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Preseason Game 1 - Rams @ Browns (Aug. 8)

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Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

The offseason is a desert.

We have traveled many miles, our thirsts unquenched. The sight of football was but a mirage.

No longer.

The journey is done.

We have returned.

For game-related info, check out the SBN page for the game. For Browns news leading up the game, check out Dawgs By Nature.

St. Louis Rams, 0-0, t-1st - NFC West

Cleveland Browns, 0-0, t-1st - AFC North

Aug. 8, 8 p.m. ET

Ch. Aff. Loc.
Rams broadcast
Fox St. Louis
KFVS 12 CBS Cape Girardeau
KQFX 22 Fox Columbia, MO
KRBK 49 Fox Springfield, MO
KFJX 14 Fox Joplin
WBUI 23 CW Springfield, IL
WLMT 30 CW Memphis
KWTV 9 CBS Oklahoma City
KTUL 8 ABC Tulsa
Browns broadcast
WKYC 3 NBC Cleveland
WYTV 33 ABC Youngstown
WBNS 10 CBS Columbus
WHIO 7 CBS Dayton


CLE pass v. STL pass D

Starters? Not this time. It's preseason, so let's get after roster decisions.

For the Browns, it's a QB combination of Jason Campbell and Brian Hoyer. With Campbell in the stable, it's a solid challenge for the Rams on Thursday. With Greg Little, Josh Gordon and Davone Bess likely to watch more than they play, the following combination is likely to make up most of what we see from the Browns' passing offense: Travis Benjamin, David Nelson, Jordan Norwood, Cordell Roberson, Josh Cooper, Mike Edwards & Naaman Roosevelt.

They go up against the stable behind Janoris Jenkins, Cortland Finnegan and Trumaine Johnson consisting of Brandon McGee, Quinton Pointer, Darren Woodard, Drew Thomas, Robert Steeples and Andre Martin. And that's just the corners. Maybe most interesting is the safeties for the Rams and the Browns' tight ends.

They bring Jordan Cameron, Gary Barnidge, Kellen Davis, Dan Gronkowski (yes, of the football family Gronkowski) and Travis Tannahill all at tight end. We'll see plenty of them Thursday.

For us at the back, it's some mixture of T.J. McDonald, Darian Stewart, Matt Giordano, Rodney McLeod and college-propped, fan standouts Matt Daniels, Cody Davis and Rashard Hall.

Preseason week one = names galore.

After preseason week one = decisions galore.

CLE run v. STL run D

Forget TRich. We're building rosters here.

Not sure how much time Montario Hardesty is going to get. Behind those two, it's Dion Lewis, Brandon Jackson, Miguel Maysonet and Chris Ogbonnaya (yup, that Chris Ogbonnaya, You know another one?). That's a talented backfield behind what I've deemed the best RB prospect since Adrian Peterson.

Honestly though, I have no idea what the Rams put up here. A nickel base using James Laurinaitis and Jo-Lonn Dunbar left a positive reminder in Rams fans minds (or should). Adding Alec Ogletree through the draft and Will Witherspoon in free agency supports the depth in Josh Hull, Jabara Williams, Jonathan Stewart, Daren Bates, Joseph LeBeau and perhaps Ray Ray Armstrong. Tonight is the first opportunity to sift through those guys and get a sense of how the Rams want to balance their nickel looks with 4-3 sets.

CLE O-line v. STL D-line

The Browns have some interesting depth now along the line behind the starters. There are veterans like Oniel Cousins, Rashad Butler and Jason Pinkston (who will likely get some starting reps this preseason according to Chris Pokorny from Dawgs By Nature in the Q&A I dropped earlier this week as Shawn Lauvao is dealing with an ankle injury). They've added rookies like Braxston Cave (Notre Dame), Chris Faulk (LSU) and giant manbeast Garrett Gilkey (Chadron St. -- FWIW, Gilkey is from Sandwich, Illinois. That makes me happy). I'm really interested in their RG battle between Aaron Adams and Caylin Hauptmann.

On our side, while Eugene Sims, William Hayes and Matt Conrath are probable locks to make the team, I think the back of the roster guys can push them this preseason with a solid performance or two. Inside guys like Garrett Goebel and Al Lapuaho, ends Mason Brodine and Gerald Rivers and even Sammy Brown who's listed as a DE, but is probably more of a 3-4 OLB who is going to plug in at possibly both spots, will have their chances.

STL pass v. CLE pass D

The Browns have a pretty deep secondary. Sure Joe Haden and Leon McFadden are going to be the starters at CB, but between Buster Skrine, Chris Owens, Josh Aubrey, Trevin Wade, Akeem Auguste, Vernon Kearney and Abdul Kanneh, they've got plenty of talent.

