An indicator of the progress of the Browns can be viewed during the first half of the game Monday. Both the Packers and the Browns will increase their team intensity in what will be the final lengthy tune-up for the starters prior to the regular season. The Packers are a playoff quality opponent and the Browns will get an up-close evaluation of their team and specific roster positions.
The Browns will walk into Lambeau Field in Green Bay as healthy as they have been at any time during the preseason. The game will be the first time that the recently projected offensive and defensive starting units will be intact for a game. With the exception of starting offensive right guard Tre' Johnson and middle linebacker Earl Holmes, the starters are expected to play in the third quarter of the game.
Expected to start, middle linebacker Earl Holmes will see his first game time action of the preseason against the Packers. There were preseason rumors that Holmes' knee injury that required surgery was worse than the team was letting on. Holmes and the Browns dispelled the rumors as he could have played last week against the Lions, but the team wanted to be cautious in waiting until this week to get him in the lineup. Holmes is expected to play approximately one quarter. Rookie Andra Davis and Brant Boyer will man the middle of the Browns defense once Holmes departs for the evening.
Darren Hambrick, signed when Jamir Miller was injured and lost for the season will start at the strong-side linebacker spot. Hambrick was signed exactly for this purpose and has caught on quickly to the Browns defensive scheme. With Hambrick in the lineup, the Browns defense becomes somewhat more conventional and athletic. It is questionable if Hambrick will see time in the nickel package. Indications are that Arnold Miller, Kevin Bentley, Marquis Smith, and Ben Taylor will spell Hambrick in the nickel defensive scheme.
The Browns starting defense has been less than stellar in victories against the Vikings and Lions. From players on the unit to the coaching staff, the belief is that they must raise their level of play against the Packers.
Citing that both the Vikings and Lions moved the ball effectively against them, the defensive unit expects to make a statement Monday night in Green Bay against arguably the best quarterback in the game today, Brett Favre, and running back Ahman Green.
Rumor has it that the Packers are looking for additional help and depth on the offensive line. Struggling in the preseason, the Packers offensive line has been adequate at best. The Browns in the past two off-seasons in free agency have signed starting offensive tackle Ross Verba and starting offensive guard Barry Stokes away from the Packers.
The match-up of the Packers offensive line and Browns defensive line is intriguing. In the Browns first two preseason games, the starting defensive line has not shown any consistency rushing the quarterback. Most of the Browns pass rush has come from the second and third defensive teams or from safety blitzes.
With the full compliment of starters on the field and a chip on their shoulder to prove how good they are, the Browns defense expects to come after Favre and the Packers.
An interesting aspect to watch unfold will involve defensive end Courtney Brown. Throughout the off-season and into training camp, Butch Davis talked about getting Brown to unleash his pass-rushing abilities and to become more aggressive. With Miller out of the lineup, Brown is expected to place his focus on getting to the quarterback with the insertion of the athletic, tackling machine Hambrick taking over for Miller in the lineup.
Green Bay will start rookie Javon Walker opposite Donald Driver at wide receiver. Terry Glenn is questionable for the game, recovering from a left knee-sprain. The speedy Driver and large-sized receiver Walker (6'3") should provide a true test against the Browns secondary.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Browns look to maintain the consistency and growth as a unit. The offense has played well in the preseason, but is looking to improve rushing the football. The return of Tre' Johnson to the lineup will add experience and a physical, aggressive nature to the offensive line.
With two preseason games under his belt, William Green will again start for the Browns at running back. Green is expected to get the majority of the reps with the first-team offensive unit. Jamel White will lineup in the backfield with Green at times in the first half of the game.
Also of interest will be the situation at fullback. While the Browns continue to stress the importance of the position, they are also continuing to work with journeymen Kevin McLeod and Chris Floyd, and with H-Back Aaron Shea. The team has not indicated that they see a need to sign available FB Sam Gash.
Players to Watch: The competition at the wide receiver position continues. On the spot are Dennis Northcutt, JaJuan Dawson, and Frisman Jackson. Indications are that Dawson and Jackson are fighting for roster spots, but as we have noted on several occasions over the past three weeks, trades are possible involving Dawson and Northcutt.
Depth along the defensive line is making the final two-preseason games extremely important to a handful of linemen, especially at the tackle position. Marcus Spriggs, Alvin McKinley, Cecil Caldwell, and Damian Gregory are battling for one or two open roster spots. T