Traditionally, the third preseason game is as close as you get to the real thing during preseason. More focus is placed on preparation for the opponent. The starting units generally play well into the third quarter. Position battles, especially starting positions, will be decided in this one.
The Browns could not have asked for a better opponent for their dress rehearsal. The Titans are a physical team coming off of a disappointing showing one week ago against the Cowboys. Last year the Titans went 13-3 and appear to be poised to make another run for the AFC crown.
Browns Offense vs. Titans Defense
Anytime you face a Jeff Fisher defense, running the ball becomes a very difficult task and throwing the ball doesn't come much easier. Tennessee may have lost Albert Haynesworth but they still possess one of the best front fours in the game today.
You can't replace a guy like Haynesworth on an individual basis but what you can do is ask everyone else to step up their game. When this happens you may lose the star power of a single position but your unit as a whole can improve.
The Titans front four aren't as big up front as most of the NFL but they are incredibly quick and deceptively stout. They will be present a tremendous challenge for the Browns revamped offensive line that has thus far been uninspiring.
Veteran Hank Fraley has been a class act even though the Browns drafted his replacement in the first round this year. That replacement could secure the starting nod at center with a solid showing against the Titans. Rookie Alex Mack has improved in each showing and another good showing likely seals the deal for the rookie. The rookie will bury his opponent whenever he gets an advantage.
The most troubling position for the Browns offensive line thus far is the right tackle position. John St. Clair, who came over from the Bears during the off season, has been disappointing. His penalties have been drive killers and he is yet to show the physicality that you like to see from your right tackle. I would not be the least bit surprised to see the Browns checking the waiver wire after the second cut day.
All eyes are focused on the Browns quarterback controversy. The eyes of the Browns quarterbacks better learn to look off the Titans secondary or it will be a long day at the office. This group loves to play up tight as they read the eyes of the quarterback. Safety Michael Griffin hauled in 7 interceptions to lead this ball-hawking secondary one year ago.
Quarterback Brady Quinn has performed exceptionally thus far in his preseason appearances despite being victimized by drops and penalties. Derek Anderson has been typical Derek Anderson. When he has been hot, he has been really hot and when he has been bad, he has been really bad. I can't wait to see how each quarterback looks to attack this potent Titans defense.
One rookie that may need a larger wagon to haul his band of followers is running back James Davis. Davis is currently fourth in rushing yards despite just 14 carries in preseason. His 81 yard run against the Lion opened eyes a week ago but for those that have been to camp or followed the OBR's camp reports, they were waiting for Davis to show his full potential.
With running back Jerome Harrison continuing to nurse injury and Jamal Lewis looking slow and showing little of an initial burst, the door is wide open for the rookie to earn himself a key role in this offense.
The wide receiver position was considered by most to be one of the weakest units not just on this team but in this league. Thus far this unit looks to be the best receiving corps the Browns have fielded since expansion.
Veteran Mike Furrey is catching everything thrown his way and has become a favorite target of Brady Quinn. The rookie tandem of Brian Robiskie and Mohamed Massaquoi look poised and confident. Braylon Edwards had a costly drop in the opener but has rebounded and appears to be ready to get back to his 2007 form.
Joshua Cribbs is simply the Browns greatest offensive threat. Whenever he is in the game good things happen. His ability to return kicks and punts is phenomenal but his blocking as a receiver makes him a Hines Ward-type of special. He may not be the greatest route runner but he is improving and whenever this young man touches the ball, he is a threat to take it the distance.
Browns Defense vs. Titans Offense
It appears unlikely that Browns NT Shaun Rogers will partake in Saturday's contest. In his absence Ahtyba Rubin should make his third consecutive start. This young man is growing more and more confident with every snap he takes. As matter of fact, this entire Browns defense is growing more confident as Rob Ryan begins to show a little more as each preseason game has progressed.
That confidence will surely be tested as they face one of the best young running back tandems in the league with Chris Johnson and LenDale White. Johnson is a speedster that likes to make one move and he is off to the races. White is the bruiser back and fantasy league star for his goal line performances.
Stopping this running game isn't so much about great individual performances but more about playing disciplined football with a gang mentality. There are individuals that will need to shine however and those are the outstanding corners of the Browns.
The Titans work their running game with the threat of the deep pass from veteran quarterback Kerry Collins. This is where the ability of Eric Wright and Brandon McDonald to dislodge receivers from their routes becomes so valuable. If they can disrupt, it will make Collins wait and that gives your pass rushers like Alex Hall and Kamerion Wimbley time to get to the quarterback.
The Titans love the screen pass once the defense becomes too aggressive. Keep an eye out for the double screen as they sell the running back screen to one side and then come back door to the tight end. This is a great mental test for the outside linebackers of the Cleveland Browns.
The Browns coverages can be a bit confusing to even a veteran quarterback when they are showing so much pre snap movement. This is great for slowing down the reads and when the reads slow down, it is a great time for the inside blitz. Look for the Browns to use that inside blitz more this week, which should equate to more playing time for rookie linebacker David Veikune.
There are areas in which both teams need to improve. The Browns must eliminate the foolish penalties which not only has plagued them thus far in preseason but for the last couple of seasons. The Browns also need to show that they can run the football. You aren't going to win many games in the AFC North unless you can get a push up front.
The Tennessee Titans are a Super Bowl caliber. This is a terrific defense although secondary depth is a question. I love this running game and the offensive line appears poised for another terrific year but quarterback and receiver remain questions. I do not believe Vince Young is the answer but I do not have a lot of faith in Kerry Collins either. This Titan team appears to win not because of the quarterback and receiver positions but despite those positions.