The Lions and Browns each hope to build off impressive 2011 preseason debuts when the two teams square off Friday at Cleveland Browns Stadium.
The Browns got the Pat Shurmur era off to a very good start, with the club outperforming the defending world champion Packers in its first outing under its new head coach. Cleveland came through with a 27-17 home victory over the Packers last Saturday, with an exceptionally sharp showing from young quarterback Colt McCoy leading the way.
McCoy looked like a natural running Shurmur’s West Coast offense, as the former University of Texas star orchestrated touchdown drives on two of three series before giving way to backup Seneca Wallace. McCoy completed 9-of-10 passes for 135 yards, including a 27-yard scoring strike to wide receiver Joshua Cribbs on the opening possession, prior to exiting.
Detroit will be aiming for a second consecutive win over an AFC North opponent this week, having previously routed wayward Cincinnati by a 34-3 count in its preseason opener. The Lions also received an outstanding night from their No. 1 quarterback in the win, while the defense limited the Bengals to just 205 total yards and forced three turnovers.
Matthew Stafford showed no signs of rust in the oft-injured triggerman’s first game action since November, as the No. 1 overall pick of the 2009 draft made good on 6-of-7 pass attempts for 71 yards and connected with Calvin Johnson and Nate Burleson on first-quarter touchdowns that staked Detroit to a 14-0 lead.
Johnson left the game early with a bruised shoulder, though the injury isn’t expected to keep the Pro Bowl receiver out of the lineup on Friday. Rookie wideout Titus Young, however, will miss a second straight contest for the Lions due to a nagging hamstring problem.
McCoy may be going up against a short-handed Detroit secondary, as starting cornerbacks Chris Houston and Eric Wright are both dealing with groin injuries and may be held out this week. Wright signed with the Lions just prior to camp after spending his first four NFL seasons with the Browns.
Detroit also won’t have 2011 first-round pick Nick Fairley available once again, with the promising defensive tackle likely to sit out the entire preseason after recently undergoing foot surgery.
The Browns will be minus wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi, who also did not play in last week’s tilt due to a chip fracture in his left ankle. Also, defensive starters Chris Gocong (shoulder), Scott Fujita (thigh) and Usama Young (hamstring) all missed practice time this week and are uncertain to participate in this game.
Cleveland running back Montario Hardesty, who spent his entire rookie season on injured reserve with a torn ACL, did return to team drills on Monday, though it’s unclear as to whether he’ll be cleared to play against the Lions.
One area to watch on the Detroit side is the ongoing battle at backup running back, where a pair of ex-Browns — Jerome Harrison and Mike Bell — are competing with veteran Maurice Morris to serve as Jahvid Best’s understudy.
These two franchises have met in the preseason every year since 2002, with the Lions owning a 22-19-1 edge in the overall exhibition series following last season’s 35-27 triumph at Ford Field.