COMMENTARY | A new era of Cleveland Browns football begins August 8.
On that night, the Browns will begin their 2013 preseason schedule with a home tilt against the St. Louis Rams, marking the end of seven long months of waiting for football-starved Clevelanders. Even though there is plenty of enthusiasm amongst Browns fans heading into 2013, this team is still very much a work in progress, with quite a few roster spots still not decided.
While these various position battles most likely will not be decided against the Rams, the Browns' coaching staff will certainly have a better idea of what kind of talent they are working with going forward. With Cleveland's starters slated to play just the first quarter versus St. Louis, players fighting for spots on the 2013 roster will get plenty of opportunities to show their stuff.
These are the three players Browns fans should watch closely in this game:
Johnson Bademosi, SS
Bademosi is slated to get the start at strong safety for the Browns against St. Louis, with starter T.J. Ward being held out as he nurses a hamstring injury. After getting limited action at cornerback in 2012, Bademosi moved over to safety in the offseason, and he has played well thus far in training camp.
While the Rams game certainly will not be an audition for Ward's spot, a strong effort by Bademosi versus St. Louis could put some pressure on Tashaun Gipson as he fights to win the starting job at free safety. Bademosi may also see work returning kicks as well, as the Browns continue to look to replace the departed Josh Cribbs.
Dion Lewis, RB
Acquired by the Browns on April 11 in a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles, Lewis enters his third NFL season in 2013. Though he primarily rode the bench for the Eagles the last two years, Lewis hopes to unseat incumbent Montario Hardesty in the battle to back up starter Trent Richardson. Against the Rams, Lewis should see plenty of carries with Hardesty and Richardson both out due to injuries. A solid effort against a Rams defense that finished in the middle of the pack against the run in 2012 could be the springboard for Lewis to leapfrog Hardesty, who has failed to live up to his potential thus far in Cleveland.
Buster Skrine, CB
Skrine, who started six games in the defensive backfield for Cleveland last season, is locked in a three-way battle for the right to start at cornerback opposite Joe Haden in 2013. The Browns picked up veteran Chris Owens from the Atlanta Falcons and spent a third-round draft pick on San Diego State's Leon McFadden during the offseason, so the pressure is on Skrine to show marked improvement over a rough 2012 season this August.
Skrine's first test this preseason will not be an easy one, as the Rams' receiving duo of Tavon Austin and Chris Givens are two of the fastest players in the NFL. Also key for Skrine this preseason will be to avoid penalties after leading the Browns in that category last fall with 12.
Shaun Heidrick is a Yahoo! Contributor who has followed the Cleveland Browns for 25 years.
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