NFL football is back.
Sure it’s only the preseason, but football is football, no matter how many projected starters are on the field. The Washington Redskins and Cleveland Browns will have several players sitting out or only on the field for a couple of series, but there will be compelling storylines to watch all game.
Here’s everything you need to know about the matchup:
Date: Thursday, August 13, 2015
Time: 8 p.m. ET
Location: FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland, OH
TV Channel: WEWS in Cleveland; WRC/Comcast SportsNet in Washington; Check here for full listings in surrounding areas
Odds: Cleveland (-2.5), Over/Under 38, via OddsShark.com
Redskins Player to Watch: Matt Jones
For all the offensive struggles Washington has had over the past couple of seasons, its running game has remained excellent behind the underrated Alfred Morris, who has topped 1,000 rushing yards in each of his three seasons. Still, while the starting job firmly remains his, Washington didn’t use a third-round pick on Matt Jones to have him warm the bench.
At 6’2″ and 231 pounds, the Florida product is a bruiser with a physical running style that has drawn comparisons to Marshawn Lynch.
“Matt Jones reminds me a lot — a lot — of Marshawn,” said Washington GM Scot McCloughan, who once traded for Lynch while with the Seattle Seahawks. “From the standpoint that he’s north-south, he’s downhill and he’s not afraid of contact.”
Jones has already trucked Houston Texans cornerback Kevin Johnson during a joint practice, and he should be exciting to watch once he gets to go at full speed.
Browns Player to Watch: Johnny Manziel
When these two teams met in the preseason last year, Johnny Manziel went 7-of-16 for 65 yards and infamously directed a middle finger at the Redskins bench. Manziel eventually lost the starting job to Brian Hoyer, and his rookie season spiraled out of control.
But now, with the off-the-field concerns reportedly behind him, Johnny Football appears to be actually focused on football. Quarterback coach Kevin O’Connell recently discussed Manziel’s new-found focus and work ethic:
From the day I came in, in the spring, and we finally got the players in the building, and from Day One — in the building, in the classroom — he’s been phenomenal around Josh (McCown) and the other quarterbacks and myself and (coordinator John) DeFelippo. As far as just digesting — whether it’s install one to specific situational work to protection, he is doing everything on a daily basis that we’re asking him, and then some, within the confines of the rules, and really just starting to flourish.
As a result, Manziel has enjoyed a tremendous training camp, most recently completing nine of his 11 throws for 93 yards in a scrimmage. He’s still firmly behind Josh McCown on the depth chart, but it’s going to be interesting to see if Manziel’s reported 180-degree turn translates to live game action.
If it does, he has the talent to quickly win the job in Cleveland.