What lockout? Saturday marks the 20th day since the NFL and players agreed to a new CBA deal on July 25. It sure seems like that was ages ago.
It is time for football - real, actual, football. The Cleveland Browns play host to the Green Bay Packers in a preseason opener at 7:30 p.m. The game will be televised live locally on WKYC-TV 3, as well as nationally on the NFL Network.
The last time the Cleveland Browns were on the field at Cleveland Browns Stadium, the Pittsburgh Steelers were ending the Browns' 2010 regular season — and subsequently Eric Mangini's coaching stint — to the tune of a 41-9 drubbing.
The Steelers would go on to advance to Super Bowl XLV where they lost to Saturday's opponent, Green Bay, 31-25.
With the defending Super Bowl champions in town, the Browns are getting an early look to see where they stack up against the best in the NFL.
The Browns enter preseason with new offensive and defensive schemes, new coaches, including head coach Pat Shurmur, and some new faces on the field. In addition, the team has only had about two weeks to acclimate themselves to the aforementioned new schemes, coaches and faces.
Now, go play the defending Super Bowl champs.
So, what can we expect Saturday? Here are two things to look for in the first preseason. Remember, there are four of these bad boys.
McCoy Under Center
This is unnatural territory for the Cleveland Browns and their fan base. Entering this game, there is a clear-cut No. 1 quarterback and it is Colt McCoy. No coin flips to determine who will start. No need to distribute equal amount of snaps for the team's first two quarterbacks. There is a simple hierarchy: McCoy is No. 1, Seneca Wallace is No. 2, Jarrett Brown is No. 3 and Troy Weatherhead is, well, going to get cut.
Although there isn't a quarterback controversy to garner all the preseason attention, McCoy will still need to be closely monitored. Of course, not too much can be made from the first game because the Browns' new offense isn't close to being fully installed.
"We still have three to four installs to go," McCoy said following last Saturday's Family Day Practice at the stadium.
No one can expect miracles, but they can expect to see improvement. As McCoy said, although mistakes are being made, they are only happening once.
The first game doesn't come with a cupcake defense, either. The Packers were fifth against the pass last season, allowing only 194.2 yards per game, and had two very satisfying interceptions of Ben Roethlisberger in the Super Bowl.
Storylines: Does McCoy look in command? Does he appear to have a grasp of the offense? Is this West Coast style truly going to fit his skills?
4-3 or Bust
The Browns defense can't stop the run. The Browns defense can't defend the pass. It has been that way season after season in Cleveland.
This season, coach Dick Jauron is the defensive coordinator, bringing some experience and stability to that position. On the field, the Browns continue to upgrade that side of the ball via draft and free agency.
Meanwhile, the front seven is making the change from 3-4 to 4-3. Anchoring that group of seven are defensive tackles Ahtyba Rubin (6-foot-2, 302 pounds) and 2011 first-round pick Phil Taylor (6-3, 335). With those two big bodies taking up blocks, it may give defensive ends Jayme Mitchell and 2011 second-round pick Jabaal Sheard an easier route to the quarterback.
Mitchell hasn't played a game with the Browns, despite being with the team since last October. The Browns hope Sheard is becomes a pass-rushing specialist.
It's doubtful Packers first team offense, led by Aaron Rodgers, will play much on Saturday. Last season in the preseason, Rodgers was 12-for-13 for 159 yards and a touchdown. Quite efficient. Still, for the brief period the Browns' ones play the Packers ones' it is a good, early season measuring stick. Thankfully, there is still about a month before the games begin to count.
Storylines: Can the Browns defense – in the short time they will face the Packers' first-team – disrupt one of the best offenses in the NFL? Is the DT duo of Taylor-Rubin allowing the Browns' green defensive ends room to roam? Is the secondary, complete with the addition of safety Usama Young, improved from last season?