By Tony Grossi
The Morning Kickoff …
Rosterology: After they get this last preseason game against Chicago out of the way on Thursday night, the Browns will have about 24 hours to cut their squad from 75 to 53.
I don’t believe it will be that hard for GM Tom Heckert, who has the final call, and coach Pat Shurmur to cut their roster.
“I think there are a handful of decisions that we’re going to make, come the final cuts, that will be determined by how guys play in this game,” Shurmur said.
By my calculation, there may be as many as 11 roster spots that are hazy.
Let’s look first at the players I believe are safe.
WR: (5) Greg Little, Mohamed Massaquoi, Josh Gordon, Travis Benjamin, Josh Cribbs.
OL: (7) Joe Thomas, Jason Pinkston, Alex Mack, Shawn Lauvao, Mitchell Schwartz, John Greco, Ryan Miller.
TE: (2) Jordan Cameron, Alex Smith.
RB-FB: (3) Trent Richardson, Brandon Jackson, Owen Marecic.
QB: (1) Brandon Weeden.
DL: (7) Jabaal Sheard, Ahtyba Rubin, John Hughes, Frostee Rucker, Juqua Parker, Billy Winn, Ronnie Cameron.
LB: (5) D’Qwell Jackson, Kaluka Maiava, James-Michael Johnson, Craig Robertson, L.J. Fort.
DB: (9) Joe Haden, Sheldon Brown, Eric Hagg, T.J. Ward, Dimitri Patterson, Buster Skrine, Trevin Wade, James Dockery, Ray Ventrone.
ST: (3) Phil Dawson, Reggie Hodges, Christian Yount.
Along with those 42 players, Phil Taylor starts the season on the physically unable to perform list and Scott Fujita probably starts on the suspended list. Haden also may start on the suspended list, but I decided to leave him on the active roster for the purposes of this discussion.
So that leaves another 11 players to add. They probably come down to these decisions:
WR: (1) Jordan Norwood v. Josh Cooper. Norwood, who also is the backup punt returner, has the clear advantage. Cooper has been good, but he hasn’t knocked out Norwood, the incumbent slot receiver.
OL: (1) Oniel Cousins v. Dominic Alford v. Jarrod Shaw v. Jeff Shugarts. Cousins might have blown his shot by committing two penalties on placement kicks in the Green Bay game and then suffering an undisclosed injury in the game. He hasn’t been seen since. Shurmur may have tipped his hand by saying that Greco, more of an interior backup, can fill in at tackle in a pinch. I’m thinking Alford or Shaw make it.
TE: (2) Ben Watson v. Evan Moore v. Dan Gronkowski v. Brad Smelley. I’ve included Smelley in this equation because I believe if he makes the roster as an H-back/fullback/tight end, it comes at the expense of a fourth tight end and not to displace Marecic. Watson, 31, has hardly practiced because of an undisclosed injury, and he suffered three concussions last year. Moore has a similar skill-set to Cameron; neither is a dependable blocker.
RB: (1) Montario Hardesty v. Chris Ogbonnaya v. Adonis Thomas. The injuries to Richardson (knee surgery) and Ogbonnaya (high ankle sprain), in my opinion, saved Hardesty a roster spot. I suppose it’s possible that the Browns could roll the dice and keep Ogbonnaya while he recovers for about four weeks. That would depend on how close Richardson is to being ready for the Sept. 9 opener. Only the Browns know that answer.
QB: (2) Colt McCoy v. Seneca Wallace v. Thaddeus Lewis. A trade of McCoy would make this cutdown easy. But there’s no guarantee that Green Bay – the only apparent team in need -- will bite and offer something. If it comes down to cutting one of the three, I’m feeling that Wallace could be the odd man out. If the decision is left for Shurmur, he probably would choose Lewis over Wallace as his No. 3. If Mike Holmgren or Heckert pull rank, Wallace could survive, but his best chance of sticking is through a trade of McCoy.
DL: (2) Scott Paxson v. Emmanuel Stephens v. Brian Schaefering v. Kiante Tripp, v. Brian Sanford, v. William Green v. Ernest Owusu. Paxson could end up on injured reserve; the severity of his knee injury is undisclosed. Of the ends, Stephens has an edge over Sanford, Green and newly claimed Owusu. Schaefering is a survivor and could play end or tackle.
LB: (0 or 1) Quinton Spears v. Benjamin Jacobs. It’s possible the Browns would play short-handed at linebacker until Fujita is cleared to play in the fourth week.
DB: (1 or 2) Usama Young v. David Sims v. Tashaun Gipson v. Johnson Bademosi. Young might not even play against Chicago, which would mark his second consecutive year he failed to play in a preseason game because of injury. Sims has made a lot of plays and is a heavy favorite to make it. The question is whether the Browns make room to keep Young, too. Haden’s possible suspension could open an extra spot for four weeks.
Keep in mind that the final roster announced (hopefully) on Friday night is not the final final roster. There always is that post-cutdown batch of signings that reshape the last four or five spots.
|Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com. |
He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 44 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
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