It’s rare that the Cleveland Browns are appointment television, but the record-setting ratings from their preseason opener against the Detroit Lions are sure to carry over when they take the ESPN stage next Monday night. Johnny Manziel is certainly the top selling point ahead of the game, as he tries to beat out Brian Hoyer and become the Browns’ starting quarterback, but with the Washington Redskins and Robert Griffin III also taking the field NFL fans will be paying attention.
Manziel is expected to start ahead of Hoyer on Monday night, but Browns’ head coach Mike Pettine has said both quarterbacks will see time with the starters. Hoyer’s performance, and the overall performance of Cleveland’s offense when he’s in the game, may be the No. 1 thing to watch in the game. If Hoyer doesn’t outperform Manziel fairly dramatically, any tentative hold on the starting job he still has would disappear completely.
The Browns also have a far less publicized position battle at running back, with rookie Terrance West pushing free agent signing Ben Tate for a prominent role. With a decision on a starting quarterback possibly coming before Cleveland’s third preseason game, Monday night is looking like a crucial game for West and Tate.
Griffin should play a fair amount Monday night, perhaps the entire first half or somewhere close, so we should get a better snapshot of new head coach Jay Gruden’s offense. Wide receiver DeSean Jackson is expected to make his preseason debut after missing the opener with an ankle injury, so Redskins’ fans and the league as a whole will see the team’s top offseason acquisition in action.