The Fast Lane: 2014 Season Opener

The Browns need to open holes for the running game, while giving QB Brian Hoyer the opportunity to get the ball out. The Steelers will zone-blitz off the bus, pressuring the Browns offense to show they can make plays.

- The Browns have been hearing a buzz about WR Josh Gordon. While the information they have heard is unofficial, there is promise that Gordon's suspension could be reduced to time served, if the negotiations between the league and NFLPA continues on its current path.

The league and NFLPA discussions have touched on players currently suspended due to drug/alcohol policy infractions, with those players which fall under the threshold in potentially new testing guidelines could be reinstated, but will still show a suspension on their records.

Presently, the NFLPA has remained steadfast in gaining a viable drug/alcohol/HGH testing policy and secondly want to get suspended players back on the playing field.

The NFLPA has made no guarantees to the suspended players, other than fighting for their reinstatement through this ongoing negotiation.

- Heading into the season opener against the Steelers, the Browns believe QB Brian Hoyer and the offense will be effective. Practice sessions over the past two weeks have been increasingly productive and efficient, with Hoyer and the receiving corps displaying much needed consistency.

While the Browns would like to have more size at the WR position, the staff is of the belief the new rules regarding defensive contact could benefit the smaller, quicker receivers the Browns field.

- Rookie QB Johnny Manziel has been prepared to be a backup first, but the offensive coaches have also incorporated some 'things' as we have been told into the scheme against the Steelers. The Browns are going to play it by feel, but there is an expectation that the rookie QB will see the field at some point in Pittsburgh.

- The Fast Lane has been told the Browns defense expects to see the Steelers go no huddle a considerable amount of time and the Browns defense will often utilize an additional defensive back in place of an LB at times. Additionally. the Browns will blitz early and often in Pittsburgh, as they want to stop the run early and lead Pittsburgh to put the ball in the air.

On film, the Browns staff has picked-up on tendencies the Steelers show in the running game and have emphasized recognition, especially by the OLBs against the run. Pittsburgh has been solid in pinning the OLBs, leaving gaping lanes. The Browns OLBs, especially Barkevious Mingo has had issues in over-pursuit which falls into this specific aspect.

- As it stands heading into Pittsburgh, indications are Mingo will see the heaviest workload of the OLBs, while Jabaal Sheard and Paul Kruger rotate more often -- all three OLBs will rotate throughout.

- CB Buster Skrine has made it through practice sessions and should have no issue lining up on Sunday in Pittsburgh. Skrine has his large cast removed (thumb surgery) and has a much smaller wrap on the hand, which could limit his ability to grab -- not necessarily a bad thing for the CB.

- Rookie CB Justin Gilbert will see plenty of reps in Pittsburgh, but is behind Skrine on the depth chart. Interestingly, the Browns have utilized Skrine outside and in the slot in practice sessions with Aaron Berry gaining reps when Skrine is outside.

- CBs Skrine and Joe Haden have told the defensive coaches they want to go after the Pittsburgh receivers -- saying trust us to cover, we're up for the challenge.

- When training camp started, GM Ray Farmer talked of how the organization would be watching other team roster cuts and could supplement the Browns roster. And, Farmer was kidding, the Browns aggressively went after young, capable offensive linemen and are very pleased with the improved quality and depth now -- Ryan Seymour and Vinston Painter have already shown to be significant upgrades, while Patrick Lewis, Karim Barton and James Brown add solid developmental talent.

The addition of Seymour and Painter could prove to be significant as veteran offensive lineman Paul McQuistian has labored with an ankle sprain.

- The Browns offense will show numerous receiver package groups, an interesting one will show TE Jordan Cameron lined-up wide. When Cameron is lined-up like a WR, TE Jim Dray will assume the traditional TE role.

- Speaking of Cameron, his agent and the Browns continue to discuss a contract extension for the TE.While talks have been developing and positive, the parties have ground to cover before a deal is reached.

- ILB's Craig Robertson and Christian Kirksey have taken reps with the starting defense the past two weeks in practice sessions. The defensive staff wanted to have both players ready to start, but have been leaning toward Robertson due to experience, but Kirksey could ultimately take more snaps than Robertson overall -- the Browns staff absolutely believes Kirksey is going to have an impact on this Browns defense.

- DE Armonty Bryant will start for the injured Desmond Bryant (wrist). Billy Winn will see reps as will OLB Jabaal Sheard behind Bryant.


- The Browns defense struggled throughout the preseason on third down and must do a much better job against the Steelers. Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger has an uncanny knack of keeping plays alive and making big plays, especially on third down.

Expect the Browns defense to pressure and blitz Roethlisberger from every conceivable angle and it'll come down to the Browns defense finishing plays and playing well on coverage.

- The team that can keep their QB upright and control the line of scrimmage is likely to win this game. The Steelers have had trouble protecting Roethlisberger, but heading into the 2014 season, the Pittsburgh offensive line should be improved.

The Browns need to open holes for the running game, while giving QB Brian Hoyer the opportunity to get the ball out. The Steelers will zone-blitz off the bus, pressuring the Browns offense to show they can make plays.

- The Browns must not only get into the red-zone, but must convert those opportunities into TDs. The Browns have a legitimate RB in Ben Tate to tote the rock, have an experienced WR in Miles Austin, a dynamic TE in Jordan Cameron and some shifty WR's that should find space in the Pittsburgh secondary to work.

Give Hoyer time and the Browns offense should be in position to make plays.

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