Saturday, August 31, 2013

A most fluid roster

Suffice it so say the Browns’ 53-man roster as of 6 p.m. this afternoon will, in no way, remain the same throughout the week leading up to the regular-season opener Sept. 8 against Miami.

It probably won’t even be close, considering the bloodletting Joe Banner, Mike Lombardi and Rob Chudzinski unleashed Saturday afternoon as the club got down to the National Football League’s mandatory roster number.

Among the cuts were veteran wide receiver David Nelson, rookie safety Jamoris Slaughter, inside linebacker James-Michael Johnson and both placekickers. That’s right. Both kickers.

That had to be the strangest, most bizarre roster cut in the entire league. A week and a day to the season opener and the Browns most likely will have someone who has never kicked for them doing so a week for tomorrow.

Now it’s possible they might change their minds and bring back Shayne Graham, whose bad back prevented him from kicking in the final exhibition game. Even so, it’s difficult to remember an NFL team slicing both kickers on cutdown day.

That peculiar move aside, the not-so-final roster breaks down this way:

On offense: Three quarterbacks, three running backs (including fullback Chris Ogbonnaya), four tight ends (including hybrid Brad Smelley, who can play fullback), five wide receivers (although only four will dress for the first two games while Josh Gordon sits out his suspension) and an incredible 12 offensive linemen.

On defense: Seven defensive linemen (four ends and three tackles), 10 linebackers (four inside and six outside) and eight defensive backs (four cornerbacks and four safeties).

Taking a closer look at the numbers, nine rookies made the team, including five undrafted free agents; only five players are 28 or older; just two (quarterback Jason Campbell and offensive lineman Rashad Butler) are 30 or older; and not one player has accumulated 10 seasons in the league.

Now comes the truly remarkable statistic. The average age of this team is 23.45 years. Call them the Baby Browns. That figure undoubtedly will change somewhat once Banner, Lombardi, Ray Farmer and Chudzinski nosedive into the cuts of the other 31 teams.

Looking at the final 53, one has to wonder how Martin Wallace, Caylin Hauptmann, Jarrod Shaw and Butler made the team. Don’t know who they are? They’re four of the 12 offensive linemen. If more than one makes it to the Dolphins’ game, I’ll be surprised.

How about Eric Martin and Paul Hazel? They’re two of the 10 linebackers. Martin plays inside and Hazel plays outside. They better be good special teamers because that’s the only way they make the Dolphins game.

Right now, one also has to wonder why only three running backs made the cut. If Trent Richardson, who is expected to be the workhorse, ever breaks down, this team is in big trouble. There is absolutely no speed, quickness or depth at the position.

In the first two games of the season, there also will be no depth at wide receiver. There is no one beyond Greg Little, Davone Bess (oops, overlooked him in original post), Travis Benjamin and Josh Cooper. Little and Bess are possession receivers; Benjamin, who played sparingly in the exhibition season, is the speedster; and Cooper is slow, but has good hands.

There is no question the Browns will become tight end centric with four on board. Jordan Cameron, Gary Barnidge, Kellen Davis and possibly Smelley will see plenty of footballs thrown their way in the first two games.

Offensive coordinator Norv Turner loves to incorporate tight ends into his schemes. And now, he’s got a boatload with which to work. Look for a majority of Brandon Weeden’s throws against the Dolphins to be in the short to medium range.

Strictly guessing here . . . Banner and his minions most likely will try to beef up the running back and wide receiver positions at the expense of the offensive line and linebackers corps. Twelve offensive linemen and 10 linebackers? Ridiculous.

Outside of the starters and special teamers, the only players safe this week are long snapper Christian Yount and punter Spencer Lanning. Or are they?

The way Banner & Co. operate, no one is truly safe.

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