I thought I ‘d just put up a quick post about what I’ll be looking for from the first preseason game of the Cleveland Browns’ 2018 NFL campaign whilst I sit here getting excited about finally getting to see some 2018 Browns football.

Yeah, it’s only the preseason but, come on, it’s a super important part of the process!

Two areas of the offense are a concern for me right now, the wide receivers and the offensive line. The former is the biggest worry but I’m intrigued to see how the OL is working out.

Offensive Line

Looking at the unofficial depth chart released earlier this week for this game, it looks like we might get a look at the new combo on the left side of the OL. If you didn’t already know, this combo involves Joel Bitonio moving outside from left guard to left tackle and 2018 high draft pick (top of the 2nd round) Austin Corbett taking the left guard spot. If media reports from training camp are to be believed, this combination seems to be working out well and could fix what has been my biggest concern since Joe Thomas’s retirement. I hope we get to see this in this and future preseason games.

Corbett and Bitonio

Wide Receivers

Well, unless you’ve been living on Mars for a couple of weeks you’ll no doubt understand why I’m interested in seeing what’s going to happen with this unit in preseason game one and beyond.

Right now we have one solid starter in this unit in the form of growing fan-favourite Jarvis Landry and then a handful of young guys who don’t have much game-time experience.

The alleged party-loving, hooker-hiring Corey Coleman was slated to start alongside Landry in this game but that obviously isn’t going to happen after he was shipped off to Buffalo without a second thought. Talk now is of Rashard Higgins stepping into that spot and I’m looking forward to seeing him in that role. Last season was a shower of shite as far as the passing game but I saw some good play from three players who I really want to see get much more playing time and touches of the ball this season. Those three players include Higgins along with the brilliant Duke Johnson and good receiving TE Seth DeValve (I actually think, just from watching game tape, I haven’t looked at stats on it, that DeValve was the safest pair of hands last year).

So yeah, I want to see Higgins get a lot of playing time in this one so he gets game time experience. I’d actually like to see him play most of the game opposite current naughty boy Antonio Callaway. None of us on the outside really seem to know how serious the team is taking the current off the field issues surrounding this muppet, but I think the Browns should just chuck him into the lineup and make him play. I haven’t seen a massive amount of tape on him and so want to get a real good look at him during the preseason (he might not even make it to the regular season if he carries on the way he’s started in the NFL, right from the combine).

C.J. Board is another name I’ve started hearing about since the start of training camp so will be looking out for him as I’m intrigued here also.

Rashard Higgins and Antonio Callaway

Tight Ends

Last year’s rookie, David Njoku, flashed some brilliance in the passing game as a receiving TE but it’s been reported that he’s been dropping some catchable passes in this year’s training camp. I’m intrigued to see if he’s improved as I think he can from last season to this and so will be watching him keenly in this game and the following three of the preseason.

With what’s going on in the thinly talented wide receivers unit I’d quite like to see more 2 tight end sets as I think Seth DeValve and David Njoku could cause opposition teams headaches in 2018. With a new OC and new mobile QB’s heading the depth chart come regular season time, a new offensive gameplan must be being put in place this year. Whether that includes more 2 TE sets is something I hope to see and will be watching for.

Quarterbacks

Not much needs to be said here as I’m as excited as everyone else to finally get to see #1 overall pick Baker Mayfield take to the field. I genuinely feel that he has what it takes to be a leader and franchise guy in the NFL and is exactly what the Browns need to turn things around (now I’ve said that the chances are I’ve jinxed it, D’OH!).

I’m also happy that the team has brought in the very capable Tyrod Taylor to be the guy for 2018 and will enjoy watching him in the first couple/few drives. It’s already been announced that Baker Mayfield will see lots of playing time in this game and it’ll be intriguing to see just how much. If he plays into the 4th quarter, I’d say they genuinely are happy to go with Taylor as the starter this year and want to get Mayfield as much preseason action as possible. This is what I hope happens this year.

Running Backs

It could be argued that this is currently our strongest unit on offense right now. It is in my mind anyway.

