We all know the Cleveland Browns. They're tough to hate because they're perennially bad... kind of like us. Last year, they managed to get to 7-9 and by most accounts, should probably hover around .500 once again this year. Can the Redskins start the preseason off with a bang and get a win against the Browns tonight? I asked Chris Pokorny with Dawgs By Nature a few questions about the team and the season.
1. What does Johnny Manziel's future look like to you (either with the Browns or elsewhere)? How has he looked thus far throughout training camp? Obviously, everyone is very interested to see him play. Do you expect him to play a lot tonight vs the 'Skins? We want a Manziel update!
"Johnny Manziel's future still remains a big giant question mark. His persona made him a popular player in college football, but when he was drafted by the Browns, he never flipped the switch to start acting like a professional. He showed how ill-prepared he was to operate the offense during his couple of starts at the end of last season, and then he entered rehab this offseason. Many Cleveland fans have already written Manziel off, but as bad as he looked last year, isn't two games for a first-round pick a little bit too short of a leash?"
"This year, Manziel has looked much more comfortable in training camp, although it should be noted that he's working against the second-team defense instead of the first-team defense. At the training camp sessions I attended, I saw a more concerted effort by Manziel to stay in the pocket and make a good read. When he does take off, it is after he has let the play develop for a little bit. Fans are starting to warm up to Manziel again, but there is not a massive out-cry for him to start. I expect Manziel to play a little over a quarter against the Redskins, but you probably won't see the "Johnny" theatrics fans have been accustom to seeing."
2. Straight up, are you guys going to sign Ray Rice? How do you think that would go over with the team and the Cleveland fans if he became a Brown? As an aside, Crowell, West, or a healthy dose of both this year?
"I don't think the Browns are going to sign Ray Rice. Although the team still has the troubled Josh Gordon (one-year ban), last year the team dealt with too much off-the-field drama with both of their first-round picks, Johnny Manziel and Justin Gilbert. In this year's draft, the Browns went out of their way to select players who specifically had the "good guy persona" in their scouting report. You can tell that it definitely played a factor in their drafting philosophy. I can't see the Browns taking on the baggage that comes with Rice, especially since he only averaged 3.1 yards per carry in his last full season. He was already in decline, and the fans aren't going to get behind him. Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell aren't perfect, but they both displayed their talent as rookies and should be given room to grow in year two without having a washed-up veteran taking snaps away from them."
3. OK, give us the insider's scoop on Kyle Shanahan's tenure in Cleveland. Got any gossip? His time with the 'Skins is pretty well chronicled. Who is most to blame for Kyle not working out there? Did the fans like him? Based on his time here and then with you guys, is it accurate to say that he was the problem?
"As is probably the case with many coaches, Kyle Shanahan's reputation among fans was sky-high when the team was winning, but rock bottom when the team was losing. I thought he did a great job at the beginning of the year implementing the zone-blocking scheme for the run game and dialing up the right amount of semi-gadget plays (i.e. bootleg to one side of the field, then throw completely to the other sideline) that left our receivers wide open. As the year went on, I thought Shanahan's adjustments in the face of adversity were well under par. When center Alex Mack broke his leg, we couldn't run the ball any more in the same manner, yet Shanahan kept plugging away to no avail. When Josh Gordon returned after a 10-game suspension, the offense should have opened up, yet Shanahan failed to find a way to get a weapon like him involved. The final straw came when it was time for Johnny Manziel to debut. Our offense had gotten to a point where Brian Hoyer was missing several open throws per game, and our playaction bootleg game would've been wide-open for a running quarterback. Instead of keeping the offense the same and just making a change at quarterback, Shanahan completely changed the offense, completely eradicating what little strengths the team had built up all season."
"There were all kinds of rumors about Shanahan when he quit the Browns, such as him putting together a 32-point presentation on why he wanted out of his contract, or that he was responsible for ratting out our general manager for sending text messages to the sideline. If you guys would have seen the atrocious game plan that the offense had when Manziel became the start, you would have thought that Shanahan was sabotaging the offense in spite of the front office for wanting Manziel to start. I can't see how a sensible offensive coordinator would have put that game plan together."
"Overall, I can see how Shanahan can be a good fit for a team that already has the right pieces, particularly a top-tier quarterback. When things go south, though, it seems like he takes his ball and runs away."
4. A lot of Redskins fans took interest in Danny Shelton and Nate Orchard during the pre-draft process. How have they looked so far? What are you all expecting from them?
"Based on what Danny Shelton has shown so far, Cleveland could have something special. He has been tearing through high-caliber offensive linemen in camp with ease and is a physical specimen unlike anyone the Browns have had since returning to the league in 1999. We're expecting him to see more snaps than a team's typical nose tackle would see, so I'm looking forward to how well he does against live competition tonight. As for Nate Orchard, it's too early to comment on him. He was the team's fourth outside linebacker at the start of camp, but when Barkevious Mingo needed surgery on his knee last week, Orchard moved up to third and has been getting more work. I'm expecting Orchard to be utilized in a pass-rushing role, rotating in with Scott Solomon, a relatively unknown player who is currently slated to start opposite Paul Kruger."
5. Who are some unknown guys (UDFAs and/or late-round draft picks) that the 'Skins fans should keep an eye on late in the game tonight?
"On offense, wide receiver Josh Lenz has been the talk of camp for the past three sessions or so because the second- and third-team quarterbacks keep targeting him an insane amount of times, resulting in a lot of touchdown connections in 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills. Wide receiver Shane Wynn will be fun to watch for Cleveland fans because he is a local kid and only stands in at 5-6, 167 lbs!"
"On defense, the majority of players on the first- and second-team units are either high draft picks or have been in the league for awhile, which is pretty unusual. There is one undrafted free agent, defensive lineman Dylan Wynn, who had two sacks in a team scrimmage last week and also saw a couple of first-team snaps during one of the camp sessions. The Browns are probably too stacked on the defensive line for him to find his way on to the 53-man roster, but let's see if he can continue to build upon his momentum."
Thanks to Chris for taking the time to answer my questions. Best of luck tonight! Hopefully it's entertaining and both teams come out of it with no injuries.