Friday, August 31, 2018

Guessing the final 53

It's always fun at this time of the football season to guess what the final 53-man roster will look like for the Browns. But because the roster is so fluid before the first regular game, the following might look a whole lot different between now and the opening snap a week from Sunday at home against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

There are roughly 40 players assured of having the famous stripe placed on their orange helmets. It’s the 13 other slots that are malleable. The 53 men who survive Saturday’s announcement by General Manager John Dorsey and coach Hue Jackson, most likely will change dramatically at the bottom.

The Browns are at the top of the waiver claim order, which means they get first shot at those sent packing by the other 31 teams.

The following predictions were written prior to the club announcing 14 initial cuts Friday that reduced the roster to 72 men.

Waived were quarterback Brogan Roback, tight end Stephen Baggett, wide receiver Jeff Janis, defensive backs Elijah Campbell, Derron Smith and Christian Boutte, offensive linemen Anthony Fabiano, Avery Gennesy and Fred Lauina and defensive linemen Jeremy Faulk and Blaine Woodson. Waived injured were receiver C. J. Board, linebacker Justin Currie and defensive lineman Lenny Jones.



Who stays: Tyrod Taylor, Baker Mayfield, Drew Stanton

Bubble: None

Gone: Brogan Roback (maybe practice squad)

Comment: Taylor plays quarterback in a trying-not-to-lose manner, which means winning becomes a little more difficult. He is very conservative in his approach, accounting for low touchdown production. Mayfield, on the other hand, is much more daring with a football in his hands. His confidence level is significantly higher than Taylor, who will hold on to his starting job only if he wins games. Otherwise, the Baker Mayfield era in Cleveland is launched.

Running Backs, Fullback

Who stays: Carlos Hyde, Duke Johnson Jr., Nick Chubb, Dan Vitale

Bubble: Matthew Dayes

Gone: Dontrell Hilliard

Comment: Strength, speed and depth define this position. Hyde has the résumé, Johnson has the versatility to be anything offensive coordinator Todd Haley wants and Chubb brings speed, quickness and raw brawn to the huddle. Dayes and Hilliard performed well when called upon in exhibitions, but there doesn’t appear to be a roster opening for either. Vitale is on only because I believe the coaches want him. Why, I don’t know. The fullback is the most underused non-special teams member on this roster.

Wide Receivers

Who stays: Josh Gordon, Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins, Antonio Callaway, Damion Ratley, Jeff Janis

Bubble: Derrick Willies

Gone: C. J. Board, Blake Jackson, Da’Mari Scott, Ricardo Louis

Comment: This position is so much better than last season in many different ways. It is far more talented top to bottom. Gordon, if he can control his personal life, is one of the best in the NFL despite missing a large majority of games over the past few seasons. Landry brings leadership, Higgins seems to have found himself after wandering his first couple of seasons and Callaway, who also has had personal problems, is a star waiting to burst forth if he stays clean. One caution: That’s a lot of ifs. Janis makes it for special teams.  Willies could sneak in.

Tight Ends

Who stays: David Njoku, Darren Fells, Devon Cajuste

Bubble: Seth DeValve

Gone: Stephen Baggett, Orson Charles

Comment: All Njoku needs is confidence in his ability to catch the football. Moments of concentration loss creep up on him on occasion and render him useless to the offense. Consistency is his biggest enemy with the ball in the air. His blocking skills also need honing. That’s Fells’ strength and he figures to be one of the building blocks as the Cleveland ground game finally comes alive. Guessing Cajuste holds on as long as DeValve nurses injuries.

Offensive Line

Who stays: Joel Bitonio, Austin Corbett, JC Tretter, Kevin Zeitler, Chris Hubbard, Austin Reiter, Earl Watford, Greg Robinson, Desmond Harrison, Spencer Drango

Bubble: None

Gone: Shon Coleman, Anthony Fabiano, Fred Lauina, Christian DiLauro, Avery Gennesy

Comment: It will take time for this unit to jell. Timing and rhythm are ultra essential up front and the five guys in the starting unit have not played one snap together in the exhibition season, which means they have never played as a unit entering the season opener against Pittsburgh. So don’t expect too much. It will take some time. The only incumbents are Tretter at center and Zeitler at right guard. Bitonio is new at left tackle, Corbett is new at left guard and Hubbard is new at right tackle. Watford, Robinson, Reiter, Drango and Harrison provide adequate relief from the bench. If Shon Coleman is not gone, color me shocked.



Who stays: Myles Garrett, Emmanuel Ogbah, Chad Thomas, Nate Orchard, Carl Nassib

Bubble: Chris Smith

Gone:  Lenny Jones

Comment: Garrett is projected by many observers to be one of the NFL’s best quarterback disturbers this season. He had seven sacks in 10 games last season while playing hurt. He’s healthy now. Ogbah is better at stopping the run, but should pick up his share of sacks with Garrett attracting double teams on the other side. Nassib and Orchard beat the odds to make the team and should be helpful in sub packages.


Who stays: Larry Ogunjobi, Trevon Coley, Caleb Brantley, Jamie Meder

Bubble: None

Gone: Daniel, Ekuale, Jeremy Faulk, Blaine Woodson, Zaycoven Henderson

Comment: Young and hungry best describes this group. Still learning the nuances of the position, look for improvement as the season unfolds. Brantley could be the best of this bunch with his cat-like quickness off the snap.

Inside Linebackers

Who stays: Joe Schobert, Genard Avery

Bubble: None

Gone: B. J. Bello, Jermaine Grace

Comment: All of sudden, what used to be the strength of the defense has been neutered by sudden departures and injuries. The versatile Mychal Kendricks is no longer around and Avery, as well as outside backers James Burgess and Justin Currie, are nursing injuries. The season begins with the three returning incumbents for at least the first game or two. Schobert is out to prove his tackling-machine 2017 season was no fluke. When healthy, Avery is a load and a bonus on third and long as a pass rusher.

Outside Linebackers

Who stays: Jamie Collins, Christian Kirksey, James Burgess, Justin Currie

Bubble: None

Gone: Brady Sheldon

Comment: Kirksey has grabbed the leadership role on this side of the football and Collins has looked good thus far, showing no ill effects after knee surgery last season. Now all they need is for Currie and Burgess to return to health.


Who stays: Denzel Ward, Terrance Mitchell, T. J. Carrie, E. J Gaines, Mike Jordan

Bubble: Simeon Thomas, Denzel Rice

Gone: Montrel Meander, Christian Boutte, Jeremiah McKinnon

Comment: Easily the most improved unit on the team, especially considering what happened last season. Ward makes an immediate impact along with Mitchell and a strong bench. Thomas a sixth-round pick, could sneak in.


Who stays: Damarious Randall, Jabrill Peppers, Derrick Kindred, Briean Boddy-Calhoun

Bubble: None

Gone: Derron Smith, Elijah Campbell, Tigie Sankoh

Comment: Ditto at this position. Huge improvement. Randall is a natural free safety who played out of position in Green Bay. Peppers is the X factor here. He looked lost at free safety in his rookie season, but now appears to be more comfortable at strong safety. Kindred and Boddy-Calhoun are good enough to be starters.



Who stays: Zane Gonzalez (unopposed)

Comment: Has the leg. All he needs is consistency.


Who stays: Britton Colquitt

Gone: Justin Vogel

Comment: It was Colquitt’s job to lose and Vogel never seriously challenged him.

Long Snapper

Who stays: Charley Hughlett (unopposed)

Comment: Steady as she goes.