I’m particularly looking forward to seeing rookie Nick Chubb as I believe he will be the starter before too long with Carlos Hyde in there to be used and abused. As I’ve stated in another blog post, I see a DeMarco Murray/Derrick Henry setup that will see Hyde used early doors before Chubb takes over as the starter next season or later in 2018. I’m looking forward to seeing Chubb this year, let’s hope he can have one of those awesome rookie years that a few RB’s had in 2017.

I’ll be watching all three running backs in this game but I’m intrigued to see if they use Duke Johnson in the slot at any time throughout the game. He wants to play there and is definitely one of our best receivers these days so why not give it a go.

Duke Johnson Cleveland Browns

Defensive Line

I think we’re good to go at DE with the likes of Myles Garrett, Emmanuel Ogbah, Chad Thomas and Carl Nassib plus others for more depth but I think the middle of the line might be a weak spot. We have Larry Ogunjobi, who I think is brilliant and who I want to see progress this season, but other than that I’m not sure what we have. Another rookie last year, Caleb Brantley was highly rated but fell far in the draft due to an accusation against him by a female that turned out to be false. I’m hoping he’s as good as his scouting reports said and hope he steps up in 2018 to start alongside Ogunjobi. I’ll be watching him in this one even though Jamie Meder and Trevon Coley are slated to start.

Caleb Brantley

Linebackers

I realise I’ve used the word “intrigued” many times in this post but at this stage that’s what I mostly am as I don’t have the luxury of being able to visit training camp and see the players first-hand. This unit has gone from being the biggest concern on defense to one stacked with talent.

We now have Jamie Collins Sr, Mychal Kendricks, Joe Schobert, Christian Kirksey and rookie Genard Avery. That’s five very good players who should be fighting for 3 spots in Greg Williams’ 4-3 defense. Let’s be honest, most of the time it’s only going to be 2 spots in the pass-oriented NFL as they play with an extra DB or LB/DB hybrid (Jabrill Peppers anyone?) most of the time.

This really is a fascinating unit to watch develop with intrigue about who will start come the regular season.

Schobert, Kirksey and Collins are slated to start this game but I hope we get to see a lot of Genard Avery and some of Kendricks.

Talk has been that John Dorsey isn’t done trading big name players this season and, if I’m honest, I’m hoping Jamie Collins is one of those players he’s shopping around. I’ve always questioned his commitment to the game and the Cleveland Browns and I wouldn’t mind at all if they got something for him and promoted James Burgess Jr a spot on the depth chart with Kendricks, Schobert and Kirksey starting. It depends on whether any other team is willing to take on a contract like Collins’s, though (if indeed they are shopping him).

For this game, it’s going to be interesting to just see who plays when and for how long.

Defensive Backs

This was without a doubt the unit that needed the biggest overhaul and John Dorsey didn’t disappoint. There are many new names in the building and I get the impression spots are still very much up for grabs for the 2018 season.

I assumed rookie Denzel Ward and free agent T.J. Carrie would start but it looks like Terrance Mitchell has worked his way into a starting spot for this game. It will be good to have a look at all three of them as well as E.J. Gaines, if they all play.

I’m desperate to see Jabrill Peppers playing at strong safety and/or as a hybrid DB/LB and this is probably the biggest thing I want to see this preseason. I think he’s the perfect player to fit into that hybrid role teams often look for in today’s game. This is what I’ll mainly be watching as far as DBs go in this game.

Jabrill Peppers Cleveland Browns

Let someone else handle the kick returns, please. Peppers has a big role to play on defense this year, in my opinion.

Conclusion

So, there we go, please keep your “It’s only preseason!” comments to yourself. This is a hugely important time of the year for the Cleveland Browns (and all NFL teams) as this is the start of the rebuild after a couple of seasons (and more I’d wager many would say) of alleged tanking in order to get the top young talent.

We have new coordinators, a HC on the hottest seat he’s ever sat on and an overhauled roster full of young talent looking to grow and improve into title challengers in coming seasons.

LET’S GET EXCITED BROWNS FANS! FOOTBALL’S BACK!

What are you particularly looking for in this and the other 2018 NFL preseason games as far as the Cleveland Browns go? Let me know in the comments below.