BEREA, Ohio -- For two straight weeks, it has been offense versus defense during each and every practice of training camp for the Cleveland Browns.
However, that all changes tonight, as the Browns open the preseason against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field.
"You just want to be a little sharper out there, not make any mistakes," running back Ben Tate said. "That's really the only thing I'm looking for, just to be sharp no matter how much I play, and maybe, make a play or two."
In order for Tate to "make a play or two," he will have to find a hole through a Detroit defensive line that features first-round picks in Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh on the interior and pass-rushing specialist Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah at one of the end spots.
"You better know who you're playing," Tate said. "I wouldn't be a student of the game if I didn't know who we were playing, right? I think our defense has got a lot of talent on it. Phil Taylor, he was drafted in the first round, right? Des Bryant, he was a big offseason acquisition, right?
"I'm going against first-round picks and big signees every day, so that doesn't bother me one bit. I've got my offensive line in front of me. I've got first-round picks in front of me, Joe Thomas, Alex Mack. Joel Bitonio, he was a second-round pick. I've got first-rounders in front of me, so I'll take my first-rounders over their first-rounders."
Although the Browns have veteran Pro Bowlers in Thomas and Mack on the offensive line, they are breaking in first- and second-year players at guard. While Joel Bitonio and Garrett Gilkey do not have the experience of Thomas and Mack, by going up against the likes of Suh and Fairley, they will learn what it takes to play at a high level in the NFL.
"I can't wait," said Gilkey, who played college ball at NCAA Division II Chadron State. "That's how we did it last year, too. I was thrown into the fire last year when Jason Pinkston got hurt. I played most of the preseason game against the Lions against Suh. That was my first real competition, so I'm excited to kind of retest my skills against that same high level of competition.
"I didn't give up any sacks against Suh, and I thought that I played well for the circumstances, especially me coming from a smaller school. Everyone kind of put doubts on me. No one can doubt me anymore. Now, I'm competing for a starting job.
"You can't say that I went to too small of a school or I'm inexperienced or I didn't play high-enough competition, so all the critics and all the people that questioned me and my capabilities have nothing to say. There was a lot of affirmation in that, and there will be a lot of affirmation on Saturday when I step out there on the field with the ones."