The Detroit Lions and Cleveland Browns kick off preseason action on Saturday night. With the game looming, I got together with Jared Mueller of Dawg Pound Daily for a pre-game Q&A.
Here are my questions followed by Jared’s answers.
1. Is the excitement over Johnny Manziel’s debut real in Cleveland or is it not as big as the national hype?
It is both real and not as big as on the national level. Cleveland fans want Manziel to be the next big QB in the league but are aware of his limitations. Fans see a small QB who struggles in the pocket but can make amazing plays outside. One of the biggest things keeping fans from chanting and calling for Manziel is Brian Hoyer. He played well last year in his limited times, so fans expect him to be just as good for a full season. Hoyer is also a Cleveland native and Cleveland is big on rooting for their native son, not just LeBron James but Charlie Frye, Brady Quinn and Rob Chudzinski were all given a ton of support as Ohioans.
2. Who is one player you’re looking forward to seeing play on Saturday other than Manziel?
Justin Gilbert. The Browns were willing to trade down, and get a ton from Buffalo, because of Gilbert and his fit. If Gilbert shows signs of being a solid #2, with upside to be a #1, the Browns will have the cornerstones to allow Pettine’s defense to excel. Last year the Browns defense seemed 1 corner and 1 middle backer away from being Top 5 in the league. Gilbert fills that big need as a tall, physical corner. Barkevious Mingo‘s development from year 1 to 2 and less lauded rookies Pierre Desir, Christian Kirksey and Isaiah Crowell fall just behind Gilbert on my radar Saturday night.
3. What has been the vibe from Browns camp? Major differences under Mike Pettine?
The vibe is significantly different under Pettine then the last 2 regimes. Chudzinski always seemed to be trying to hard to make things exciting, different or to engage the fans. Pat Shurmur’s ho-hum approach created an unsure environment. Pettine has invigorated things with his emphasis on true competition, playing hard and his honesty. Pettine speaks his mind, in a measured way, that makes his thoughts very clear. Fans, media and players are drawn to his straight forward approach. He isn’t playing games. He has done some fun things though, including a competition for the special Orange jerseys. A competition between the offense and defense at the end of practices decides who wins the honor of the Orange jersey. One practice ended with offensive and defensive coaches competing against each other in catching punts. While the rest have been real life football competitions that one was fun for the players and coaches, and included OC Kyle Shanahan doing a dance after catching his.
4. What do you need to see to consider Saturday night a success for the Browns?
No injuries! Serious about that. Besides that I want to see a team that can match-up athletically and isn’t over-matched schematically. Seeing the players play with passion and belief in themselves, each other and the coaches. For so many years uncertainty between players and coaches was evident both on and off the field. Cohesion will be huge. I want to see Brian Hoyer take hold of the starting QB job, so Manziel can develop for at least a year. I want the defense to make at least 3 big plays and push their confidence through the roof.
5. What are your expectations for Saturday’s game?
I expect our offense to try to be creative to try to build some confidence and our defense to be dominate, even though the Lions will move the ball with their great receiving threats. A low scoring first half with a little explosion in the second half with all the backups. This game is far more important, I think, to the Browns then the Lions. Browns – 24 Lions – 16
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