The Cleveland Browns have had a rough go of it lately. Their last winning season came in 2007 when they posted a 10-6 record.
Last year they were a dismal 3-13. Gone is the monstrously disappointing and self-destructive Johnny Manziel. Coming in to assume the quarterback position is Robert Griffin III.
The Browns are hoping this former Heisman Trophy winner will help erase the memory of Manziel, the one who earned the award the year after Griffin. Tonight’s preseason game between the Bucs and Browns also will feature Jameis Winston, who succeeded Manziel as the winner of college football’s top prize.
This should be the most entertaining preseason game of the four NFL teams play each summer. Starters often go until halftime, giving fans something to whet their appetite for the impending regular season.
The fourth and final game is the “let’s not get any of our regulars hurt” exhibition, which is understandable.
For the first time in years, Cleveland appears to have some potential offensive weapons in the passing game. The trio of Baylor products featuring Griffin, Josh Gordon, and rookie Corey Coleman will go after the Bucs secondary tonight.
Gordon will make his preseason debut, but must sit out the first four games of the regular season following a suspension for substance and alcohol abuse. Despite enormous talent displayed in his rookie year, he has struggled since the 2013 season. The Browns can only hope Gordon does not become another Manziel.
If Gordon continues to struggle, Cleveland may have some insurance. Terrell Pryor was once a star quarterback at Ohio State, but after floundering for the Raiders, the Browns signed him and converted him to wide receiver.
With the understanding this is the preseason, Pryor has three catches in two games for 107 yards, including a 50-yard touchdown. His one regular season reception came last year and it was good for 42 yards.
Andrew Hawkins returns from 2015 and should see some action tonight.
Griffin had a disappointing ending to his days in Washington after such high expectations. The expectations are high for this season in Cleveland, but they are best defined as cautious optimism.
He has shown accuracy and his legendary mobility during the preseason. If the Browns can lift their running game from 22nd in the league, the passing attack might be that much more effective.
“There’s a lot of fish in the tank,” Griffin told ESPN. “And it’s up to us to feed them the right way.”
Making a return trip to Tampa tonight is backup quarterback Josh McCown. After a lackluster 2014 season with the Bucs, McCown posted solid numbers for the Browns last year with 12 touchdowns and four interceptions in just eight games.
Players on both teams are playing for jobs in this game. Rosters must be cut to 75 players by Tuesday afternoon.
Teams will establish final rosters of 53 players by Sept. 3.