Five Browns to watch in Thursday's preseason opener
For the first time since finishing the 2014 on a five-game losing streak, the Cleveland Browns will take the field against a live opponent, and they'll be wearing brand new uniforms when they welcome the Washington Redskins to FirstEnergy Stadium Thursday night.
The Browns, who will be wearing their all white uniform combo, will be missing about 15 key players due to injury, including Dwayne Bowe, Duke Johnson, Terrelle Pryor, and possibly Joe Thomas.
As for the players that will take the field, here are five to keep an eye on:
Manziel takes the field for the first time since a terrible rookie season and a stint in rehab. He's made excellent progress on and off the field by all accounts in Browns camp, but Thursday will be his first chance to show it. Manziel led a unit of second- and third-stringers on two touchdown drives while going 9-for-11 at last week's scrimmage at Ohio Stadium. He's expected to get some time with the first team against the Redskins.
Head coach Mike Pettine has said that McCown is "penciled" in as his No. 1 quarterback. It would likely take a disastrous turn of events for Pettine to hand the reins over to Manziel, but considering the way McCown played last season in Tampa Bay, anything is possible. With one of the best offensive lines in the game, the Browns should lean more on their rushing attack and allow McCown to manage the game. With Bowe sidelined, McCown will have to work on his timing with Brian Hartline and Andrew Hawkins. McCown doesn't have to necessarily win the starting job. He just can't lose it.
Isaiah Crowell/Terrance West
Running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery called out his running backs for not being hungry enough to be the bell cow in his backfield. Both Crowell and West, who has been slowed by a calf injury, will get their first chance to show just how badly they want the No. 1 role.
Housler has been plagued by the dropsies so far this training camp. The free-agent signee was expected to step right in and fill Jordan Cameron's shoes, but now he's in danger of losing his starting job to Gary Barnidge. If any balls come Housler's way Thursday night, he can't afford to drop them.
Like Manziel, Gilbert wasted his rookie season after being the team's eighth overall pick in 2014. Plagued by inconsistency on the field and work ethic issues off of it, Gilbert fell behind undrafted rookie K'Waun Williams on the depth chart last season. This summer, he's fallen behind Pierre Desir despite spending part of the offseason working out with Joe Haden. Desir has been nursing a hamstring injury, giving Gilbert a chance to shine against the Redskins.