The Final 53?
Time to play “Guess Who Makes The Final Roster.”
Yes, with two exhibition games left, it’s that time of the training-camp season to pick up the darts and start throwing them at the roster board in an attempt to pick the Final 53 as the Browns march resolutely toward the opening game of the 2013 regular season.
In many cases, the picks will be ridiculously easy. It’s a matter of selecting those starters from last season who return this season. The difficult part will be correctly nailing players 40 through 53, those men who contribute for the most part on special teams.
Unlike last season, when the Browns played a 4-3 scheme on defense, there will be fewer defensive linemen and more linebackers on the team this season. All the other positions essentially remain the same from a manpower standpoint.
There will be some surprises along the way as Joe Banner, Mike Lombardi and Ray Farmer, along with Rob Chudzinski and his coaching staff, pare the roster. In fact, it’s entirely possible the final 53 won’t be solidified until the weekend before the season opener on Sept. 8.
With teams slicing and dicing their rosters in the final week, the waiver wires will be loaded with many players who might be misfits for one team and perfect fits for some other team. Last-minute roster changes happen all the time, but are not usually major in nature.
That said, here’s whom the Browns now have on the roster position by position and how I believe it will play out. Let’s start with the offense.
Candidates: Brandon Weeden; Jason Campbell; Brian Hoyer.
Should be kept: All three. Why? Because it gives the Browns quality depth at the most important position on the team.
Will be kept: All three, of course.
Running backs (6):
Candidates: Trent Richardson; Montario Hardesty; Dion Lewis; Brandon Jackson; Miguel Maysonet; Jamaine Cook.
Should be kept: Richardson, Jackson, Hardesty and Maysonet. With Lewis down for at least half the season with a broken leg, Hardesty barely survives the cut. Maysonet provides the change-of-pace presence in Lewis’ absence.
Will be kept: Same quartet with Richardson, if he stays healthy, carrying the heavy load with Jackson in reserve.
Candidates: Christian Ogbonnaya; Owen Marecic; Brad Smelley.
Should be kept: Ogbonnaya and Smelley. Both are better blockers and pass receivers. Ogbonnaya is the best runner of this trio. Marecic, a non-factor for two seasons, finally wears out his welcome. Too bad the Browns didn’t move him to inside linebacker, where he was much more effective as a collegian.
Will be kept: Ogbonnaya and Smelley.
Offensive linemen (17):
Candidates: Joe Thomas; John Greco; Alex Mack; Jason Pinkston; Shawn Lauvao; Mitchell Schwartz; Garrett Gilkey; Oneil Cousins; Martin Wallace; Chris Faulk; Braxton Cave; Jarrod Shaw; Ryan Miller; Rashad Butler; Aaron Adams; Caylin Hauptmann; Dominic Alford.
Should be kept: Thomas, Greco, Mack, Pinskton, Schwartz, Gilkey, Shaw and Miller.
Will be kept: Thomas, Greco, Mack, Pinkston, Lauvao, Schwartz, Gilkey and Cousins. The coaches go with the more experienced Lauvao and Cousins over Miller.
Wide receivers (12):
Candidates: Josh Gordon; Greg Little; Davone Bess; Travis Benjamin; Josh Cooper; Cordell Roberson; Jordan Norwood; David Nelson; Naaman Roosevelt; Mike Edwards; Dominique Croom; Tori Gurley.
Should be kept: Gordon, Little, Bess, Benjamin, Nelson and Roberson and/or Cooper. What once was a club weakness is now a strength and the cuts will be tough.
Will be kept: Gordon, Little, Bess, Benjamin, Cooper, Nelson and Roberson.
Tight ends (5):
Candidates: Jordan Cameron; Gary Barnidge; Kellen Davis; Dan Gronkowski; Travis Tannahill.
Should be kept: Cameron, Barnidge and Davis. Gronkowski and Tannahill are merely training camp fodder.
Will be kept: Cameron, Barnidge and Davis, who will be kept busy all season in Norv Turner’s tight-end centric offense.
Now the defense.
Defensive linemen (11):
Candidates: Ahtyba Rubin; Phil Taylor; Desmond Bryant; Billy Winn; John Hughes; Ishmaa’ily Kitchen; Armonty Bryant; Brian Sanford; Nick Jean-Baptiste; Hall Davis; Dave Kruger.
Should be kept: Rubin, Taylor, Desmond Bryant, Winn, Hughes, Kitchen and Armonty Bryant.
Will be kept: Rubin, Taylor, Desmond Bryant, Winn, Hughes and Kitchen. The club does not need to overload on the defensive line and Armonty Bryant will wind up on the practice squad if he clears waivers.
Inside linebackers (5):
Candidates: D’Qwell Jackson; Craig Robertson; Tank Carder; L. J. Fort; Tommy Smith.
Should be kept: Jackson, Robertson, Carder, Fort and Smith.
Will be kept: Most likely this quintet with Smith serving time with special teams.
Outside linebackers (8):
Candidates: Paul Kruger; Jabaal Sheard; Quentin Groves; Barkevious Mingo; James-Michael Johnson; Kendrick Adams; Justin Staples; Justin Cole.
Should be kept: Kruger, Sheard, Groves, Johnson and Mingo.
Will be kept: Same as above with Mingo’s injury situation giving Johnson a temporary reprieve here.
Candidates: Joe Haden; Chris Owens; Leon McFadden; Josh Aubrey; Buster Skrine; Trevin Wade; Auguste Akeem; Abdul Kanneh; Vernon Kearney.
Should be kept: Haden, Owens, McFadden, Skrine, Wade and Akeem.
Will be kept: Haden, Owens, McFadden, Skrine and Wade. Akeem makes it only if there is a special teams need.
Candidates: T. J. Ward; Johnson Bademosi; Tashaun Gipson; Jamoris Slaughter; Kent Richardson.
Should be kept: Ward, Gipson, Bademosi and Slaughter.
Will be kept: Same four guys unless the front office feels a need and signs free agent Kerry Rhodes.
Candidates: Shayne Graham; Brandon Bogotay.
Should be kept: Graham and Bogotay.
Will be kept: Only Graham, which would be a mistake. The Browns need depth on kickoffs and Bogotay provides more than Graham, who is a more accurate kicker.
Candidates: Spencer Lanning. That’s it.
Should be kept: Lanning by default.
Will be kept: Who else? Unless, that is, the Browns actively seek to pick up someone else on waivers.
Long snapper (1):
Candidate: Christian Yount is the only candidate.
Should be kept: Again . . . who else?
Will be kept: Yep, you guessed it.
That’s 56 players who should make the team. Three have to go. So . . . Bogotay, Akeem and Tommy Smith are gone.