Cleveland Browns' Colt McCoy throws a pass as the NFL football team practiced Saturday, Aug. 6, 2011, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/The Plain Dealer, Joshua Gunter) MANDATORY CREDIT
Here is my list of the top 10 Browns players to watch tonight when Cleveland hosts the Green Bay Packers in the preseason opener for both teams:
- Quarterback Colt McCoy (No. 12): Does he have command of coach Pat Shurmur's West Coast offense? The team's success this season will hinge on McCoy's production more than that of any other player on the roster.
- Middle linebacker D'Qwell Jackson (No. 52): Can he rebound from two torn pectoral muscles and subsequent surgeries that forced him to miss the Browns' past 26 regular-season games? Without much quality depth at linebacker, the Browns are hoping he can stay healthy and become one of the leaders of their new 4-3 defense.
- Left defensive end Jayme Mitchell (No. 92): What do Browns fans know about him? Virtually nothing. He spent the first three seasons of his career with the Minnesota Vikings before the Browns traded for him last season. He didn't appear in a single game for the Browns in 2010, but now he's being counted on to start.
- Defensive tackle Phil Taylor (No. 98): Is he worthy of the 21st overall pick in this year's draft? As the three-technique on the Browns' four-man defensive front, he'll face Packers right guard Josh Sitton, one of the top blockers for the defending Super Bowl champions.
- Wide receiver Greg Little (No. 15): Is he the playmaker the Browns have desperately been seeking? Little, a second-round pick in this year's draft, has often been inconsistent in training camp, making spectacular catches one day and dropping several passes the next. How will he perform in games?
- Punter Richmond McGee (No. 8 ): Can he become the permanent replacement for Reggie Hodges, who's out for the season with a torn left Achilles tendon? Not only will he punt tonight, but he'll also serve as the holder on placekicks.
- Offensive tackle Tony Pashos (No. 79): Can he stay healthy after ending the past two seasons on injured reserve? Pashos and second-year guard Shawn Lauvao (No. 66) have the potential to stop the revolving door on the right side of the offensive line. Injuries will be their greatest obstacles.
- Cornerback Dimitri Patterson (No. 21): Will he be an upgrade over departed free-agent Eric Wright? Patterson recently signed with the Browns after starting 10 games, including one in the postseason, for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2010. He's the Browns' first-team nickel back, so he could be on the field for more than 50 percent of their defensive plays.
- Running back Brandon Jackson (No. 29): How well will he complement starting tailback Peyton Hillis (No. 40)? Jackson, who recently signed with the Browns after starting 13 games for the Packers last season, could be an ideal fit in Shurmur's version of the West Coast offense. He's a key addition because of the questions surrounding running back Montario Hardesty's health.
- Free safety Usama Young (No. 28): Will he lock down the starting job at free safety? Young, who recently signed with the Browns after spending four seasons with the New Orleans Saints, would be much higher on this list, but he tweaked his left hamstring during practice Thursday and might not play tonight. If Young sits out, will Mike Adams (No. 20) capitalize and gain ground in his position battle against Young?