Matchup: Cleveland Browns at Washington Redskins
Date/Time: August 18, 8:00 p.m. ET
Spread: Washington -2.5
The Cleveland Browns still aren’t sure who will start at quarterback when the regular season begins, while the Washington Redskins are concerned with their starter. In their follow-up to the highest-rated preseason game in NFL Network history, the Browns will grace the national TV audience with their presence on ESPN Monday Night Football against the Redskins.
Both teams went through a major transition in the offseason. Rob Chudzinski was fired after just one season and was replaced by Mike Pettine. As the cliché goes, “You can’t fire the players”, and so Mike Shanahan was relieved of his duties following an ongoing feud with star quarterback Robert Griffin III. Jay Gruden took over and has the youngest offensive coordinator in the league in Sean McVay.
It should be a very interesting evening for the Browns offense. After failing to score a touchdown in the “Great Lakes Classic” last week against the Lions, the Pettine announced that Brian Hoyer would start in this game. Hoyer and Manziel may alternate series and Pettine was going to reach out to Gruden and see how long his first-team defense was going to play so that Manziel could face the starters. Gruden told the media that his starters will play at least the first quarter, so the Browns could have trouble with continuity early in this game. Pettine told the media that he wanted to name a starter at quarterback for Week 1 of the regular season by Tuesday, the day after the Redskins game, so there’s a lot on the line for Hoyer and Manziel.
Defensively, Buster Skrine and Desmond Bryant are both out for Jim O’Neil’s defense. On offense, Josh Gordon may not play much due to a hamstring injury, but that’s for the best for the Browns, who are going to be without Gordon for a while with his impending suspension. Connor Shaw is expected to get an extended look in the second half, despite the team’s free agent signing of Rex Grossman this past week.
On the other sideline, the Redskins have not had a smooth training camp. They were victorious in their first preseason contest thanks to a fine defensive effort, but Robert Griffin III has had a hard time adjusting to Jay Gruden’s offense. As covered in the August 14 edition of Cole Ryan’s “The Money Down”, Kirk Cousins has outplayed RGIII in training camp. There’s no quarterback controversy right now, but the Redskins have to be worried about Griffin as the start of the season approaches.
With a very short turnaround for both teams, the Redskins have opted to be cautious with the starters in Week 2. The starters are only going to play about a quarter, which means another extended look for Colt McCoy and Lache Seastrunk. Seastrunk was the Redskins’ leading rusher in Week 1 with 63 yards on 12 carries. McCoy looked very solid, albeit against New England’s practice squad defense. Any time a team goes 3-13, playing time is available the following season, and that’s especially true of a team with a new coach.
Running backs have not done a good job in pass protection and that puts all of the Redskins quarterbacks into a precarious position during the preseason. Speaking of injuries, Jason Hatcher and Darryl Sharpton are out and Brandon Meriweather is extremely doubtful.
Both Pettine and Gruden coached their first career preseason games last week. Pettine lost, but covered, while Gruden won and covered.
Free NFL Pick: Washington
The Browns offense looked rather inept against the Lions and hasn’t looked a whole lot better in practice. With undrafted rookie Connor Shaw likely to play the entire second half against the more experienced Colt McCoy, going up against his former team, the Redskins should have a major advantage after halftime.
Adam Burke is a freelance writer and amateur handicapper with a knack for finding value through matchup analysis and a deep understanding of the sports betting market. His main area of expertise is baseball, with a background in sabermetrics and advanced statistics. He is the host of The Gridiron Gambling Report and our college football and college basketball BangTheBook.com podcasts on the BlogTalkRadio Network.