Good morning,fans, and welcome to gameday! Be sure to check out our game preview and prediction for the Browns' Week 1 matchup today against the . In this week's edition of "The Sunday Five," I take a look at the roster moves the Browns made this week, a preview of the NFL season I was a part of, and more.
1. Post-53-Man Roster Moves: Despite Browns GM Ray Farmer serving a four-game suspension, the Browns were very busy tweaking their 53-man roster leading up to Week 1. The big moves included trading RB Terrance West to the Titans and DL Billy Winn to the Colts for a bag of balls, and waiving WR Terrelle Pryor*. The corresponding roster moves to replace those three players were claiming OL Austin Pasztor off waivers from the Jaguars, promoting RB Shaun Draughn to the main roster, and claiming RB Robert Turbin off waivers from the Seahawks.
It's easy to understand why Browns fans are upset by the moves. We shipped out our leading rusher, depth on the defensive line, and a project who became the biggest storyline of camp this year. All of the replacement players are the very definition of "non-sexy moves," and Turbin, the guy who might make the biggest contribution, won't be able to help for another 4-6 weeks.
From my perspective, I'm fine with the West trade. A source close to a player in the locker room corroborated what is out their on West, saying that he was "an asshole in the locker room." Duke Johnson was already drafted this year to receive significant playing time, and this clears the way for being able to see more of him. I'll talk about the other moves in the bullet points below.
*The Browns also signed QB Austin Davis and placed CB Charles Gaines on the IR/designated to return list.
2. A Culture Change on the Defensive Line: The Browns were the 32nd-ranked run defense in the NFL last year. Injuries contributed to the problem, but the talent also underachieved. How did the Browns respond? By completely over-hauling the position. In fact, I'm not sure if fans realize just how much the unit has been over-hauled.
For all intents and purposes, only two players were brought back: their best defensive lineman from 2014 (Desmond Bryant), and a notoriously-good run stopper who was given a contract extension last year (John Hughes). Bryant remains a starter, but the guy next to him at nose tackle, Danny Shelton, was the No. 12 overall pick of the draft. He looked so good so quickly in camp that the team had no qualms about cutting Phil Taylor. Backup Jamie Meder was explosive enough in camp to make cutting Ishmaa'ily Kitchen an understandable move.
That's four players I've touched on so far (Bryant, Shelton, Hughes, Meder). The team also signed veteran defensive end Randy Starks, a move that veteran inside linebacker Karlos Dansby endorsed heavily. Xavier Cooper was drafted in the third round as a pass-rushing specialist. Lastly, Armonty Bryant has stuck around after missing most of last season.
All seven of those guys are likely to receive playing time on gameday, which in my opinion would have made Billy Winn a gameday inactive. Would it have been nice to stash him just in case an injury happens? Sure. But, when push came to shove, the Browns needed to make some roster moves this week to patch up the running back position. Instead of flat-out cutting Winn, who we already knew was on-the-bubble at the end of the preseason, they might get a late-round pick in 2017. I'm OK with that.
3. Why Did Pryor Have to Go? The transaction that was the most heart-wrenching was the waiving of WR Terrele Pryor. It sounds like the primary reason he was kept in training camp until final cuts, instead of being cut at the 75-man cutdown, was to show the read-option look in that fourth preseason game in hopes that the Jets would dedicate some time this week toward stopping in. Mike Pettine even indicated that they only did the read-option with Pryor in practice this week during the portion available to the media, basically insinuating that the news would leak out to the Jets and make them continue to prepare for it.
If I could ask one question to Jets head coach Todd Bowles, and I knew he was 100% going to give me a genuine answer, it would be whether or not things like this actually waste valuable preparation time. I didn't think Pryor would be active for this week's game if he was still on the roster, but in fantasy land, I was hoping he could develop into a big, physical threat. Pryor was a luxury, and while it's easy to say, "just cut Rob Housler instead," by not doing so, the team is showing that Housler probably has a defined role on special teams and may line up wide in some offensive sets.
Is there a chance that Pryor could return to the Browns? If he does return, I think it'll come after Farmer's suspension ends, which would also be closed to when RB Robert Turbin will be back (and RB Shaun Draughn will be expendable). Pryor cleared waivers, but Pro Football Talk reported that he has two workouts scheduled this week as a wide receiver. It'll be interesting to see if somebody else snatches him up.
4. Season Preview in Cleveland Magazine: I was featured in the one-page Browns preview in the September issue of Cleveland Magazine, along with Terry Pluto of the Plain Dealer, Pat McManamon of ESPN, and Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal. You can take a look at the preview below.
5. Projecting the Inactives for the Browns vs. Jets: It's always fun to predict the inactives on gameday, as the team can only dress 46 players. The seven players I am projecting to be inactive this week are QB Austin Davis, RB Robert Turbin, TE E.J. Bibbs, OL Austin Pasztor, DL Armonty Bryant, CB Justin Gilbert, and S Ibraheim Campbell.
Compared to last year, this was incredibly difficult to project the inactives. Davis and Turbin were easy since they were both just acquired and Turbin is out. The Browns don't need four tight ends on gameday, and I think they will want to use the veteran Rob Housler and continue to let Bibbs develop in practice. Pasztor being inactive would give the Browns just six offensive linemen on gameday. I hate to inactivate Bryant, but this is the numbers game I'm talking about. Cleveland also has a surplus of cornerbacks, and with Gilbert having missed several weeks of camp to injury and being in a road rage incident, he's got to be the one to sit down. Campbell was a tough one too. I would have sat one of the Browns' six receivers, but who? It's easy to say Dwayne Bowe, but do you really think the Browns would do that to the veteran?
UPDATE: I floated the idea of Bowe being inactive on Twitter last night, and most fans thought he would be inactive. This morning, Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network says that Bowe is expected to be inactive. If his hamstring is still sore, maybe it makes sense that he can't get open against the Jets' tough corners: