1. With Brian Hoyer starting on Saturday, what do you think will happen at quarterback going forward? Is this a situation where it's inevitable that Johnny Manziel will eventually become the starter?
I think I get asked this question every day, not only on Dawgs By Nature, but in person. My opinion does not represent the majority, but here it is: I think the coaching staff loves what Johnny Manziel can offer in the future, but they want to make him a more polished quarterback before he makes his first start as opposed to throwing him right into the fire.
We don't know how good Brian Hoyer's mobility will be, but prior to his injury, he could move around pretty well. He is quick with his decision-making, and if the Browns can string together a .500 record to begin the regular season, I actually think there is a legitimate chance Hoyer could start the entire season. I wouldn't put money on it, though, and it's really a situation where I won't be upset if the coaches decide to start Manziel right away.
2. It was a wild offseason for the Browns with them making changes to both their coaching staff and front office. Based on what you've seen so far, how would you assess the performance of the new regime?
The tides turned in Cleveland as soon as Jimmy Haslam made the decision to part ways with former CEO Joe Banner and GM Michael Lombardi. Ray Farmer has placed his own stamp on this team as the GM, and he's had a very good offseason. In free agency, he scored ILB Karlos Dansby and SS Donte Whitner, both of whom help give the defense a different form of leadership -- one that isn't accustomed to losing. The draft was memorable, getting CB Justin Gilbert, QB Johnny Manziel AND a first-round pick from the Bills in 2015.
Mike Pettine is doing all of the right things this offseason as a head coach, but Browns fans know all too well that we can't really judge him until the regular season. Kyle Shanahan was a key hire for the offense because our running game needed a big-time overhaul after the struggles from last season, and he's the right guy to change things up with a whole different scheme and (hopefully) the right running backs to fit that scheme.
3. How has former Lions wide receiver Nate Burleson performed so far as a member of the Browns? Is he going to have a big role at receiver for this team in 2014?
Before the Browns knew about Josh Gordon's potential suspension, Nate Burleson and Andrew Hawkins were the two offseason additions at the position for Cleveland, and it sounded like the team was content moving forward with that trio. Once the Gordon news broke, though, the Browns signed veteran receivers Miles Austin and Anthony Armstrong.
Austin has had a great camp, and Armstrong, who is familiar with Kyle Shanahan's system from his days in Washington, has looked good too. Plus, a few of the lesser-known receivers are having a decent camp. When it comes to Burleson, aside from his well-received personality, he has had a very quiet camp. I think it has gotten to the point where fans are questioning whether he will even make the roster if Gordon isn't suspended. That could change if he shows good chemistry with our quarterbacks in the preseason games, though.
4. Aside from quarterback, what are some of the more interesting position battles that Browns fans will be monitoring on Saturday?
On offense, there is a battle at right guard between John Greco and Garrett Gilkey. That isn't really a flashy positional battle for an opposing team's fan base to watch, but Cleveland fans will have their eyes on it. Defensively, the biggest competition will come at one of our inside linebacker spots between Craig Robertson (last year's starter) and Chris Kirksey, our third-round pick. Robertson was poor in coverage a year ago, while Kirksey's scouting report had him excelling in coverage.
5. What are the expectations like in Cleveland right now for the 2014 edition of the Browns?
Expectations are sky-high for the defense. The defensive line is stacked, the cornerback position is stacked and then we have two new veteran leaders at safety and inside linebacker.
Fans would like to be optimistic about the offense, but there is still that great level of uncertainty at the wide receiver position due to the Josh Gordon situation. If he is suspended, do we still have talent at receiver, or is it just a bunch of has-beens? It's fun to talk about our zone-blocking scheme for the run game, but what if it falls flat like it did in Baltimore a year ago? What if Hoyer starts but turns out to be the next Kelly Holcomb -- how soon does Manziel go in? As always, we are "cautiously optimistic."