In Part 1 of our training camp preview on the' outside linebackers, we looked at the three players who are expected to contribute the most. In Part 2, we will look at the other three players who will be competing for some snaps this year.
4. TANK CARDER - SPECIAL TEAMS INSIDE LINEBACKER
Entering his fourth season with the Browns, Tank Carder only played a handful of snaps on defense last year. He did not record a tackle on defense, but remained one of the team's top special teams coverage players. Despite that, in mid-June, defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil sounded real excited about the possibility of using Carder as a blitzer this year:
"I think Carder has had an unbelievable offseason at the inside backer position. We never really got an evaluation on him last year because he had the should injury and then he had a foot deal to start training camp so he came on very late for us, and then he spent most of the year just as a special teams player and a practice squad guy. I could envision him having a role in our defense as a blitzer. He’s one of our best blitzers on the team."
It might not just be smoke that O'Neil is blowing. Carder, if he makes the team, will be active every game for special teams purposes, so there's no harm in working him in to a couple of snaps or packages per game. Carder's roster spot is a bit less secure this year because of the team drafting Hayes Pullard, but Carder should still be the favorite to make it over him.
Final Roster Odds: 80%
5. HAYES PULLARD - ROOKIE INSIDE LINEBACKER
Hayes Pullard was the first of two picks made in the seventh round by Cleveland. When Karlos Dansby went down with an injury during the second half of last season, Craig Robertson stepped into a starting role, but the depth at the position was incredibly thin after that. Pullard will try to show he can be that fourth rotational guy, but he'll be competing with Tank Carder. If Pullard gets that role, he'll also have to be a significant contributor on special teams.
Here is what CBS Sports' Dane Bruglar said about Pullard heading into the draft:
Pullard wasn’t sure what position he would play when he arrived at USC, but ended up leading the Trojans in tackles three of the last four seasons, starting 51 total games. He has his size limitations, but is a feisty, instinctive defender with a nose for the ball and quick burst to close, putting him in position to make plays. Although he can get lost in traffic at times, Pullard is savvy enough to slip past blockers and make controlled stops. He won’t be a fit for every scheme, but at worst projects as a special teams player at the next level.
I think Pullard is more likely to make the practice squad this year, since I only expect the club to carry four inside linebackers in order to keep more talent at positions in which they are deeper.
Final Roster Odds: 40%
6. DARIUS EUBANKS - "HE'S STILL AROUND?" INSIDE LINEBACKER
Two years ago, Darius Eubanks entered the NFL as a safety with the Minnesota Vikings. The Browns later signed him to their practice squad, and then promoted him to their 53-man roster half-way through the season. Injuries to Craig Robertson and Tank Carder paved the way for Eubanks to make his first career start, and in a two-game span, Eubanks registered 10 tackles.
Eubanks played sparingly the rest of the season, but his limited action left people intrigued heading into last year's camp. He got off to a good start during the offseason programs, but when training camp rolled around, he spent every day on the exercise bikes, sidelined with an injury. When final cuts were due, Eubanks was placed on IR, and it was announced that he had shoulder injury.
Eubanks is still on the roster heading into this year's camp, but will he be buried too far down the depth chart to have a comeback effort in 2015?
Final Roster Odds: 10%
Today's poll asks which of these three players the Browns should keep if they only retained one of them.