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30 July 2016: Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson at the Cleveland Browns training camp in Berea, Ohio. (Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire)
Cleveland Browns

Browns coach Hue Jackson right to play starters in preseason finale

Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire
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Anytime you take the football field, there is a risk of getting injured. That’s why most coaches limit the preseason action of their starting players and typically elect to not play them at all in the final preseason game.

Cleveland Browns coach Hue Jackson, however, is taking a different approach. He’s not sure how long his starters will play in Thursday’s season finale against the Chicago Bears, but they’re definitely going to play.

“I think we need to play them,” Jackson told ESPN. “I think we need to get better as a football team.”

That’s true, the Browns do need to get better – a lot better. Coupled with the fact that the Browns already stunk, and now that they are undergoing a complete roster overhaul – one that grew in scope with the release of Paul Kruger and trade of Andy Lee earlier this week – Jackson needs to do his best to find out if anybody on his new and incredibly young roster can actually play.

This isn’t a completely foreign strategy – former New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin would play his starters in the fourth game – but it’s certainly dangerous. All you have to do is look at last week’s action, when the Dallas Cowboys lost quarterback Tony Romo, the Baltimore Ravens lost tight end Ben Watson and the San Diego Chargers lost running back Branden Oliver, to understand how risky the game of football is.

One awkward plant of the foot, one unfortunate collision, one freak muscle pull is all it takes to drastically change the outlook for the upcoming season.

But in the case of the Cleveland Browns, Jackson’s move makes perfect sense. His team is young and the roster is littered with players who have been drafted in 2014 or later, unknown castaways from other teams and even a player like Terrelle Pryor who is still working to transition to a new position.

Given all of this, plus the fact that the Browns aren’t going to be contending for the postseason this year, Jackson may as well look at this preseason – in fact the entire regular season as well – as one big audition. He needs to find out if he can build around any of these guys moving forward, and he’s not going to find that out be sitting guys.

“We’re going to play our guys,” he said. “I feel comfortable that we need to play our starters on both sides of the ball. Now how much they play, that’s yet to be determined by me. But I think we’re going to play them because I think we need to play.

As far as the team’s preseason results – the Browns are winless so far – Jackson isn’t worried about that.

“If this was going on my tombstone, I’d be concerned about it,” he said. “It’s not.”

Jackson is more concerned about building a football team, as he should be. That means getting a good idea of what he has on his roster and seeing if anybody is worth keeping around for the long term.

Playing guys in the preseason is risky and not the right strategy for everyone, but it’s absolutely what Jackson and the Browns need to do.

Browns coach Hue Jackson right to play starters in preseason finale

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