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Dust Settling On Cleveland Browns Final 53 - Ez Likes Sunday Morning 9/3/17

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How Does The Roster Look, And How Does It Compare To Projections?

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Cleveland Browns
Kai Nacua, UDFA signed moments after the draft, makes the big league roster
Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday was the one and only cutdown day for all NFL teams, meaning that by 4pm (EST) all teams were required to cut their roster sizes down to 53 players. This is the first year there has been a single cutdown day; previously there would be multiple deadlines and roster-sizes. Starting in 2017, it all happened on one day.

Of course, exciting though this is to add to it our beloved Browns posses the first waiver claim for any and all players dropped by their current teams. Some of that, as well as some other items, took place yesterday but are still developing as of the time of this writing. So, with all the information at my disposal, and with knowledge that some of these things may have been modified by the time you read this, I nevertheless compare the actual final 53 with the roster projections I made on this score back on July 16th.

Unless information comes out that changes statuses, we’ll use the official 53-man post from yesterday as our guide. Here goes:

Quarterback

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Chicago Bears
An actual QB prospect worth getting excited about
Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Ez’s Projections:

Starter - Cody Kessler

Backup - Brock Osweiler

3rd string - DeShone Kizer

Reality:

Starter - DeShone Kizer

Backup - Cody Kessler

3rd string - Kevin Hogan

Alright so I kind of hoped to be wrong about what my prediction was on this, and I’m more than thrilled that it will in fact be rookie DeShone Kizer leading this team for, quite hopefully, ever. Had a great preseason and looks poised to start competing against real NFL defenses. If he looks as composed and effective as he has thus far, then it will REALLY be time to get excited.

Unfortunately, Cody Kessler really does not appear to have improved a great deal over the deficiencies that vexed him much of his rookie year. While preseason oughtn't to be taken too seriously with respect to evaluating performance, it can and should be for observing traits. Kessler still has trouble identifying blitz’ pre-snap, holds onto the ball too long and shows some timidity in terms of stretching the field (something his rookie counterpart does not lack at all). Thus, Cod’s chance to claim the starting job came and went, perhaps forever.

Kevin Hogan was a pleasant surprise, showing much improvement from his rookie season. While it may still be that he gets cut if we jump at a waiver wire option that we like, it may also be that his performance vaults him ahead of Kessler on the depth chart. Time will tell but he definitely outplayed Cod (and by plenty) the last two games.

Didn’t quite work out for ‘ol Brock Lobster. Not only did we release him outright on Friday, but yesterday it was widely reported (though not at this time officially confirmed) that he signed back with the team that originally drafted him, the Denver Broncos. So much for that experience, which as we’ll see a bit later ended before a great many expected. However we’ll always have the memories, and a 2nd round pick heisted from Houston in next year’s draft.

Running Backs

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Cleveland Browns
Contract year time
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Ez’s Projections:

Starter - Isaiah Crowell

Backup - Duke Johnson

3rd string - Matthew Dayes

Fullback - Dan Vitale

Reality:

Starter - Isaiah Crowell

Backup - Duke Johnson

3rd string - Matthew Dayes

Fullback - Dan Vitale

This won’t be said much but: nailed this one. Crowell didn’t play much in the preseason but he didn’t need to. He’s established as the primary back and has even earned the status of “bell-cow” in terms of expectations (he’s steadily being taken very high in just about all fantasy leagues). Here’s hoping a renewed commitment to the ground game combined with Crow’s drive for a huge contract leads to a big year for the fourth-year UDFA.

Duke Johnson enters his third year, and figures once again to be a complement to Crowell, especially as a receiving option out of the backfield. Much was made of the possibility that he’d be used more as a slot receiver in 2017, but that doesn’t appear to have materialized thus far. Time will tell but he seems to be locked solidly as the 2nd RB/third-down back he’s been to this point in his career.

Dayes is a wonderful story, drafted #252 overall, just two picks before the famous “Mr. Irrelevant”. He’s stood out since the early practices and earned his way onto the club. He’ll get carries if either Crow or Duke get dinged up.

Vitale is an intriguing player that looked as if he were about to breakout in a more prominent role in the offense. However he sustained an injury against Tampa Bay and it’s unclear when he’ll return. Hopefully it will be opening day.

Wide Receivers

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Cleveland Browns
CoCo looking to take the next step
Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

Ez’s Projections:

WR1 - Corey Coleman

WR2 - Kenny Britt

WR3 - Ricardo Louis

WR4 - Rashard Higgins

Backup WR - Jordan Payton

Backup WR - Rannell Hall

Reality:

WR1 - Corey Coleman

WR2 - Kenny Britt

WR3 - Ricardo Louis

WR4 - Sammie Coats

Backup WR - Rashard Higgins

So I didn’t do terribly here and of course it’s impossible to account for things like Sashi Brown trading the same 6th round pick that we got from Pittsburgh for Justin Gilbert last year back to the Steelers in order to obtain Sammie Coates yesterday. We moved on from both Payton and Hall as well as promising wideout Jordan Leslie. I find it hard to believe we’d only keep five WR’s though, so I expect we’ll be adding someone from the waiver acquisitions.

Corey Coleman looked sensational to me during the game in Tampa, and looks poised to show off the talent that made him the 15th overall selection in 2016 (as well as the first WR off the board). He seems to have developed a rapport with Kizer and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s a prolific FF producer. I’d still handcuff him with Britt though, who despite some preseason drops easily will be the starter along with Coleman.

Louis and Higgins didn’t do a great deal this summer, but remain nonetheless. It may be that if multiple WR’s become available through the waiver process that one could be moved, possibly to the practice squad.

Tight End

NFL: New York Giants at Cleveland Browns
David Njoku reaches for the ball against the Giants at FOSFEF
Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

Ez’s Projections:

Starter - David Njoku

Backup - Seth DeValve

3rd string - Randall Telfer

Reality:

Starter - David Njoku

Backup - Seth DeValve

3rd string - Randall Telfer

Now before I go patting myself on the back here, it’s not really clear that Njoku’s going to be the starter. It’s a projection but it could very well be Seth DeValve instead. Both are big, athletic targets in the passing game. Randall Telfer is the better blocker of the group.

Offensive Line

Cleveland Browns v Chicago Bears
Shon Coleman easily won the RT job, and now a lot is riding on him
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Ez’s Projections:

LT - Joe Thomas

LG - Joel Bitonio

C - J.C. Tretter

RG - Kevin Zietler

RT - Cam Erving

Backup T - Shon Coleman

Backup Interior - Spencer Drango

Backup T - Rod Johnson

Reality:

LT - Joe Thomas

LG - Joel Bitonio

C - J.C. Tretter

RG - Kevin Zietler

RT - Shon Coleman

Backup T - Rod Johnson

Backup G - Spencer Drango

Backup T - Zach Sterup

Backup C - Austin Reiter

Backup Interior - Marcus Martin

So by all appearances the competition at RT was going to be competitive. As it turned out, Shon Coleman won it outright, and Cam Erving has since been traded to Kansas City. So Coleman’s the guy, and if he can nail down the position this should be a very good line.

I’m really surprised at just how many of these guys were kept. I just can’ believe we’re going to keep ten offensive linemen. My guess is this is going to be a position group that gets raided when the waiver selections come in. Some of them may then be moved to the PS, presumably.

Defensive Line

New York Giants v Cleveland Browns
Here is Myles Garrett getting held by Erick Flowers
Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Ez’s Projections:

Starting RE - Myles Garrett

Starting DT - Danny Shelton

Starting DT - Larry Ogunjobi

Starting LE - Emmanuel Ogbah

Backup EDGE - Tyrone Holmes

Backup DT - Caleb Brantley

Backup DT - Jamie Meder

Backup DL - Carl Nassib

Backup EDGE - Nate Orchard

Realty:

Starting RE - Myles Garrett

Starting DT - Danny Shelton

Starting DT - Trevon Coley

Starting LE - Emmanuel Ogbah

Backup EDGE - Tyrone Holmes

Backup DT - Larry Ogunjobi

Backup DT - Caleb Brantley

Backup DL - Carl Nassib

Backup DT - Jamie Meder

Backup EDGE - Nate Orchard

Unlike the situation with the OL, that we have a ten DL’s is probably more indicative of a surplus of talent at the postion, which is a welcome change. The big story of the summer has been the emergence of Trevon Coley. He’s come out of nowhere to be the Browns’ best interior lineman of the preseason. He should get a lot of work early too as Danny Shelton continues to nurse an injury.

Nate Orchard’s presence on the roster is good news. He flashed at times and it sure would be nice to get some value out of a former 2nd round pick.

Linebackers

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns
The centerpiece of the entire defense
Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

Ez’s Projections:

Starting Linebacker - Jamie Collins

Starting Linebacker - Christian Kirksey

Third Linebacker - Joe Schobert

Backup Linebacker - Tank Carder

Backup Linebacker - Dominique Alexander

Backup Linebacker - Kenneth Olugbode

Reality:

Starting Linebacker - Jamie Collins

Starting Linebacker - Christian Kirksey

Third Linebacker - Joe Schobert

Backup Linebacker - Dominique Alexander

Backup Linebacker - James Burgess

Tank Carder actually started out as the third LB, but was injured early into the process and has since been placed on season-ending IR. Joe Schobert stepped up and immediately made it clear that he should be on the field. My man Dominique Alexander makes it for the 2nd year in a row.

I kind of feel like five LB’s is thin, but also hard to see us adding more when we let some pretty talented players leave already. May speak more to the scheme we’re running.

Secondary

NFL: New York Giants at Cleveland Browns
Jabrill Peppers looks like the real deal
Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

Ez’s Projections:

Starting CB - Joe Haden

Starting CB - Jamar Taylor

Hybrid NB - Jabrill Peppers

Starting Free Safety - Jason McCourty).

Starting Strong Safety - Calvin Pryor

Third CB - Briean Boddy-Calhoun

Backup CB - Howard Wilson

Backup CB - Channing Stribling

Backup Safety - Ed Reynolds

Backup Safety - Derrick Kindred

Backup Safety - Ibraheim Campbell

Reality:

Starting CB - Jason McCourty

Starting CB - Jamar Taylor

Third CB - Briean Boddy-Calhoun

Starting Safety - Jabrill Peppers

Starting Safety - Derrick Kindred

Backup Safety - Calvin Pryor

Backup Safety - Ibraheim Campbell

Backup Safety - Kai Nacua

Backup CB - Darius Hillary

Backup CB - Marcus Burley

So yeah, the whole Joe Haden thing threw a serious hitch in my giddy-up on these secondary projections, but I got way more wrong than that. Jason McCourty was never used at Safety, but Jabrill Peppers has pretty much exclusively been.

Ed Reynolds was another IR casualty, and Ibraheim Campbell was injured on one of the first plays of preseason - effectively ending his bid to win the starting SS role. Kai Nacua was kind of a fan favorite, and it’s nice to see him make the squad. I see both Hillary & Burley as possible waiver-cuts.

The Specialists

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Cleveland Browns
Zane ends up getting the nod
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Ez’s Projections:

Kicker - Zane Gonzalez

Punter - Britton Colquitt

Long-Snapper - Charley Hughlett

Reality:

Kicker - Zane Gonzalez

Punter - Britton Colquitt

Long-Snapper - Charley Hughlett

This one really came down to the wire between Gonzalez and Cody Parkey, but the rookie ended up winning it and I’m sure Parkey won’t be unemployed long. Colquitt & Hughlett were locks.

Final stats on Final Fifty-Three: 43/53 (81%)

I’ll take it. Big misses on Erving, Haden, and Coley, but then I’d imagine at least two of those three were pretty big surprises to just about everyone.

Final stats on depth chart projections: 18/25 (72%)

Missed bad on Kessler, Erving, Coley, and basically the entire secondary. I just had the secondary all kinds of wrong.

And finally...

Over the last month, I’ve been conducting something of a weekly-tracking poll with respect to the quarterback position. Now that it’s decided, let’s look back at the results:

7/30/17:
8/6/17:
8/13/17:
8/20/17:
8/27/17:

Fun! Happy Sunday everyone, and one week from today is GAME DAY!!!