It's time for our final piece in the trenches this week as part of our Cleveland Browns training camp 2009 preview. On Wednesday, we previewed the starters/contenders for the offensive line, with extra focus on the right side of the line.
As it stands right now, here are the top two scenarios for the right side of the line you would like to see:
-Womack at RG, Tucker at RT (45%)
-Tucker at RG, St. Clair at RT (23%)
97% of the voters agree that Ryan Tucker should start. Of those people, 59% of them want a scenario in which Tucker starts at right tackle, while the other 41% want him to start at right guard. I was in the group that preferred Womack at RG and Tucker at RT.
8. HANK FRALEY - BACKUP CENTER
From being a team captain in 2008 to (presumably) being on the bench in 2009, there is an outside chance that Hank Fraley will start at the right guard position for the Browns. Not many of us think that will happen though, considering he received just 2% of the votes in Wednesday's poll.
Fraley's best chance at starting will be at the center position. If that happens, Fraley probably won't really "win" the job; it'll just be a case in which Alex Mack appears to need a lot more work at the NFL level.
Fraley began his career with the Philadelphia Eagles, helping pave the way to several NFC Championship games. In 2006, the Browns were desperate at the center position. LeCharles Bentley went down with an injury on the first play of training camp, and Bob Hallen said "screw this" and retired. All we had left were a couple of third-string free agents competing for a starting role. Phil Savage was able to make one of his best acquisitions during his time in Cleveland in Fraley, who was coming off of a shoulder injury the previous season. Fraley exceeded expectations in 2006 and 2007, but he failed to reach those expectations in 2008. Maybe it's a little unfair to write him off after one bad season, but either way, Fraley was never intended to be a long-term solution. His chances at making the roster this year might come down to who the coaching staff likes better -- Fraley or Rex Hadnot. I think there will be room for both of them.
Player Quality: C-
Final Roster Odds: 60%
9. GEORGE FOSTER - BACKUP LEFT TACKLE
Signed in June by the Browns, George Foster is a former first-round pick of the Denver Broncos. Of the people not listed in Part 1 of the offensive line preview, Foster has the best chance at starting. In 68 career games, he has started in 57 of them, with most of those starts coming at right tackle.
Foster's build is right in line with what Mangini is seeking: 6-5, 338 pounds. When he was signed, you guys debated what role he (as well as other lineman) could play this year. When you have several veteran players, I imagine a competition being between two players, maybe three at most. Ryan Tucker, Floyd Womack, and John St. Clair are already competing for the right tackle position. Can Foster really even have a chance to see some reps in training camp at right tackle? That's where the question of, "wait a second, does that mean Joe Thomas is the only player on the depth chart getting reps at left tackle?" That's where Foster potentially comes in.
But, that could easily change. Maybe Mangini will stick to something like this in training camp:
LT: Thomas, St. Clair
LG: Steinbach, Hadnot
C: Mack, Fraley
RG: Tucker, Womack
RT: Tucker, Foster
There's really no definitive reason why St. Clair would receive the shot at right tackle over Foster. We'll have to wait and see how things unfold in training camp.
Player Quality: C+
Final Roster Odds: 80%
10. ISAAC SOWELLS - BACKUP...GUARD? TACKLE?
With all of the veteran talent on the Browns line now, I'm surprised that Isaac Sowells is even being allowed to stick around for training camp. I fault Romeo Crennel for only having a fourth-round draft pick participate in one game during his first two seasons when there were opportunities for him to play more, but he wasn't very impressive in backup duty last season.
Overall, Sowells doesn't have much experience despite entering his fourth year in the league, doesn't appear to play at a high level, doesn't appear to be in-line of seeing very many reps, and is not eligible for the practice squad. The deck is stacked against Sowells; barring a couple of injuries in training camp to other players, Sowells will probably be an early cut so the team can get a better look at some of the undrafted free agents that might go on the practice squad.
Player Quality: D?
Final Roster Odds: 10%
11. DUSTIN FRY - YOUNGER BACKUP CENTER
Dustin Fry was a 5th round draft choice of the St. Louis Rams in 2007. He played in four games that year, but in 2008, he was released from the team's practice squad. The Browns added him to their practice squad a week later, and that is where he finished the 2008 campaign.
Fry played college football at Clemson where he played in 47 games, starting 36, registering 171 knockdown blocks on 2,192 plays.
Back in the 2007 season, there seemed to be serious consideration that Fry would be the starting center for the Rams. Things didn't unfold that way though, and fans were surprised that Fry only made the practice squad in 2008 after their team's line had struggled the year before. Fry can also play the guard position.
Final Roster Odds: 10%
Practice Squad Odds: 40% (if eligible)
12. KURT QUARTERMAN - PRACTICE SQUAD GUARD
During the 2007 and 2008 seasons, Kurt Quarterman was signed and released from the practice squads of the Atlanta Falcons and the New York Giants several times. He was added to the Browns' practice squad last season at the end of October. Like Fry, that is where he finished the season.
One thing sort of stands out when you look at Quarterman's profile box to the right: he's HUGE. If the weigh-ins are accurate, he is the second-largest person on the team, second only to Shaun Rogers. Maybe I'm making too big of a deal out of Mangini's craving for large offensive linemen, but on size alone, that has to give Quarterman an advantage to making the practice squad.
Final Roster Odds: 2%
Practice Squad Odds: 60%
13. MARLON DAVIS - UNDRAFTED FREE AGENT GUARD
Guard Marlon Davis is our lone undrafted free agent offensive lineman this season. Davis was a four-year member of the Crimson Tide offensive line. He became a starter as a junior in 2007, and started all 11 games as a senior including the All State Sugar Bowl against Utah.
Here is a scouting report from Sports Illustrated on him:
POSITIVES: Undersized, low-to-the-ground lineman best in a small area. Bends his knees, blocks with leverage, and seals defenders from the action with solid body positioning. Squares into opponents turning them off the line and displays good strength at the initial point of attack. Quickly gets into blocks, patient in pass protection, and keeps his head on a swivel. Flashes the ability to pull across the line of scrimmage, block in motion, and gets chips on linebackers. Works well with line-mates and plays with a large degree of explosion.
NEGATIVES: Must improve his overall strength as he struggles to finish blocks. Bends at the waist or overextends into blocks, which adversely affects his balance. Not light on his feet and struggles sliding in space.
ANALYSIS: Davis is a solid small area mauler with the body type to play guard in the NFL. He must improve his strength and iron out his game, yet he is worth a look in camp this summer.
It's hard to imagine him getting a legitimate shot at the roster. He'll be fighting for a practice squad position.
Final Roster Odds: <0.5%
Practice Squad Odds: 15% (pure guess)
OL Position Quality: B (Backups Only)
The grade above takes into consideration what the Browns will have between the two players that do not win a starting role from Part 1 of the preview. Our depth far surpasses what we have had in the past, as everybody has significant starting experience. What we are lacking is youth in our depth. That might come down to how a younger player like Fry can contribute on special teams. If Fry is needed there, maybe Fraley gets the boot and we go with Fry/Hadnot as the potential backup centers.
Right now, here are the nine offensive linemen I think will make the roster: Joe Thomas, Eric Steinbach, Ryan Tucker, Alex Mack, Floyd Womack, John St. Clair, Rex Hadnot, George Foster, and Hank Fraley. All veterans (minus Mack). When training camp rolls around, it'll be easier to speculate which youngsters might usurp one of the veterans.