Cleveland Browns: 4 things to watch for in preseason game number two

Cleveland Browns Ricardo Louis
Cleveland Browns Ricardo Louis /

The Cleveland Browns have played just one preseason game so far, but there is still a lot of work to do.

The regular season is fast approaching, yet the Cleveland Browns still have three more preseason games to play. There were some promising moments, but lows at times were seen too. Cleveland could be a surprising team this fall.

To do that though, they need to first figure out some key aspects of their roster. They will do that by evaluating what the coaches see in the coming weeks.

What should we look for as Cleveland gets closer to the regular season? Here are four topics to keep an eye on!

DeShone Kizer’s Next Step

Browns head coach Hue Jackson came out on Wednesday and named Brock Osweiler the starter for the Cleveland Browns second preseason game on Monday night against the New York Giants. Osweiler will play with the first team offense against a good Giants’ defense.

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Quarterbacks coach David Lee spent time earlier this week telling the media that rookie quarterback Deshone Kizer isn’t ready to start for the Browns despite his impressive play in the first preseason game and during camp the last few weeks.

Kizer will be the second Browns quarterback to play on Monday night, likely in the second quarter sometime. Tony Grossi of ESPN Cleveland reported that Jackson will not play Kizer until the Giants’ second team defense enters the game.

Kizer is taking some first team reps in practice but not against the first team defense.

This is the next step in his progression as he gets an opportunity to play against players that will be on the Giants’ roster. Kizer excelled in game one against the New Orleans Saints’ third team.

The way the Kizer performs on Monday night under the bright lights of national television against his toughest professional opponent so far will be telling.

Njoko’s Debut

The Browns’ third first round pick David Njoku missed the first preseason game with back soreness, according to Thus, Monday night will be the young tight end’s debut.

Njoku is from Cedar Grove, New Jersey which means he grew up watching the very Giants he will be lining up against on Monday.

Njoku was plagued with dropped passes early in training camp. Browns coaches noticed that the pass catching tight end was pressing in his first few weeks. However, since he returned to practice on Sunday, he has had his best week of camp to date and is looking like the offensive weapon they hoped they were getting when they drafted him.

We will get our first look at Njoku in game action Monday night and it should be interesting how much of impact he makes on the game.

Offensive line depth

The Browns lost two offensive linemen to injuries this week. Starting left guard Joel Bitonio will miss Monday night’s game due to an ankle injury and is considered week to week by Jackson, per Veteran John Greco will fill in for Bitonio.

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Reserve tackle, Cameron Erving was also sidelined because of injury this week and he will miss Monday’s game because of a calf. The issue here is that starting left tackle Joe Thomas is sitting out his second consecutive preseason game and Erving was set to start in his place again.

Erving’s performance against the Saints left a great deal to be desired after single-handedly killing the team’s first drive. Rookie Roderick Johnson will get the start against the Giants in place of Thomas and Erving at left tackle.

It should be interesting to see how the line plays with Greco and Johnson starting. Greco is solid and should be just fine.

Johnson is in a tough spot though. Imagine if he outplays Erving. What would that mean for Erving’s future with the Browns? It’s certainly something to keep an eye on.

One spot left at receiver

Wide receiver is a position of some contention for the Browns. Second year man and first round draft pick Corey Coleman has a lot to prove after an injury plagued first season.

Kenny Britt is a nice veteran player but he had a poor first preseason game. He struggled to get off the line of scrimmage and failed to drag his second foot on a would-be touchdown pass in the back of the endzone.

The rest of the Browns’ wide receiving corp will likely be made up of the other three receivers drafted in 2016. The Browns are hoping that at least one of those three players will step up and contribute.

So far, Ricardo Louis has looked like that guy. He has put together a good camp and had several nice plays with the ones in their first preseason game.

Rashard Higgins and Jordan Payton will both likely make the roster considering they were drafted by this regime. Payton caught the game-winning touchdown pass from Kizer against the Saints and saw an uptick in reps this week in practice.

That leaves the sixth and possibly final wide receiver roster spot available for the taking. Jordan Leslie, Josh Boyce, Richard Mullaney, Mario Alford and Rannell Hall are the remaining wide receivers competing for the final spot.

Mullaney had a big game against the Saints but gets lost in the mix during practice. Leslie may have the advantage right now as he has proved to be a dependable target and has had a good camp.

Next: What if Kizer plays well but Rd.1 QB is drafted?

This competition is something to watch on Monday night. If one player can separate from the group with a good performance, it could be the difference in playing on Sundays or looking for a new career.