"The Sunday Five" is a loosely-titled piece where I talk about five NFL- or Browns-related topics related to this past week. In today's late-night edition, I talk about the first date for roster cutdowns, the annoying kickoff rule, and more.
With two preseason games in the books, I wondered to myself, "when are teams going to be forced to start cutting some players?" The league announced that teams will need to get their rosters down to 80 players by August 30th. In the past, the first day of cuts was set at 75, but the increased rosters this year must be the reason for the difference. August 30th is the Tuesday after the team's third preseason game against the Eagles, so this might be the last time we see some of these younger players in action. The "big" cutdown date is on September 3rd, when teams have to announce their 53-man rosters.
This morning, I read an article from Tony Grossi that asked whether Brian Robiskie could fall out of the receiver rotation after not being targeted very often this past Friday. Really? We're going to give up on Robiskie all of a sudden and push him aside when Mohamed Massaquoi comes back? I can't say that is out of the realm of possibility, but it seems kind of...unusual...to read into something after a preseason game. What I saw was Colt McCoy deliver some nice passes to open receivers more times than not. If the offense struggles while Robiskie is in the game, then maybe I'd worry.
After the first week of preseason games, I thought that maybe I could live with the kickoff rule. After the second week of preseason games, I am irritated to see the number of touchbacks increase dramatically. As it turns out, these NFL kickers can kick the ball pretty darn far. The Browns' Joshua Cribbs has vowed to take kickoffs out of the end zone every time unless he catches it just in front of the back stripe. He also said he isn't going to let anyone else (i.e. the upback) tell him to stay in the end zone or not -- it'll be his decision. That might make things slightly more entertaining as a Browns fan, but what about all of these other teams who will have returners who are coached to do otherwise? I just wish this rule could be changed before the start of the regular season.
Half-way through the preseason, let's hand out some loose grades on a position-by-position basis (first-teamers). I'd say the following positions have done well: quarterback, running back, wide receiver, tight end, offensive line, defensive line, cornerback, kicker. I'd say the following positions have been the biggest question marks: fullback, linebacker, safety, and punter. Owen Marecic's drops might stand out more than they should, but wasn't that the reason why we didn't retain Lawrence Vickers? At linebacker, D'Qwell Jackson has stood out, but we've barely seen all three starters in the lineup together. At safety, we've yet to see Usama Young in action besides training camp, and Mike Adams isn't good enough to start. At punter, in his mission to avoid shanking punts, Richmond McGee has failed.
Based on that, I see the Browns eventually bringing in a new punter and one new linebacker. They are going to have to live with what they have at the fullback position because of the draft pick they invested in Marecic (and, it's not a critical position in terms of catching the ball). They will probably stay settled at safety once everyone gets healthy, so Mike Adams can slip back into a backup role. In terms of depth issues, I could see them bringing in a different third quarterback (with Jarrett Brown going to the practice squad) and adding another defensive tackle.