Three preseason games are in the books, and a lot has changed since the first edition of my 53-man roster projection before the start of training camp. The Browns will be required to trim their roster from 90 players to 75 players by this coming Tuesday. Listed below is my current 53-man roster projection, along with my explanations on some of the decisions below the table.
|Pos||Final Roster||Players Cut|
Marlon Moore - suspended for Week 1
Michael Bowie - projected to go on IR
The list above contains 53 players that I kept, and 35 players that I cut. For the purposes of this first list, I am acting as if wide receiver Josh Gordon will not be suspended.
General Roster Projection Notes
- Since the first addition of my list, I removed the following six players from my 53-man roster projection:
1. QB Connor Shaw
2. RB Chris Ogbonnaya
3. OT Chris Faulk
4. OL Jason Pinkston
5. ILB Darius Eubanks
6. OLB Jamaal Westerman
Four of the roster moves above came rather easy. Faulk has already been waived, Pinkston's blood clots basically forced him into retirement, Eubanks has been injured all of camp, and Westerman hasn't contributed much.
- Since the first addition of my list, I added the following six players from my 53-man roster projection:
1. QB Rex Grossman
2. WR Taylor Gabriel
3. OL Nick McDonald
4. ILB Zac Diles
5. OLB Justin Staples
6. S Jim Leonhard
I will explain each of the roster decisions in the positional bullet points below.
- Quarterback: Although Shaw has a good game under his belt, I think Kyle Shanahan will want Rex Grossman's knowledge on the team. The bonus is that I feel Cleveland can get away with Shaw on the practice squad, and if another team is desperate enough to stash him on their 53-man roster, we shouldn't be concerned about that -- after all, Johnny Manziel is the future of the franchise, not Shaw.
- Running Back: The reps don't lie: all preseason, Dion Lewis has been given the most reps besides the two obvious candidates to make the team (Ben Tate and Terrance West), so I'm keeping Lewis on the roster. A lot of fans had the thought that Isaiah Crowell would easily be the third running back, but how can we say that when he got hardly any work in training camp and only two carries this preseason? Ogbonnaya is a tough cut because in the back of my head, I wonder if the coaching staff is so content with him as a "mediocre but reliable back" that they are simply looking at other guys' worth (like Lewis).
- Wide Receiver: My mind is flirting with the thought of cutting Nate Burleson since he's missed all three preseason games with a hamstring injury. When I look at the candidates to take his spot, though, it becomes clear pretty quickly that Burleson has to stay on the roster. I'd say that Miles Austin has been a disappointment over the past few weeks too, so we need another veteran to pick up the slack. Anthony Armstrong still has a shot to make it, but I'm sticking with Travis Benjamin being the preferred deep-ball threat.
The guy who earned a spot this camp is Taylor Gabriel. He is the only undrafted free agent rookie who has stood out on the team. He has been great on special teams and has probably been the team's most consistent receiver (no drops, good route running). I still see Charles Johnson as a guy who needs development, so if the infatuation is still there for him, throw him on the practice squad. If Gordon gets suspended, I'd keep Armstrong or Johnson.
- Tight End: This position is pretty locked in. We'll double up on the fullback discussion here: although MarQueis Gray has been utilized a lot, he needs to work on his ball security. Grey has been getting the reps at fullback and tight end.
- Offensive Linemen: The second-team offensive line has played pretty poor, so I've decided not to keep any of the backup offensive tackles. Garrett Gilkey might not even be a lock, as I've previously addressed. The depth here took a hit with Jason Pinkston being forced into semi-retirement. The bold decision I made was moving Nick McDonald to the active roster. When the Browns claimed him off waivers, he was supposed to be out 4-6 weeks. That could mean a return around Week 1 or Week 2, and with three years of experience, he's probably better than the other guys on the back-end of the roster.
- Defensive Linemen: This entire unit stayed the same, but it's worth noting that Armonty Bryant's stock has risen big-time, to the point where I have him moving from the seventh-best lineman to perhaps the fourth-best lineman.
- Linebacker: Veteran Zac Diles has taken advantage of his playing time, and he looks like a more-than-adequate backup inside linebacker for Karlos Dansby. He seems to fit the general mold of our other inside linebackers too. I still have Tank Carder off of the roster; he's played pretty poorly on defense, and with some of the other veteran additions this offseason, I think there are guys who can fill Carder's void on special teams.
At outside linebacker, I slotted Justin Staples in as the fourth outside linebacker. He's had a better overall camp than in 2013, and while I don't see him getting a lot of playing time, he can be an insurance policy.
- Safety: I've seen too many people say Johnson Bademosi is one of the best in the league on special teams, so I'm still living by that and keeping him on the roster. In my mind, though, he's basically not a safety. That is where Jim Leonhard comes in, a veteran who can immediately start in case someone gets hurt. Jordan Poyer has played a very versatile role, and I think he'll stay around because of that.
- Cornerback: The best thing that could have happened for Leon McFadden happened -- a lot of injuries at cornerback, and thus a lot of preseason action for McFadden. He hasn't dominated the competition, but he's held his own. Given how Pierre Desir looked in game one before getting hurt, McFadden will probably begin the year ahead of him on the depth chart.
- Special Teams: This is the first time I ever remember a team going through the preseason with no backup kicker or punter. It's worked fine, though.
- The single asterisks on the cut side represent my projected practice squad, which includes QB Connor Shaw, RB Isaiah Crowell, RB Edwin Baker, WR Charles Johnson, WR Willie Snead, OL Reid Fragel, OL Randall Harris, DL Calvin Barnett, DL Cam Henderson, and S Josh Aubrey.
Feel free to share your roster projections here, or some changes you would make to mine.