The Cleveland Browns have begun their preseason adventure to Indianapolis as the team took part in their first joint practice with the Colts on Wednesday. The team will practice one more time on Thursday and then meet on the field in Indianapolis on Saturday for their second preseason game of the year. It is a big-time opportunity for the young Browns team to take the field against another team for three sustained periods of time, giving the coaches, players and front office a nice barometer of where the team stands against the Colts, one of the more talented teams in the league.
The Colts are coming off a 10-6 playoff season behind their talented quarterback Andrew Luck. So, having the opportunity to face a team of this ilk will only give the Browns a good taste of what they need to compete against for the upcoming playoff hunt. So, what should Browns fans look for against their matchup with the Colts? Well, both sides have a lot of great talent across their roster, giving these practices and the game a lot of fun matchups to watch. Here are some of the top to watch this week.
CB Denzel Ward vs WR T.Y. Hilton
This is a really fun matchup. Colts WR T.Y. Hilton destroyed the Browns secondary in 2017, but Cleveland has a lot more talent in their secondary now, including No. 1 corner, Denzel Ward. Ward, if he sees the field on Saturday, should be in charge of following Hilton. Ward will be facing a receiver with great speed and route-running ability. Ward is an extremely quick corner who can move fluidly throughout the field, so it will be interesting to see these two fast, agile athletes competing against each other.
RG Quenton Nelson/C Ryan Kelly vs DL Larry Ogunjobi/DL Sheldon Richardson
This could be the matchup of the game if all four of these guys play over the course of these three days. Right guard Quenton Nelson and center Ryan Nelson form one of the best young interior linemen combos in the league with Nelson being considered already as one of the best guards in the league. They will have their hands full with interior defensive linemen Larry Ogunjobi and Sheldon Richardson. It will be a great test for the new Browns interior defensive line combo. Ogunjobi will be looking to use his power against Kelly, which is a bit of a weakness for the center. The test against Nelson for both Ogunjobi and Richardson will be a great measuring stick for both men.
LT Anthony Castonzo vs DE Myles Garrett
Myles Garrett has been eating up the Browns tackles in practice and now he will set his eyes on feasting against Colts left tackle Anthony Castonzo. Castonzo has been one of the more consistently solid tackles in the league. So, the Browns bright young pass rusher will get a nice test versus one of the better tackles in the league. Garrett is ready to break out this season, so expect Castonzo to put up some resistance, but in the end it should be another good performance from Garrett to continue his momentum of 2019 breakout season.
TE Eric Ebron vs Browns LBs
The Browns have been horrendous in covering the opposing tight ends over the course of the past two seasons. They will be facing Eric Ebron, who had a great season in his first year with the Colts. After a forgetful few seasons in the NFL, Ebron showed the talent that earned the high pick billing. The Browns linebackers will have the assignment of covering this athletic tight end. Christian Kirksey, Joe Schobert, and Mack Wilson should be the main linebackers in charge of covering Ebron. Can the Browns finally slow down a tight end this season?
DE Justin Houston vs LT Greg Robinson
The Browns need to know if Greg Robinson is up to the task in protecting quarterback Baker Mayfield. Robinson will get a big test when he has to face new Colts defensive end Justin Houston. Houston has been one of the most productive edge rushers over the past several years. If Cleveland wants to figure out if Robinson is ready for prime time, Houston will give Robinson all he can handle. This will be a true barometer for how well Robinson can play at left tackle.
LB Darius Leonard vs TE David Njoku
Colts linebacker Darius Leonard was a breakout star in his rookie season last year. He showed off his ability to be a complete linebacker and the centerpiece of the Colts defense. His athleticism allows him to be a talented cover linebacker. Browns tight end David Njoku is in line for a big year this season with all the talent on the Browns offense now. Njoku will be going out in passing routes covered many times by Leonard. This will be a fun athletic matchup with two of the better young players at their respective position.
S Malik Hooker vs QB Baker Mayfield
The final matchup to watch is between Colts safety Malik Hooker and Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield. Hooker is a ball-hawking safety with the range to cover the whole field. It will be up to Mayfield to keep Hooker guessing and out of the play by spreading the wealth around the field and hiding his intentions until he lets the ball go. It will be a big mental battle between these two players.