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NFL Preseason Preview - St. Louis (0-0) at Cleveland (0-0)
By John McMullen, NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - The latest reboot of the Cleveland Browns franchise will be unveiled Thursday when the team kicks off its preseason against the St. Louis Rams.
A new management crew of team president Joe Banner, general manager Mike Lombardi and head coach Rob Chudzinski have taken over the Browns and while rumors persist the new regime wasn't all that enamored with second-year quarterback Brandon Weeden, one of the team's first-round picks from a year ago, the Oklahoma State product will get every opportunity to turn things around if only because the other options on hand are journeyman Jason Campbell and the well-traveled Brian Hoyer.
Norv Turner was hired to take over Cleveland's offense and mold Weeden but figures to build around running back Trent Richardson.
"There have been a lot of things you look at from a mechanics standpoint and the job (Weeden is) doing by speeding up his feet and quickening his decisions," Chudzinski said when asked about Turner's impact on Weeden. "We haven't held back. We've thrown a lot at him, from a mental standpoint. We're pushing him hard and that's the way I'm used to and that's the way Norv coaches. He's responded well from that."
Defensively Ray Horton was brought in and will move to a 3-4 look with ex- Baltimore rush linebacker Paul Kruger and No. 6 overall pick Barkevious Mingo, brought in to be the impact edge players. Also, look for a breakout year from talented nose tackle Phil Taylor.
"One of the things that is important to me is having two coordinators calling the game that you have faith in," Chudzinski said. "I can focus more on game management, whether that's situational calls, whether that's replay, whether it's timeouts. Those are the big things that come up. Hopefully, guys that I trust and the way I do with our coordinators here, that will be a good help."
Chudzinski said he planned to play his starters for about a quarter in Thursday night's preseason opener.
"We are going to play our starters for the most part, for about a quarter," Chudzinski said. "That may vary from individual to individual. We will get our second group in there for the second quarter and third quarter."
The Rams, on the other hand, needed to add more playmakers for quarterback Sam Bradford, but they also needed to sure up the offensive line in front of him and were able to accomplish both goals, at least on paper.
St. Louis made some strides in protecting Bradford, allowing 20 fewer sacks in 2012 than they did in '11 but there is still plenty of room for improvement, particularly on the left side. The club made a significant commitment to ex- Dolphins tackle Jake Long, signing the former No. 1 overall pick to a four- year, $36 million dollar deal, in hopes of fixing that problem. Rookie Barrett Jones also has a real chance to help inside early.
The Rams also got Bradford a new toy by inking former Tennessee tight end Jared Cook to a five-year contract worth a million less than what Long got and then supplemented that with perhaps the most explosive player in the 2013 draft, West Virginia slot star Tavon Austin.
Defensively, the Rams really needed help in the back seven and were able to snare troubled but talented Georgia linebacker Alec Ogletree late in the first round of the draft as well as a potential starting safety in T.J. McDonald.
"We are just going to carry some basic things into the game," St. Louis coach Jeff Fisher said. "We have to prepare for their defensive front out of fairness to our guys and the quarterback so we'll do that and then try to keep things pretty simple."
08/07 13:19:16 ET