performance.
Besides Gordon, the receivers had just nine total receptions in that game, and most were late when practice squad-caliber guys were on the field.
Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan has to find a way to get the ball into receivers' hands or it will be a long year for the offense. You have to put seven points on the board sometime.
How Will the Defensive Line Shake Out?
The one place where the Browns have a very good problem on their hands is on the defensive line. There is so much talent and so few roster spots to go around. It will make for some interesting camp cuts.
Guys like Ahtyba Rubin, who is set to make $6.6 million this season according to Spotrac.com, could become expendable if Ishmaa’ily Kitchen and Jacobbi McDaniel continue to impress in camp. At left end there is a logjam with Desmond Bryant, Phil Taylor and John Hughes. All three of those guys are starting-caliber defensive lineman.
The Browns need plenty of depth to run their 3-4 defensive scheme, but unfortunately there will be a few odd men out who have the talent to play. You can bet there are plenty of other teams around the league keeping a close eye on camp cuts in Cleveland for that very reason.
All quotes and observations were acquired firsthand unless otherwise noted.