After losses to start the preseason, the Buffalo Bills and Cleveland Browns will each be looking to tighten things up this week on national television.
In Rex Ryan’s debut as the Bills’ head coach, the first-team offense struggled to get into a rhythm against Carolina, while the backups gave up a late touchdown in a 25-24 loss. For Cleveland, Josh McCown was sharp with the first-team offense, and Johnny Manziel showed some flashes of the athleticism that made him a first-round pick, but the team sputtered in the second half, allowing Washington to leave with the 20-17 victory.
Win-loss records may not mean anything, but both teams will be striving to look better in front of a national audience.
Here’s a look at everything you need to know to watch:
Date: Thursday, August 20, 2015
Time: 8 p.m. ET
Location: FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland, OH
TV Channel: ESPN
Odds: Cleveland (-1), Over/Under 38, via OddsShark.com
Bills Player to Watch: Tyrod Taylor
Offseason signing Matt Cassel entered training camp as the Bills’ No. 1 quarterback, but that was pretty much by default. The starting job is wide open, and 26-year-old Tyrod Taylor is making a strong case that he deserves to be under center Week 1.
During the Bills’ preseason opener, the electrifying dual-threat was the most impressive of Buffalo’s QB’s. He came on second behind Cassel, completing five of eight throws for 49 yards to go with six carries for another 47. He’s inconsistent throwing the ball, but his legs make him a dynamic, dangerous threat:
Following the game, head coach Rex Ryan announced Taylor would start against Cleveland.
“He is going to get a lot of the first reps,” he said. “So we will do it business as usual, but he will be getting the first shot at it so he will probably be getting a few more reps.”
The Browns first-team defense features one of the best secondaries in the league, so it won’t be easy for the Virginia Tech product. But if he excels, he may lock up the starting job.
Browns Player to Watch: Danny Shelton
According to Pro Football Focus (subscription needed), Danny Shelton was on the field for just 14 plays during his professional debut against the Washington Redskins, but that was plenty of time for him to make a discernible impact.
He was especially effective against the run, where he was able to use his massive frame to take on multiple blockers and clog gaps. Head coach Mike Pettine was impressed with his play:
Shelton, who sacked Tyrod Taylor during a practice between the Bills and Browns earlier this week, has the rare combination of size and athleticism to be a dominant player against both the run and the pass. He’s a potential game-changer, and it will be interesting if he can alter Rex Ryan’s typically run-heavy gameplan.