Below is my list of the top 10 Browns players to watch tonight when they visit the Green Bay Packers in the second preseason game of the year for both teams.
Note: Players who were listed last week before the preseason opener against the Detroit Lions were not eligible for this version.
1. Wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi (No. 11): Whether he plays or sits out, it’s a story. He says he didn’t suffer concussion symptoms after taking a hit to the helmet during the offense’s first play against the Lions. On the other hand, coach Pat Shurmur says Massaquoi did. Either way, he has a history of head injuries, so it’ll be important for him to bounce back after absorbing another nasty blow. He doesn’t want his latest scare to ruin the momentum he has built with a stellar training camp. He practiced Tuesday and participated in team drills.
2. Quarterback Colt McCoy (No. 12): The Browns say the No. 2 quarterback job is up for grabs. Still, don’t be surprised if Seneca Wallace is Brandon Weeden’s backup and McCoy is with another team when the season starts. The Packers might watch McCoy more closely than usual tonight. Remember, they reportedly showed interest in him after the Browns drafted Weeden in April. As was the case in the preseason opener, McCoy will enter the game when Shurmur decides to pull Weeden.
3. Defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin (No. 71): He’s expected to make his 2012 debut after reportedly undergoing surgery to repair a slightly torn pelvic muscle in the offseason. He returned to practice Aug. 2 but wasn’t in uniform for the preseason opener. The Browns need him to stay healthy and have another solid season because their other starting defensive tackle, Phil Taylor, is already out at least until late October as he recovers from a torn pectoral muscle.
4. Rookie cornerback Trevin Wade (No. 26): A seventh-round draft pick, he’ll replace Dimitri Patterson, who’s out with an injured right ankle, as the No. 1 nickel cornerback. This is his big shot.
5. Cornerback Buster Skrine (No. 22): The Browns need him to develop his coverage skills on the outside. He might be their safety valve if starting cornerback Joe Haden receives a suspension for a reported failed drug test while Patterson is still sidelined.
6. Undrafted rookie linebacker L.J. Fort (No. 40): He’ll replace middle linebacker D’Qwell Jackson, who’s sidelined with a sore shoulder, in the starting lineup. Fort could force his way onto the 53-man roster with a strong showing.
7. Defensive end Emmanuel Stephens (No. 96): He started three games last season before injuring a pectoral muscle. And with Frostee Rucker sitting out with an injured right knee and Marcus Benard coming off an undisclosed injury, Stephens is getting a chance to start again at right end. Can he prove he shouldn’t be overlooked?
8. Tight end Evan Moore (No. 89): Demoted to fourth on the depth chart, he should have opportunities to make plays with Benjamin Watson (undisclosed) and Jordan Cameron (back) sidelined. He must take advantage if he wants to show the coaches he’s better than No. 4.
9. Free safety Eric Hagg (No. 27): A seventh-round pick in last year’s draft, he has seized the starting job at free safety. Can he become the type of ball hawk the secondary needs?
10. Rookie defensive tackle Billy Winn (No. 79): Even before veteran Scott Paxson hurt his right knee against the Lions, the Browns were relying on Winn to become a part of their rotation in the trenches. Winn, a sixth-round pick, and fellow rookie John Hughes are expected to receive a significant amount of playing time this year.
Last week’s top 10: 1. Weeden (No. 3); 2. running back Montario Hardesty (No. 20); 3. Hughes (No. 93); 4. rookie offensive tackle Mitchell Schwartz (No. 72); 5. rookie wide receiver Josh Gordon (No. 86); 6. rookie strongside linebacker James-Michael Johnson (No. 50); 7. Patterson (No. 21); 8. weakside linebacker Kaluka Maiava (No. 56); 9. Cameron (No. 84); and 10. rookie wide receiver Travis Benjamin (No. 80).
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/browns.abj.