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Browns vs. Detroit Lions: 10 players to watch Friday night

By Nate Ulrich Published: August 18, 2011
Cleveland Browns guard Shawn Lauvao during practice at the NFL football team's training camp Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2011, in Berea, Ohio. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Before the Browns opened the preseason against the Green Bay Packers last Saturday, I gave you my list of the top 10 players to watch. Without using guys who were mentioned on the original list, here's another set of Browns players to keep an eye on Friday night, when Cleveland hosts the Detroit Lions in another preseason game:

  1. Offensive lineman Shawn Lauvao (No. 66): As he prepares to enter his second NFL season, he's trying to become the permanent starter at right guard. On Friday, Lauvao could further prove he's ready by protecting quarterback Colt McCoy from Lions standout defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. Last week, Suh slammed Cincinnati Bengals rookie quarterback Andy Dalton to the ground, prompting a $20,000 fine from the league. Last preseason, Suh was fined $7,500 for viciously taking down former Browns quarterback Jake Delhomme by his face mask.The Browns can't afford for McCoy to be thrown around like a rag doll. So even though it's the preseason, Lauvao, who's pictured to the left, must step up and hold Suh in check. Is he up for the challenge?

  2. Defensive end Jabaal Sheard (No. 90): He started at right end in the Browns' preseason opener, but he did not record a single defensive statistic. The Browns need Sheard, a second-round pick (37th overall) in this year's draft, to contribute, not disappear on game days. Sheard and the other starters are expected to play against the Lions for about a half, coach Pat Shurmur said. Will Sheard make some noise?

  3. Offensive lineman Jason Pinkston (No. 62): He could be thrust into a starting role against the Lions if Eric Steinbach is held out. On Wednesday, Pinkston, a fifth-round pick (150th overall) in this year's draft, filled in at left guard for the first-team offense after Steinbach left practice when his back tightened. Will Pinkston sink or swim if he faces the Lions' defensive starters?

  4. Linebacker Brian Smith (No. 53): He will start at strongside linebacker if Scott Fujita, who's been sidelined all week, continues to sit out with a bruised thigh. Smith, an undrafted rookie from the University of Notre Dame, created a touchdown last weekend with his strip-sack of Packers quarterback Graham Harrell. Will he shine in the spotlight again?

  5. Defensive back James Dockery (No. 34): The Browns are experimenting with Dockery, another undrafted rookie who has stood out in training camp. He was recently moved from cornerback to free safety, and Shurmur indicated Dockery, an Oregon State State University product, might play in his new spot against the Lions. If projected starting safeties T.J. Ward and Usama Young continue to miss action because of hamstring problems, Dockery could even receive playing time with the starters like he did Wednesday during practice. Will he be able to excel at multiple positions?

  6. Linebacker Titus Brown (No. 59): He has been a special-teams ace throughout his career, but now he's trying to prove he can contribute on defense, too. Brown, the team's backup middle linebacker, scooped up the fumble forced by Smith and returned it 43 yards for a touchdown against the Packers. He also finished with four tackles, including one for loss. Can he continue to make a strong case for himself?

  7. Linebacker Kaluka Maiava (No. 56): He is expected to start for the second consecutive exhibition game at weakside linebacker while Chris Gocong continues to recover from a stinger. Can he continue to bounce back from the season-ending knee injury (torn right ACL) he suffered last season?

  8. Cornerback Buster Skrine (No. 22): He and Dimitri Patterson have split time as the first-string nickel back throughout camp. Can Skrine, a fifth-round pick (137th overall) in this year's draft, convince the coaches he's the man for the job?

  9. Wide receiver Jordan Norwood (No. 10): He has primarily served as a slot receiver throughout camp, but he was used as the flanker and the X in the team's most recent practice. Can he produce no matter where he lines up?

  10. Running back Montario Hardesty (No. 31): He would be No. 1 on this list if it we knew his status. Shurmur hasn't ruled Hardesty out, but he hasn't said he will play this week, either. After working on the side with a trainer for two weeks, Hardesty fully participated in practice this week. He looked comfortable running, making cuts and taking hits. When will the Browns allow him to test his surgically repaired left knee against another team?


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