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3 Things To Watch in Tonight's Browns Game: Johnny, Johnny, Johnny

People that write about sports love to do these "Five Things To Watch For Tonight" articles. Why? Well, because they make for an easy format when talking about sports. It's pretty cliche, and to be honest, I hate cliche because, to me, cliche = lazy.

And, to be honest, the things they fill into these numbered spots are probably not all that much that fans care about. 

Do fans want to see how Danny Shelton plays? Sure, to some degree. Are they going to be sitting on the edge of their seats about it? Probably not. As a matter of fact, unless he stinks up the joint or makes some tremendous plays, fans probably won't be talking about him at all. If he just does his job, plugs up holes and helps the defense make stops, they probably won't really even mention him when they talk to their buddies about the game.

Oh, the media will. But the media has a lot of time and space to fill up and so you're sure to see an article tomorrow that spotlights the Browns 2015 draftees. "How do we grade Ray Farmer's 2015 draft after one preseason game?" 

It's nonsense but, to be honest, most of them get paid to write and talk about sports and they can't just come out and say, "Who cares?"What are you going to be doing at your job tomorrow that is going to be so exciting? Probably nothing. Maybe we should give the cliche articles a break.

So, you know what? I'm going with this "Things To Watch" theme, too, though I'm cutting it down to three things, just to show that I can be even lazier. So here we go...

3 Things To Watch For In The Browns-Redskins Preseason Game

#1: How will Terrell Pryor look at wide receiver?
#2: How will the Browns use Duke Johnson out of the backfield?
#3: How will Johnny Manziel look?

Okay, so let's be honest: Yes, the Browns have a lot of questions to answer about this upcoming season, but tonight the #1 thing on Browns fans' minds is Johnny Manziel. Has he improved? Can he possibly be the player that everyone had hoped for when he was drafted? Is he the quarterback of the future, or will the Browns be throwing yet another dart at the QB dartboard when the next draft rolls around?

No, tonight's game isn't going to firmly answer that question, but it will lend a little more insight. I mean, according to the reports, so far, so good in training camp, right? Now let's see how that translates to a game, even if it is a pretend game.

Can Manziel really throw from the pocket? Again, the reports from camp are that he's doing well with it. But we can't hear that without putting a mental asterisk next to it because he knows he's safe from taking any hard hits. 

Can he stand in there when pass rushers are pushing to get to him and make them pay by hitting receivers? How will his vision be when surrounded by men on either team that are taller than he is?

Of course, every quarterback has to escape a rush, I don't care who you are. You either do that by running or by throwing the ball away. Can he make good decisions when he gets out of the pocket by either scampering for good yardage or by throwing well on the run?

What Browns fans want to see out of Manziel tonight is progress. Which, if comparing him to last year's version of himself, can be just about anything. More accurately, I think the fans will want to see something that gives them hope.

Manziel's stats are not going to be where he passes or fails with this fan base. It's going to be the eye test. Nobody is going to be impressed if he comes out like Brady Quinn and throws a bunch of completions that total about 7 yards. If he does exactly that, he'll get a yawn from the fans. If he comes out and looks like he looked last preseason, he'll go back to being written off.

But, if he comes out and throws some nice passes and moves the offense and avoids turnovers, then the fans will warm up to him a little more. If he gets the team into the end zone, they'll warm up a lot.

We all want to believe in Johnny because we don't want to watch the quarterback carousel make yet another rotation. Some people simply don't like Manziel because he comes off as a prick. Most don't care if the leader of ISIS is back there, as long as this team can start seriously competing again. And this team will not start seriously competing until they find themselves a franchise quarterback.

Yes, I want Josh McCown to succeed because it means the team succeeds, but we all know that he's at best a bandage for the serious bleeding that is this position for the Browns. Nobody thinks he's the answer and so he's not expected to be.

Oh, we'll watch him too because we want the Browns offense to have some sort of pulse. And if he does well, we'll be happy because we want to see this team be taken serious. We also want to see the defense be able to stop the run and pressure the quarterback. We want to see someone field a punt without it ricocheting to the other team.

But let's not kid ourselves: We'll all be watching to see one thing tonight: The play of Johnny Manziel. And how most of us feel about this team and its future will hinge upon that.

Have fun with that, Cleveland!
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