By Tony Grossi
The Morning Kickoff …
What: Browns vs. Green Bay Packers, 8 p.m., in Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wisc.
TV: WKYC TV 3 with Jim Donovan, Bernie Kosar and Dave Chudowsky.
The set-up: Because of the quirk in the Browns’ preseason schedule, which has them facing Philadelphia in the traditional dress rehearsal third game and then opening against the Eagles in the season opener, coach Pat Shurmur intends to play his regulars the first half, or more, against the Packers. Then he will back off from showing the Eagles much next week and brace for an injury-free finale against the Bears to end the preseason.
Series history: This is the fourth consecutive year – and eighth overall since the Browns returned in 1999 – that the teams meet in the preseason. The Browns have won the last two and are 3-4 in their expansion era against the Packers in practice games. The teams last played in a regular game in 2009 and Green Bay won, 31-3. The Packers denied the Browns from repeating as NFL champions in Jim Brown’s last season in 1965.
Packers update: Coach Mike McCarthy will play Aaron Rodgers and Company to give the home fans something to cheer about in the team’s 63rd Upper Midwest Shrine Game, but not for long. McCarthy has two objectives in this game – avoiding more injuries and trying to make a decision on presumed backup quarterback Graham Harrell. Another so-so performance by the one-time Browns minicamp invitee might prompt GM Ted Thompson to consider trading for a veteran backup. Like most teams, the Packers have been wracked by injuries in training camp. At one point they had 21 players missing from practice because of injuries.
Browns update: Rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden makes his second preseason start. He said he looked forward to “not redeem myself – but correct the mistakes I made last week.” Among the Browns expected to miss the game with injuries are running back Trent Richardson, tight ends Ben Watson and Jordan Cameron, wide receiver Travis Benjamin, defensive end Frostee Rucker, middle linebacker D’Qwell Jackson and cornerback Dimitri Patterson. For the second game in a row, Colt McCoy is expected to be the second quarterback to play. While some may interpret that as a strong indication of McCoy having a leg up on Seneca Wallace for the top backup role, it’s possible the Browns are showcasing McCoy in front of the Packers to attract their interest in a trade for him.
Our take: The Packers’ 3-4, zone-blitz defensive scheme affords Weeden a glimpse of what he will see later in the year two times against the Pittsburgh Steelers. It’s a welcome opportunity for the young Browns’ offense to be exposed to the zone blitz. Weeden said he saw a lot of it in the Big 12 Conference, but the Browns haven’t practice against it much with their new personnel. Defensively, the Browns have to show some improvement against the run. For the second week in a row, they oppose an offense not noted for its ground game.
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