Quarterback Brandon Weeden #3 of the Cleveland Browns warms up prior to the start of the second day of minicamp at Cleveland Browns training facility on May 12, 2012 in Berea, Ohio.
Photographer: (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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CLEVELAND - The Cleveland Browns begin their 2012 preseason schedule Friday evening against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m.
It's the 44th time that these two teams have met in the preseason. The Browns have faced the Lions in the preseason more than any other team in the National Football League. The winner of Friday night's game will take home the Great Lakes Classic trophy.
The Lions have won the last two meetings including last year's game at Cleveland Browns Stadium 30-28. The Browns last win against the Lions was in Cleveland on August 22, 2009, a 27-10 decision. The Lions have won four of the last five meetings between the two teams. This is the 11th year in a row that the Browns and Lions will meet in the preseason. Each team has won five times in the previous ten meetings.
The Browns are coming off a 4-12 season in 2011, the first season under head coach Pat Shurmur. Brandon Weeden will get his first start at quarterback in his NFL debut. The Browns selected Weeden with the 22nd pick in April's NFL draft.
Weeden's fellow first round pick Trent Richardson will not be making his NFL debut this evening. The number three overall pick had left knee surgery on Thursday in Pensacola, Florida. He's expected to return for the start of the regular season on September 9 against the Philadelphia Eagles. Third year running back Montario Hardesty is expected to get the start. Brandon Jackson and Chris Ogbonnaya will also see action.
On defense, the Browns look to improve in 2012 after finishing tenth in total defense in 2011. That could be a tough challenge with defensive tackle Phil Taylor out with a torn pectoral muscle and the possibility of losing cornerback Joe Haden to a suspension for a failed drug test. Add to that the loss of linebacker Chris Gocong to a season ending Achilles injury, and the defense could struggle early on.
As for the Lions, they are coming off a 10-6 season in 2011 and the team's first playoff appearance since 1999. The Lions begin their fourth season under head coach Jim Schwartz, who lead the Lions to their first double digit winning season since 1995 last year. Each year, the Lions record has improved under Schwartz, who took over in 2008 following the Lions 0-16 season.
The Lions sport one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL, led by quarterback Matthew Stafford and all-pro wide receiver Calvin Johnson. Stafford threw for over 5,000 yards and Johnson lead the league with 1,681 yards receiving last year. Their running game was a revolving door last season because of injuries. Second year running back Mikel LeShoure is hoping to be the Lions starting running back this year after missing his entire rookie season with an Achilles injury. Jahvid Best and Kevin Smith will also compete for the Lions starting running back job.
The Lions defense is very solid up front but very suspect in the secondary. The Lions defensive line is one of the best in the NFL, led by third year defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. The Lions will rotate in Suh, along with second year lineman Nick Fairley, the recently signed Cliff Avril along with Kyle Vanden Bosch and former Brown Corey Williams.
All of those guys will pose a big test for the Browns offensive line, especially rookie Mitchell Schwartz. The secondary has been the weak link for the Lions defense for years, and it could be tonight because Detroit will be without one of their best defenders in safety Louis Delmas. He had surgery this week.
Another sidebar to Friday night's game involves the officials. The league is using replacement officials while the NFL officials are locked out by the league in a contract dispute. In preseason games played so far this week, the replacement officials have had some issues making correct calls and explaining calls made to the coaches and fans.
With this being the first preseason game of the season for both teams, expect the starters to only play a couple of series before the backups are inserted for the rest of the game. It will be interesting to see how long Pat Shurmur will keep Brandon Weeden in the game since this will be his first look at an opposing NFL defense. It's also going to be interesting to see who will be the second quarterback in the game for the Browns, Colt McCoy or Seneca Wallace.
Following tonight's game, the Browns will have Saturday off before returning to the practice field on Sunday afternoon to begin preparations for their second preseason game next Thursday in Green Bay against the Packers.
Be sure to follow everything that's happening in tonight's game right here on newsnet5.com.
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