So it's an interesting first look for the Rams' offense. Obviously, the focus will be on Sam Bradford linking up with key targets, chiefly Tavon Austin and Jared Cook, early if they're all on the field. Even deciding how to plug in many of the WRs in the first quarter will be news. Where does Brian Quick fit in? Does Chris Givens get some extra work? How long before Austin is pulled? Does Stedman Bailey get any time with the 1's? The depth behind the top five of Austin, Givens, Quick, Austin Pettis and Bailey will take up the majority of the game at WR: Demetrius Fields, Raymond Radway, Emory Blake and Justin Veltung. I'm sure I'm not alone in wishing Lil' Scrappy Andrew Helmick were available, but he's still sidelined with a hamstring issue. There are roster decisions to be made at tight end as well where the Rams list eight players. After Lance Kendricks and Cook, Mike McNeill, Zach Potter, Philip Lutzenkirchen, Cory Harkey, Cameron Graham and Colby Prince will all be working to make the cut.

STL run v. CLE run D

Cleveland's done some work to their front seven in the 3-4, so this is likely a stronger unit in 2013. They were middle of the road in the run game last year, but it's not entirely for line play. The linebackers right now consist of Paul Kruger who's moved over from Baltimore, D’Qwell Jackson, Craig Robertson and Jabaal Sheard. That looks to possibly be a very strong group, but the depth is pretty strong. Right now, 1st round selection Barkevious Mingo (LSU) and second-year inside LB Tank Carder (TCU) are with the second group, but I wouldn't be surprised if they're both starting by mid-season. Keep an eye out for James-Michael Johnson tonight as well.

For the Rams, perhaps the battle of camp begins to sort out this evening. We should get to see a decent dose of Isaiah Pead and Zac Stacy looking to unseat Daryl Richardson atop the depth chart. Terrance Ganaway, Benny Cunningham and Chase Reynolds will probably take the field for much if not all of the second half, but it's the battle up top that's worth tracking.

STL O-line v. CLE D-line

Cleveland has a ton to sort out here. NT Phil Taylor and DE Ahtyba Rubin are firmly seated in starting roles, but newcomer Desmond Bryant has the reins at the other end spot right now. We'll see much more of John Hughes, Brian Sanford, Dave Kruger, Hall Davis and Armonty Bryant man up the end spots along with rookie Billy Winn. Winn logged plenty of time at Boise St. and can be a handful. Ishmaa’ily Kitchen and Nicolas Jean-Baptiste are some chunky dudes at NT.

As for St. Louis' line, Magic Man Paul (T.) Boudreau returns to make diamonds out of coal yet again. Okay, maybe not diamonds, but closer to them than what we got out of the line previously. I doubt the quartet of Jake Long, Scott Wells, Harvey Dahl and Rodger Saffold will have to play much. At LG though, I think there's a legitimate battle between Shelley Smith and Chris Williams. While the depth chart may list both Tim Barnes and Barrett Jones at center, I wouldn't be shocked to see Jones move around a bit. He might kick the tires at RG and stick his nose in the battle between Brandon Washington and Ryan Lee. Heck, he could even play some tackle, though we'll need to sort through both Ty Nsekhe and Joe Barksdale who return from 2012 and rookies Graham Pocic and Sean Hooey.

In observance of the two tiger cubs born at the National Zoo this week, this week's top 3 storylines brought to you by dumb animals at the National Zoo:

1.) Rusty the Red Panda

Red pandas are dumb little animals that look more like a cross between a cat and a fox than a kind of panda. Earlier this summer, Rusty escaped from the zoo and went to one of the more eclectic neighborhoods in D.C. to hang out for a few days, gaining some national headlines understandably.

Like Rusty, this game is making yourself stand out. Instead of being a dumb little catpanda and announcing yourself to the world though, the players who will see the field after the first couple series have to make their performances stand out to their coaches and peers.

And don't go disappearing for the next week either.

2.) The Greater Madagascar Tenrec

I took my daughter to the national zoo last month, and she was in love with this little hedgehog. I had to warn her though - don't get it twisted. This thing survived in Madagascar. The actual Madagascar, not the movie kind. You know, where cockroaches as big as your hand are a thing and locusts eat all the food you would eat so no. This little hedgehog survived in that hellhole. Do not test him.

We'll see some tempers flare up at some point tonight. Guys who are considered laid back will feel the hype that accompanies gameday. Mild mannered 3rd stringers will turn into nasty, brutish dudes. Don't play with fire, or you might get burned. By giant cockroaches and locusts, bruh...

3.) The Swamp Sparrow

I hated taking my daughter through the avian exhibit. Why? Birds are pretty stupid. I've never seen a bird and been thoroughly awed. I mean, it's a freaking bird. I'm sure we need them for the food chain and the circle of life that exists beyond human control, but uh...yeah, I just don't give a damn about birds. And this sparrow? I mean, it's the most boring bird ever. It's just a dumb little brown bird. I have no use for it.

I have more compassion for the guys who will get cut in the weeks ahead as the Rams trim the roster down to 53 men. Some guys just don't fit the plan of the coaching staff, and in this business you have to do what you have to do. It's a value decision, and as we see every year on Hard Knocks, it's not easy to make. You've got to put as many tigers on your team as possible and say goodbye to a couple swamp sparrows to get ready for the season.

So be it.