The Sunday Five: Up Next? Cincinnati and the Regular Season

"The Sunday Five" is a loosely-titled piece where I talk about five NFL- or Browns-related topics related to this past week. This might be the final edition of "The Sunday Five" until the season is over, because Sunday mornings will be reserved for some pre-game notes, weather reports, the gameday thread, etc. I am thinking of moving the column to either Friday or Saturday during the regular season. In today's edition, we look forward to the start of the regular season.

Bullet_mediumNext week, the Cleveland Browns will kick off their regular season against the Cincinnati Bengals. In past years, I have witnessed young quarterbacks like Ben Roethlisberger and Joe Flacco have breakout games against the Browns. I don't know what I'll do it Andy Dalton is able to pick up a victory over the Browns. I think the Bengals are the worst team in the NFL and should be a pretty easy victory for whoever faces them. I will be attending this game at the stadium in the nosebleed seats, but I hope I get to feel the energy of the crowd as the Browns successfully operate their West Coast Offense.

Bullet_mediumThere weren't any surprises when the Browns named their 53-man roster, but I almost always expect one or two new players to be brought in to camp. If the Browns plan on pursuing a veteran linebacker, the first cut will be Benjamin Jacobs. If they plan on adding another offensive lineman or a defensive lineman, either Pat Murray or Scott Paxson will be the first to go. There is an outside chance the Browns could go after a running back too, and while keeping four running backs isn't out of the question, I think they would just waive Armond Smith. It'll be interesting to see who makes the practice squad, which should be announced pretty soon.

Bullet_mediumWe're probably sold on Richmond McGee as our punter, but it's still good to see who is available. One person who isn't available is Dave Zastudil, who after two punts that average 47.5 yards per punt in the final preseason game, won a job with the Cardinals over veteran Ben Graham. Regarding Zastudil, head coach Ken Whisenhunt said, "Dave has a body of work that we’re familiar with. Punting in the AFC North, in those conditions, being a successful punter -- that was part of the information we had going in. We needed to see him actually do it in a game for us, and he was impressive. That went a long way in answering some of our questions."

Graham was praised for his 2009 season and wasn't terrible in 2010, but reports say that poor hang time and ability to change field position as of late forced the change in Arizona. The Lions also released veteran punter Nick Harris, who has been with the team for the past eight years. Harris might be the best guy available on the market, since he wasn't released for performance reasons: "Jim [Schwartz] told me that it wasn't based on performance," Harris said. "But it was two things: It was my contract and the fact that I'm 33 years old. They're looking to get younger and cheaper." Other released punters include Brad Maynard (Texans) and Jeremy Kapinos (Steelers).

Bullet_mediumThe Browns only chose to keep two quarterbacks on their roster. If I understand the new rule that allows there to be 46 active players (as opposed to 45 + 1 somewhat active quarterback), the team would still need to designate someone as a third quarterback. I think they could go with either Joshua Cribbs or Jordan Norwood if it came down to officially designating someone with that title. That means only seven players would be inactive on game day. My early guesses for Week 1 include WR Carlton Mitchell, TE Jordan Cameron, OL Pat Murray, DL Scott Paxson, DL Auston English, S Eric Hagg, and DB James Dockery.

Bullet_mediumOne of the big "unknowns" that remains is how Pat Shurmur is going to use his receivers. I think there is no doubt that Benjamin Watson, Evan Moore, and Peyton Hillis will be very involved in the offense. At wide receiver, if Mohamed Massaquoi and Brian Robiskie start, how often are you able to get guys like Jordan Norwood and Greg Little into the game? Don't forget about Joshua Cribbs either. We have a logjam at the position of guys who offer different strengths, and how Shurmur decides to utilize each talent could end up being a big difference maker in the long run.

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