With the Cleveland Browns Pre-season opener tonight, excitement turns to reality for the team and the fans. Few questions will get answered tonight but the direction of the team and the hopes of the fans could be impacted but it is the individual play of certain players that intrigues me the most.
The Browns have a ton of players of interest for a variety of reasons. High drafted players, free agents brought in from other teams and the virtual unknowns litter the team's roster. It makes for a very interesting process for both the team, deciding on who makes the 53 man is going to be very interesting, and the fans, who are always looking for reasons for hope before the real season starts.
That brings me to three players that I will be paying special attention to tonight. These are not the only players that interest me but these are three that I will try to focus my attention on, even when they are not involved directly with the play.
Michael Bowie - The Browns brought him in last off-season and all reports are, now that he is healthy, he has looked very good. If he and Cameron Erving are the Browns two backup linemen, the team could be in great shape.
Xavier Cooper - Cooper is a player who could crack the Browns defensive line rotation and really help the pass rush. We haven't heard much about him this off-season.
Armonty Bryant - Bryant is going to swing between having his hand down and playing up at linebacker. He showed flashes before getting hurt, how he responds to his new role is exciting
3 Players to Watch
Taylor Gabriel - One of my favorite players, Gabriel came on strong last year as an undrafted rookie last year. The smaller receiver made a big impact playing mostly on the outside. His speed, route running and hands make him an ideal fit with Dwayne Bowe. With Brian Hartline and Josh Lenz having great camps, TG has not had his name mentioned often. Watching him play, he could have a similar rise as Antonio Brown did with the Steelers. While not the big receiver fans want, I look forward to what Taylor Gabriel does on the field tonight.
E.J. Bibbs - Will stay on the offensive side of the ball right now. Bibbs has joined Lenz as the two UDFA that have made some noise. With free agent Rob Housler not even sure to make the team at this point, Bibbs could be in for a big role in this offense. He has a big body, soft hands and good body control. He will likely get time with Johnny Manziel with the second team and I can't wait to see him pressing the seams of the defense. I want to watch him run his routes, even if the ball doesn't come his way. Does he round them off? Is he sharp in and out of breaks? Those will be key.
Justin Gilbert - With Pierre Desir not likely to play tonight, Gilbert is going to get some time a little earlier. I will be more focused on the process with Gilbert than the results. Is he in the right position? How is his footwork? Does he transition in and out of his breaks smoothly? For Gilbert, tonight is a night that could help keep him in the running with Desir or drop him out. Barring injury, neither is likely to see the field all that often but tonight will help show if this off-season was as positive as most have said it was for him. Whether he gets beat on a couple throws or even whether he beats out Desir this season is less important than the process.
Who are you looking forward to seeing tonight?