By Dan Williams @Dan_Wi11iams on August 8, 2014
When the Cleveland Browns hit the field for their first exhibition game on Saturday, it will be the team's first under new head coach Mike Pettine. The game, in Detroit, will be televised on NFL Network so a national audience will be able to get its first look at Johnny Manziel. But Manziel isn't the only thing to watch during the game; here are five things to watch during the Browns' 2014 preseason opener.
Although the Browns' first team will only play one or two series, new head coach Mike Pettine and defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil have notably installed their blitz-heavy defense in Cleveland. By playing Detroit, the Browns are going against one of the more potent offenses in the NFL, so it will be intriguing to see how the new defense fares against the likes of Calvin Johnson and Matthew Stafford.
In 2014, the Browns made changes across the board, including drafting rookies who have a chance to play right away. Players like Justin Gilbert, Terrance West and Joel Bitonio are in key positional battles as rookies, while other young players like Barkevious Mingo, Garret Gilkey and a slew of receivers find themselves in the same situation. Many of these guys will see significant action as the coaching staff attempts to assess the final roster.
Last season the Browns had little to no running game, so the new coaching staff ensured they would have enough viable options in 2014. This offseason, Cleveland added Ben Tate, Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell to compete with Dion Lewis, Chris Ogbonnaya and Edwin Baker for a roster spot. Tate and West are a sure thing, leaving the others to battle for position on the 53-man roster. At this point, it's unclear how many RBs Cleveland will keep.
Pro Bowl WR Josh Gordon will play in the Browns' preseason opener despite an impending suspension. Although the Browns are planning for Gordon to be suspended at least eight games, it could end up being a full season, which means young receivers must be able to step up in order for the offense to have success. The Browns plan on giving the first-team offense more reps than usual but will throw in multiple WRs to get different looks.
Brian Hoyer will get the start when the Browns take the field for the first time this season against the Lions, but that doesn't mean he'll be starting the first week of the regular season. Hoyer and the first team will take more snaps than usual, and Manziel will be taking second-team reps. If Manziel can show he's capable of making big plays without turning the ball over, he'll be making Pettine's decision more difficult when preseason ends.
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