Will Hue Jackson Get The ‘Big Jump’ He’s Looking For As Browns Host Falcons Thursday Night?

The Browns host Atlanta Falcons in their second preseason game Thursday night and head coach Hue Jackson is looking for an improved performance over their 17-11 loss Friday night at Green Bay.

Who to watch and why:

– Protection up front: Robert Griffin III took 11 snaps last week against the Packers and was hit 4 times. While Griffin and head coach Hue Jackson downplayed the ratio of hits, that is not the type of protection that is going to keep him healthy enough to be productive this season. Questions over Cameron Erving’s height and ability to gain proper leverage at the point of attack arose this week following a shaky debut at center. Austin Pasztor is the leader for the starting right tackle job but he too needs work. unfortunately for Griffin, the line will be weaker Thursday night with Joe Thomas unavailable while he rests his back that flared up last Friday night.

– Extended Snaps For QBs: With Austin Davis in the NFL’s concussion protocol, Josh McCown and Cody Kessler should see more work after Griffin finishes his night. Jackson continues to not reveal how much his starters will play but it would stand to reason that Griffin will play into the second quarter, if not the entire first half. Kessler threw a beautiful back shoulder ball to Rashard Higgins for a touchdown on his first pass before getting lost and running out of the end zone for a safety – 1 of 2 he was responsible for against the Packers.

– Feed The Crow:Isaiah Crowell lost 2 yards on his only carry of the game last week and missed at least 2 blocking assignments as well. It was not the type of debut the Browns wanted to see from a player counted on being one of the focal points this season.

– Receiver Terrelle Pryor: Pryor was sensational in his preseason debut catching a 49-yard deep ball on the Browns’ first offensive play from Griffin. He caught 2 of the 3 passes thrown his direction, showed improved route running as well as the ability to separate and adjust to the football.

– Emmanuel Ogbah and Carl Nassib: the 2 rookies caught everyone’s attention as they combined for 9 tackles and 2 sacks last week at Green Bay.

– Entire Starting Defense: In the first half the Browns first and second team defensive units gave up 183 yards – 67 on the ground, 12 first downs – 9 via the pass, and allowed the Packers to convert 5 of 10 on third down. While there were a few bright spots like forcing a quick 3-and-out and 54-yard field goal attempt after a fumble on a free kick, the defense needs a much better showing against the Falcons.

– Alex Mack and Kyle Shanahan: Shanahan and Mack reunited in Atlanta this offseason. Shanahan famously authored his exit from the Browns with a PowerPoint presentation that led to him being released from his contract and was hired a year ago by the Falcons as offensive coordinator. He helped recruit Mack, who opted out of his contract to become a free agent and enjoyed Shanahan’s zone-blocking scheme. Both grew tired of the circus in Cleveland.

Browns Probable Starters – OFFENSE: WR Taylor Gabriel, LT Alvin Bailey, LG Joel Bitonio, C Cameron Erving, RG John Greco, RT Austin Pasztor, TE Gary Barnidge, WR Terrelle Pryor, QB Robert Griffin III, RB Isaiah Crowell, FB E.J. Bibbs

DEFENSE: DE Xavier Cooper, NT Danny Shelton, DE Jamie Meder, OLB Paul Kruger, ILB Demario Davis, ILB Christian Kirksey, OLB Nate Orchard, CB Justin Gilbert, CB Tramon Williams, FS Jordan Poyer, SS Ibraheim Campbell

Injury Report – OUT: DL John Hughes (personal), CB Joe Haden (ankle), LT Joe Thomas (back), WR Andrew Hawkins (hamstring), WR Josh Gordon (quadriceps), FB Malcolm Johnson (concussion), CB K’Waun Williams (ankle/suspended), WR Ricardo Louis (hamstring), QB Austin Davis (concussion), DL Nile Lawrence-Stample (shoulder), CB Trey Caldwell (hamstring); QUESTIONABLE: WR Corey Coleman (hamstring), TE Seth DeValve (hamstring)

Uniform – White jersey, white pants, orange socks

Kickoff – 8 p.m. FirstEnergy Stadium – Cleveland, Ohio

Radio/TV – 92.3 The Fan, 98.5 WNCX and the PNC Bank Cleveland Browns Radio Network; WEWS Newschannel 5

More from Daryl Ruiter | 92.3 The Fan
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