A big test awaits Browns against Eagles with jobs up for grabs

Will Thursday night's game raise expectations or be a reality check?

Daryl Ruiter
August 23, 2018 - 12:09 pm
Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson yells at wide receiver Jeff Janis (13) after a penalty during the first half against the Buffalo Bills at FirstEnergy Stadium

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

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Cleveland (92.3 The Fan) – Hue Jackson believes we’re in for the greatest turnaround in sports history this season.

What better way to find out just how good the Browns really are then to square off against the defending Super Bowl champions in the third preseason game – also known as ‘the dress rehearsal’ Thursday night.

Will it be a positive sign of what’s to come this fall or a harsh reality check for those who have high hopes?

Jackson plans to play his starters for the first half against the Eagles before turning the final 30 minutes over to the reserves to fight for the final roster spots.

With the focus last week on establishing the run game, the passing game sputtered. The challenge this week offensively for quarterback Tyrod Taylor is to put it all together – run and passing game.

Once again there will be tremendous attention paid to the left side of the offensive line and rookie left guard Austin Corbett and new left tackle and Joe Thomas replacement Joel Bitonio.

Much is expected from the receivers this season with Jarvis Landry leading the group – and with the impending return of Josh Gordon slots 3-6 at the position remain up for grabs.

Rookie Antonio Callaway is dealing with a groin injury and has been slowed since being drafted in the fourth round in April by nagging injuries. He will not play Thursday night. Rashard ‘Hollywood’ Higgins had a tremendous training camp, but questions remain if he can take it to the field on Sunday’s. Damion Ratley, picked in the sixth round, is fast but is still a raw talent that needs to develop. Veteran Jeff Janis has been underwhelming. His experience just may help him make the final roster, but he is on the bubble.  

Carlos Hyde, Nick Chubb and Duke Johnson have the three running back spots sewn up leaving Matthew Dayes looking to put some good tape together either to land back on the practice squad or find a new team come September, unless he becomes a roster replacement for fullback Danny Vitale, who is out with a calf injury.

The first-team defense is coming off a dominant performance against Buffalo that saw them not allow a single first down in 4 offensive series and give up just 22 yards. The problem is the reserves left a lot to be desired. Rookie Josh Allen helped the Bills put up 13 points in the blink of an eye at their expense.

Discipline continues to be a problem and glaring point of focus for this coaching staff. The Browns have been flagged 20 times for 211 yards in 2 preseason games. The penalties have taken multiple touchdowns off the board, torpedoed drives and extended defensive series.  

Thursday night’s game is a big one for the rest of the bubble bunch that also includes: defensive ends Nate Orchard and Carl Nassib, linebackers James Burgess and B.J. Bello, offensive linemen Greg Robinson, Spencer Drango, Austin Reiter and Shon Coleman.

The Browns have made it no secret they aren’t committed to kicker Zane Gonzalez or punter Britton Colquitt and Thursday night’s game could bring both competitions into focus.

Gonzalez, last year’s kicker, and Solon native Ross Martin haven’t gotten much work in games. Martin has the lone field goal – a 31-yard kick against Buffalo. Gonzalez has kicked 3 PATs, Martin 1. Gonzalez has handled 6 kickoffs with 4 of them going for touchbacks while Martine has had 2, 1 for a touchback. Gonzalez made all 5 field goals during a drill Monday while Martin banged 2 of his 5 off the uprights.

Through 2 preseason games Vogal has 10 punts with a 43.5 average and 36.0 net, 4 downed inside the 20 with a touchback. Colquitt has 8 boots with a 41.3 average, a 35.5 net, including 3 downed inside the 20 and a touchback.

Last time – Preseason: Aug. 24, 2012 – Eagles 27, Browns 10; regular season: Sept. 11, 2016 – Eagles 29, Browns 10

Projected starters – Offense: WR Jarvis Landry, TE Darren Fells, LT Joel Bitonio, LG Austin Corbett, C JC Tretter, RG Spencer Drango, RT Chris Hubbard, QB Tyrod Taylor, TE David Njoku, WR Rashard Higgins, RB Carlos Hyde

Defense: DE Myles Garrett, DT Larry Ogunjobi, DT Jamie Meder, DE Emmanuel Ogbah, WILL Christian Kirksey, MIKE Joe Schobert, SAM Jamie Collins, CB Denzel Ward, CB Terrance Mitchell, FS Damarious Randall, SS Jabrill Peppers

Uniforms – White jerseys, white pants, helmets to remain without stripes

Broadcast information – Radio: 92.3 The Fan, 98.5 WNCX and the University Hospitals Cleveland Browns radio network. TV: WJW Fox 8 (Fox national TV game).

Kickoff – 8:23 p.m. FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio