The Browns have been hard at it this summer. There is a new vibe and outlook in camp since the club went to the playoffs after an excellent 11-5-0 season last year.
There are also a lot of new faces wearing orange lids this year as well. Improvements to a lot of position groups were a necessity in order to elevate this roster to the next level and hopefully earn a deep playoff run.
NFL teams are allowed to have 90 players at the beginning of training camp and through their first preseason game; well, except for the two clubs who played in the Hall of Fame Game. Preseason games are very crucial to every squad. It allows the new players to get acclimated to their new team’s system and develops chemistry, and it also is important to the bottom third of the roster to prove to their coaches that they deserve to remain with the franchise for this season.
The preseason games also demonstrate to the coaches which players to cut.
In 2020 with the pandemic, teams were allowed a little latitude with rosters and added players to the practice squad and even some re-scheduling of games due to facilities being considered contaminated and unplayable. Looking at your Baltimore Ravens.
But this year, it is back to normal even in the wake of a possible COVID 2 scenario.
Tuesday August 17 at 4;00pm (Eastern time) is the first round of player cuts. Clubs must reduce rosters to a maximum of 85 athletes on the Active/Inactive list. This means for five players, the Jacksonville game was it.
That is why in the first two preseason games fans see a lot of backups, rookies and long-shots on the field. While practice is ultra important, nothing beats the speed and virtuosity of a live game.
And since the Browns’ are stacked this year with a ton of very good talent, the competition is fierce at many positions.
The two position groups which stand out the most are defensive tackle and the fourth through sixth wide receivers. Backups for offensive tackle are pretty safe, but the second and third offensive guard spots are very much up for grabs as well.
At defensive tackle, last year the Browns kept four. Jordan Elliott, rookie Tommy Togiai and veteran Andrew Billings seem to be a lock, but who will take that final spot? Odds are on Malik Jackson, but Sheldon Day is having a good camp. So is rookie Marvin Wilson. And Billings might not be as safe as some folks might think mainly because he came to camp heavier than expected. Damion Square is the oldest in this bunch and Malik McDowell has had an injury that prevented him from playing against the Jaguars.
At wide receiver, you can pencil in OBJ, Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins, DPJ and rookie Anthony Schwartz. The battle for WR3 seems to be down to Higgins and DPJ, but what is after that? Last year, head coach Kevin Stefanski kept six receivers. This list is already at five. It is highly-doubtful that this position group will retain another. If this year’s roster was to additional bodies in a certain area, it would certainly be either another cornerback or safety.
Who will win that last receiver roster slot? KhaDarel Hodge is fast, a veteran and knows the system. Alexander Hollins is having a good camp, was on the final roster and into the playoffs last year plus has been in Stefanski’s system before. Ja’Marcus Bradley is speedy with good hands. JoJo Natson is also a return man. Ryan Switzer is a good route runner, shifty and scored a touchdown against Jacksonville. Davion Davis shined in this game.
In all likelihood the final spot will be determined on not who deserves to be on the final roster, but who the Browns think they can slide through waivers to add to the practice squad.
For the backup guard spots, both Drew Forbes and Colby Gossett were Cleveland opt outs last year. Now, both are slotted as third on the depth chart behind Michael Dunn and Blake Hance. Cordel Iwuagwu is on the outside looking in and could be his last week.
Others would might meet “The Turk” come Tuesday are CB Robert Jackson, C Javon Patterson, TE Connor Davis, RB John Kelly, DT Damion Square, OG Colby Gossett and FB Johnny Stanton.
After the second preseason weekend is when the next round of cuts will commence Tuesday August 24 at 4:00pm (Eastern) to which all clubs must be down to 80 players. The final cutdown date is Tuesday August 31 after the final preseason weekend.
Unlike in the past, there are going to be quite a few former Browns picked up off the waiver wire that will find a new home and flourish. It is not those player’s fault that GM Andrew Berry stacked this team with so much talent.
But Browns fans, just imagine what that final roster will look like after the best ones are left over.