Has RB Montario Hardesty been demoted due to fumbling issues, or is he just nursing an injury?
In today's edition of "The Sunday Five," we talk about some key injury news from Sunday afternoon's practice, the first batch of roster cuts, and more.
The Cleveland Browns practiced Sunday afternoon for two hours starting at 1:00 PM. There were some interesting notes related to injuries during Sunday's practice. Everyone quickly noticed that RB Brandon Jackson was seeing all of the reps with the first-team offense. Speculation immediately commenced on whether he was replacing Montario Hardesty as next-in-line behind Hardesty. In reality, Hardesty wore a sleeve on his right lower leg. The third-year back insisted he was fine, saying, "I’m good, just a little rest, gave me a little rest today."
Is there more to the Jackson-Hardesty situation? With Trent Richardson expected to return in Week 1, head coach Pat Shurmur may have decided that Hardesty's ball security issues have bumped Jackson up to the No. 2 role, or as more of the third-down/blocking back. Shurmur seemed to indicate that he wasn't happy with Hardesty's fumbles in his post-practice news conference Sunday:
(On if Brandon Jackson might move ahead of Montario Hardesty on the depth chart because Hardesty hasn’t been playing so hot)- "They are always competing and we had a big meeting last night lining them up. I think both guys have impressed me in a lot of ways this training camp. I’m not going to concur with the not-so-hot. I will say this, running backs that fumble, if you do it on a consistent basis, it’s tough to put you in the game. I’ll just say that. That’s fair. That’s one of those football things. That’s just the way it is."
There was some injury news on the defensive side of the ball too. Defensive end Marcus Benard, who has been praised for his pass-rushing ability during camp, suffered a dislocated elbow during the loss to the Eagles. All Shurmur would say after Shurmur's practice is, "He dislocated his elbow and they fixed it. We’ll just see how quickly he’ll progress." We'll see whether that is enough to land him on injured reserve, because the team already likes Emmanuel Stephens and Juqua Parker behind starters Frostee Rucker and Jabaal Sheard at defensive end. After Benard's misfortunes last year, I hope his season doesn't end so quickly again. This team needs pass rushers.
It took awhile, but safety Usama Young finally returned to practice after being out several weeks with a hamstring injury. He was originally going to compete a little with Eric Hagg for a starting role, but now he might be fighting for a backup role behind Ray Ventrone and David Sims as the fifth safety. We'll see if he ends up being a final cut when things are all said and done; personally, I think he moves back to being the third safety, with Sims fourth and Ventrone focusing on special teams again. A lot of other players continued to miss practice, but the addition to the list again was defensive tackle Brian Schaefering (undisclosed).
Prior to practice, it was revealed that eight players were waived, with five more cuts on the way before the end of Monday. None of the cuts were very surprising, as none of them were in my most recent roster projection. The "big name" was Carlton Mitchell, as the sixth-round pick's long stay with the team ended quietly. He was held back by injuries during camp and did not see much action during the preseason games. The decision to draft WR Josh Gordon in the supplemental draft unquestionably sealed his fate. The tough break for Mitchell is that since he has not had the opportunity to play much over the past few years, it is hard to imagine him getting a shot with another NFL team; his football career might be over. Shurmur was asked about Mitchell in his post-practice presser:
(On Carlton Mitchell being waived and if he just ran out of time)- "No, again he was one of the guys that we were hopeful that he could show us everything that he could do. Unfortunately in the last couple of years he’s dealt with injuries. When you talk about why guys make it or don’t make it and how it relates to injuries or not being able to practice, if you’re a guy that’s proven that you can play in this league and you’re injured, well that’s in your favor, you’ve proven it. For guys that haven’t proven that they can play in this league and struggle to stay on the field and practice, that’s not in your favor so quite frankly that may be the case. I have a lot of respect for Carlton. He’s flashed and done some things here, but again we’ve got to make hard decisions and unfortunately he’s not with us anymore."
Good luck, Mitchell. If I had to guess, I would say that the next five cuts include two defensive linemen, two defensive backs, and one injury-related move (i.e. placing Chris Gocong on IR).