Browns-Lions Preview

And so the preseason begins, as does the small matter of who the hell is starting the season at quarterback.

When the Cleveland Browns take the field 7:30 p.m. Saturday against the Detroit Lions, the season's first practice game means pertinent questions may pop up:

How will Justin Gilbert look?

Is Joel Bitonio the real deal at left guard?

Can Miles Austin be a true No. 1 in the absence of Josh Gordon?

Does Donte Whitner still have a lot left in the tank?

Just kidding.

What’s up with the quarterbacks?!?!

Unless you’ve been swept up by LeBron fever, searching for Malaysia Airlines flight 370 or confined to your basement to avoid Ebola, you’ve noticed the Browns quarterback situation is kind of a big deal. It’s dominating the local and national news. Thankfully that noise will quiet down for a few hours Saturday and we can actually watch a game.

Brian Hoyer will get the start. By now you’ve heard terms like “momentum” and “progress” and “leading the competition.” These mean nothing, but instead are manufactured by those covering the team because in a 24/7 news cycle you need to report something to prove your existence.

What we do have is indeed a competition. Team Hoyer vs. Team Manziel.

In talking with those inside Berea, TheOBR’s Lane Adkins has reported that Hoyer, coming off ACL surgery has looked good at times and is getting positive reviews from coaches despite some inconsistency.

It’s not surprising. We’ve seen him in actual regular season game action last year.

It appears he hasn’t lost a step after battling back from knee surgery. This is Hoyer’s sixth NFL season and there is no doubt he belongs in this league.

Hoyer’s goal Saturday night should be to remind Browns coaches and fans why he has become sort of a cult hero for his brief three-game appearance last year. However long he plays against the Lions, he needs to make quick decisions, throw accurately, move the chains and don’t turn the ball over. If Hoyer is consistent with those traits throughout the preseason the job is his. If he’s consistent with those traits during the regular season, the Browns just might win more games than lose — a novel concept, sure, but one that is plausible.

But, there’s that Johnny Football guy. He’s the reason the Browns are making national news. He has the raw talent that warranted a first-round draft choice. He is the shiny new toy that Browns fans and coaches can’t wait to play with. But is he ready?

We won’t get complete answers Saturday night and by no means should absolute statements be made based off one game, especially the season’s first practice game. I’m looking at you Twitter. That said, this game will be fun to watch.

Perhaps this is blind optimism, but it seems as if this year the Browns’ quarterback battle has two good choices, which is a change from the depressing battles of the past. Here’s a quick stroll down memory lane: Tim Couch vs. Kelly Holcomb, Derek Anderson vs. Charlie Frye, Derek Anderson vs. Brady Quinn, Brandon Weeden vs. Colt McCoy.

By The Numbers

The first preseason game is always jarring to the eyes and minds of Browns fans. You get accustomed to seeing numbers associated with certain players and just like the players, fans need some preseason training.

Remember Brandon Weeden’s first preseason game? No. 3 trotted out there and visions of Derek Anderson’s 95 mph screen passes and four interceptions in Cincinnati bounced around your head. As it turned out, Anderson and Weeden were similar crappy quarterbacks. Thankfully, Johnny Football didn’t pick that number.

Below is a handy guide to help you re-train your eyes and brain for the regular season:

No. 2: Johnny Football, not Tim Couch. But if a new quarterback is going to wear a number, better No. 2 than No. 3. (See previous paragraphs.)

No. 15: No, that’s not Greg Little. Say hello to wide receiver Marlon Moore.

No. 19: Miles Austin. Also, no, Bernie Kosar is no longer doing the preseason broadcasts and, yes, that is sad.

No. 20: That’s training camp darling and rookie running back Terrance West, not Montario Hardesty.

No. 31: Safety Donte Whitner, not Jamal Lewis.

No. 43: No, not T.J. Ward. He’s in Denver. It now belongs to rookie defensive back Darwin Cook.

No. 80: Wide receiver Charles Johnson, not Kellen Winslow.

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