Saturday, September 1, 2018

Roster massaging next

Take a nice long look at the final – using that word loosely here – roster of the Browns because it won’t look the same when they kick off the 2018 season against the Pittsburgh Steelers a week from Sunday.

After trimming 19 names off the training camp roster Saturday, most of the change will occur at or near the bottom of the roster. Which means those who reside there now shouldn’t get too comfortable. Yet.

As many as 44 of the 53 men who made the initial cut are virtually guaranteed to be available to suit up against the Steelers and become the nucleus of the team for the season. That means there will be a lot of activity and roster massaging in the next eight days.

The rebuilt Browns are in the unique position of holding the top spot in waiver priority in the National Football League. And they will hold it through the first four games of the regular season.

Count on General Manager John Dorsey turning himself loose and attacking the waiver wire in an effort to strengthen the roster right down the 53rd player. There are still areas of concern.

He attacked one of those areas Saturday when he shipped a seventh–round draft pick next year to the New Orleans Saints for defensive tackle Devaroe Lawrence, who reportedly had a good exhibition season with 10 tackles in three games with 2.5 sacks and three tackles for loss.

There were surprises on both sides when the final cuts were announced. Among those surprisingly cut were defensive end Nate Orchard, defensive tackle Caleb Brantley, running back Matthews Dayes, offensive lineman Spencer Drango and fullback Dan Vitale, who was waived injured.

Orchard had a good training camp and some believed his athletic interception and ultimate pick six in the final exhibition victory over Detroit Thursday night would earn him a spot. The staff thought otherwise, smoothing Carl Nassib’s way back.

Dayes in limited opportunities did nothing to hurt himself, but Dorsey and the coaching staff apparently felt comfortable with only three running backs in Carlos Hyde, Nick Chubb and Duke Johnson Jr.

The offensive coaches also had to be extremely happy with the progress made by rookie offensive tackle Desmond Harrison, making the release of Drango much more palatable.

Those who surprised by surviving included rookie wide receiver Derrick Willies, second-year inside linebacker Jermaine Grace, seventh-year tight end Orson Charles, fifth-year defensive end Chris Smith and rookie cornerback Jeremiah McKinnon.

The offensive coaching staff obviously liked Willies’ length. The angular 6-4 rookie from Texas Tech showed good hands in the limited opportunities he had. Charles is merely keeping the third sport open at tight end for Seth DeValve, whose injuries kept him from playing in exhibitions.

The current roster consists of 25 offensive players (three quarterbacks, three running backs, six wide receivers, four tight ends and nine offensive linemen), 25 defensive players (nine linemen, six linebackers and 10 defensive backs) and three specialists (kicker Zane Gonzalez, punter Britton Colquitt and long snapper Charley Hughlett).

Eleven rookies made the cut, including eight members of Dorsey’s first draft class. The only casualty was defensive back Simeon Thomas, the club’s final choice in this year’s lottery.

Those in danger of becoming an ex-Brown in the next week or so are Grace, McKinnon, Charles, Willies, Denzel Rice, Smith and a surprise or two such as Nassib and either T. J. Carrie or E. J. Gaines.

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