After two weeks of hitting one another, the Cleveland Browns will finally get to hit players wearing another uniform on Thursday night at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Browns will welcome the Washington Redskins to town for the first preseason game of the 2015 season.
The Browns and Redskins met in the preseason last year at FedEx Field and played a thriller. Connor Shaw threw a hail mary touchdown pass on the final play of the game to get the Browns within a point at 24-23. The Browns attempted the two point conversion for the win but fail and fail to the Redskins 24-23.
Thursday’s matchup marks the 13th time the Browns and Redskins have played each other in the preseason. Cleveland is just 3-9 lifetime against Washington in the preseason and have never beaten the Redskins in Cleveland. The last time the Browns won a preseason game against the Redskins was August 22, 1991 in overtime 24-21. Before last year’s meeting the Browns and Redskins had not faced each other in a preseason game since the 2001 season.
Josh McCown will get the start at quarterback but isn’t expected to play much. The starting offense and defense are expected to play at the most one quarter, which is typical for the first preseason game of the season.
“It will be all an individualized plan,” head coach Mike Pettine said on Tuesday. “You’ll get some guys that are with the ones that might go into the second quarter; you might get some ones that don’t play at all; and anything in between. It’s just hard to give an actual amount just because you don’t know how the game is going to play out. Things aren’t going well, sometimes you want to keep them out there longer, things are going well you want to pull them sooner or the way that they’re going, their units not getting a lot of reps. that’s very fluid.”
Johnny Manziel is expected to play despite not throwing on Tuesday’s practice with a sore elbow. Manziel is currently the number two quarterback and should be in the game no later than the second quarter. Shaw and Thad Lewis should see the majority of snaps in the second half but the coaching staff is looking forward to seeing what all the quarterbacks will do against an opposing team’s defense.
“With all the quarterbacks, we talk a lot about their footwork and their base being the foundation for what they do and really using their legs to make throws and letting their legs help them decide if a guy is open or not,” Browns quarterbacks coach Kevin O’Connell said. “If the timing is not right with the play, I think the one thing all four of the quarterbacks have done is find completions and understanding the power of completions no matter what they play is and what the situation is. When you have play makers like we do, if you can just put the ball in play a lot of times, find a completion and good things are going to happen.”
The Redskins will start Robert Griffin III at quarterback on Thursday night. Redskins head coach Jay Gruden told reporters in Washington to expect Griffin to play into the second quarter since he is still recovering from a knee injury suffered last season. Former Browns quarterback Colt McCoy should also see action on Thursday night along with Kirk Cousins.
The Browns run defense will get a good test as they look to improve on their league worst ranking against the run in 2014. Redskins running back Alfred Morris has turned into one of the better running backs in the league, especially with running in between the tackles. Silas Redd Junior should also see time in the Redskins backfield.
The Browns secondary will get their first opportunity to prove it’s one of the league’s best against a shorthanded Washington receiving core. The Redskins will be down three tight ends and it’s top receiver in DeSean Jackson. Washington will look to get the ball to former Mount Union Purple Raider Pierre Garcon early in the game. Former Ohio State Buckeye Evan Spencer is hoping to make the Redskins roster in his rookie season, Spencer should see some action either in the second quarter or in the second half.
Unlike the Browns, the Redskins have already seen another NFL team this preseason, just not in an actual game. The Redskins hosted the Houston Texans for three days last week in Richmond, Virginia, where the Redskins conduct their training camp. It was a good experience for both teams, until day three when it turned into a full scale brawl that only made the producer’s and crew of the HBO series ‘Hard Knocks’ happy, since the annual show featuring one of the NFL’s franchises during training camp is covering the Texans in 2015.
The Browns will have their share of players out on Thursday night. The list includes running back Duke Johnson, wide receivers Dwayne Bowe and Terrelle Pryor and defensive tackle Billy Winn. Left tackle Joe Thomas could be held out of the game after having his leg rolled up on by first round pick Danny Shelton during practice on Monday. Thomas was held out of practice Tuesday, but Thomas was scheduled to have Tuesday’s practice off before Monday’s injury.
“If it were a game that mattered I would be there,” Thomas said. “As a preseason game it is to be determined.”
Browns fans will get to see how first round pick Danny Shelton does as a member of the defensive line. Shelton was drafted to help improve both the defensive pass rush and to stop opposing teams running games.
“Personally, I just want to go out and do my job and play the way I’ve been playing,” Shelton said. “Don’t want to change anything up. I don’t want to do anything too extra. That’s the priority, to go out there and do the job. As far as our team, we just have to play the way we’ve been competing against each other. Just compete out there and good things will happen.”
Shelton, Cameron Erving and the rest of the Browns rookie draft class of 2015 should be both excited and a bit nervous about playing in their first NFL game even if it doesn’t count. Browns fans and the coaching staff are all looking forward to what they have to offer.
“It’s going to be exciting for sure,” Shelton said. “Every game, every college game that I’ve had, I’ve always had those butterflies. It’s just something that I deal with. I’m going to go out there, get a feel for the team and then I’m going to play my ball.”
“I’m excited, more anxious than anything,” Erving said. “Just ready to get back out there and play some ball. I haven’t played against anybody else besides my teammates in a while. It’s going to be fun. As far as I know, I’ll be at right guard. I don’t know if I’ll play any tackle, I don’t know if I’ll play any center. I don’t know. We’ll see when that time comes up, but as of now, I know I’ll be playing right guard for sure.”
“It’s really their first true competition, NFL competition,” Pettine said. “Sometimes it’s a night where you sit back and see the look on their faces sometimes is very wide-eyed. Some guys like a Joel Bitonio that walked out there and looked like he’d been playing in the league for, five years. You never know what it’s going to look like until it happens, but it’s something as a staff you’re always anticipating it.”
The Browns will show off one of their new uniforms on Thursday night. They will go with the white jerseys and white pants combination when they take the field. In April, the Browns unveiled new uniforms in nine different jersey and pants combinations.
Browns fans throughout most of the state of Ohio will be able to watch the game live. In Cleveland, you can catch the game on the Browns new television home, WEWS Newschannel 5. In Columbus tune into WBNS 10TV. Toledo residents can watch the game on WTOL channell 11. In Youngstown the game will be broadcast on WYTV Channel 33. Dayton residents get the game on WHIO channel 7. Veteran NFL play by play voice Mike Patrick will call the game along with Solomon Wilcots. The Browns radio network will also air the game throughout the buckeye state.