What We've Been Told

As the Browns open the season Sunday at Tampa Bay, OBR Football Analyst Lane Adkins dives deeper into how and why the team arrived at its final 53. In addition, he offers some insight into the team's thoughts on its key players.

—Rookie Colt McCoy gaining the third quarterback role came as no surprise. Despite some shaky performances in training camp sessions and preseason game activity, the Browns never wavered on McCoy making the 53-player roster. After spending a third-round draft selection on the quarterback from Texas, the Browns are only interested in providing the young player time to learn and develop.

—The decision to release second-year linebacker David Veikune was a difficult one. Despite playing sparingly in his rookie season, the coaching staff had hoped the former defensive end at Hawaii would gain the necessary instinct to evolve in training camp. Rather than taking a leap in his development, Veikune simply did not practice or play instinctively, he looked stiff and he was unable to get off blocks and make the most common of plays.

—Running back Peyton Hillis missed a considerable amount of practice time after being dealt to the Browns for quarterback Brady Quinn. But when the physical back was finally healthy and on the playing field, he was a standout performer at every level. Not only is Hillis the No. 2 running back on the roster, he could easily take reps away from starter Jerome Harrison because of his his physical style, ability to keep his feet moving and catch the ball coming out of the backfield.

—Rookie outside linebacker/defensive end Clifton Geathers, a sixth-round selection in last April's draft was expected to land on the practice squad, after being released by the Browns. Rather than making it to the Browns practice squad, the Miami picked up the rookie and added him to their 53-player roster. Geathers, despite great size, is raw and was exposed in training camp as a player requiring considerable work before becoming a viable option in the 3-4 defensive scheme.

—Despite getting off to a slow start in training camp, defensive lineman Derreck Robinson played well in the final three preseason games to lock down a spot on the active roster. Robinson, entering his fifth season played defensive end and some nose tackle throughout camp and surprised with his physical strength and improving technique by beating out rookies Brian Sanford and Swanson Miller to earn a roster spot.

—Coming as a surprise, the Browns kept four tight ends. The common belief in the days leading up to the mandatory player cuts was Alex Smith and Robert Royal were competing for the third and last roster spot at the position. Coming off a mediocre 2009 season in which injuries contributed to his inconsistency, Royal was expected to make the team due to his blocking ability, which he did make the team. But Smith, signed during the offseason, proved to be a viable receiver in the passing game and demonstrated the ability to block adequately, as an H-back type player.

—A hiccup here and a hiccup there, veteran quarterback Jake Delhomme has proven that he deserves the opportunity to remain a starter at the professional level. Effectively providing much-needed leadership and professionalism, Delhomme not only won over the coaches and teammates, his play on the playing field was a sight long lost for Browns' quarterbacks.

—If the Browns offense is going to be competitive, the play of Delhomme and the wide receiver position is critical. Second-year wide out Mohamed Massaquoi looks to improve upon his 2009 campaign, and Brian Robiskie appears poised to be a solid complementary player in the Browns starting line up. Confident and prepared after a season of relative banishment from the playing field, the Robiskie has been a complete player during an an outstanding camp.

—After some offseason banter, Josh Cribbs received a new contract and has been visibly improving as a wide receiver at the professional level. Cribbs has learned the tricks of the trade to beat press coverage at the line, as well as improving his route running and receiving skills. A season ago, Cribbs was unprepared as a wide receiver. As the 2010 season is set to begin, Cribbs is quickly becoming a solid third or fourth wide out, as well as his customary role in the return game.

—The release of cornerback Brandon McDonald came somewhat as a surprise because of a strong training camp, but the proof was on the tape. In practice sessions, McDonald played well and often stood out, but when the hitting commenced in preseason games, McDonald again was victimized in coverage. The bottom line with the McDonald release was his lack of playing physically and would often resort to arm tacking, which often resulted negatively for the Browns defense.

—The starters at the safety positions basically won the jobs by default. In the case of rookie T.J. Ward, he grew as he gained on-field experience. The coaching staff played him longer than most starters in order to gain the feel for the game. Ward responded well and deserves the starting opportunity, but expect some rough moments as the rookie gets his feet wet.

—Veteran Abe Elam starts opposite Ward and comes off an average 2009 season. His 2010 training camp didn't show much promise, either. Often a liability in coverage, Elam has displayed the ability to be an asset against the run, but this aspect of his game has been inconsistent. As a result, his position could be a weakness for the Browns defense.

—Rookie cornerback Joe Haden making the team was a given, and his play as training camp progressed showed why he was selected No. 7 in the first round of the draft. Haden was physical from the onset of camp, but he learned how to utilize his skill-set better with each passing day. Haden will start the season as the third cornerback, but he is likely to start often, as many teams will lineup three wide receivers. In that mode, Haden slips out to the flank and covers a wide receiver, while starting cornerback Eric Wright covers the slot.

—After an entire offseason and training camp, the right tackle position for the Browns remains in question. Tony Pashos was signed as a free agent to compete for the starting role, but missed significant practice and playing time because of illness and a shoulder injury. Much like Pashos, Floyd Womack missed most of camp following knee surgery, while John St. Clair was an inconsistent sight on the practice and playing field because of nagging injuries and personal issues. Come the season opener, Pashos appears to have a leg-up on St. Clair to start, while Womack is likely to miss the game since he just started practicing with the team on Wednesday.

—While Womack was considered a viable candidate to start at right tackle or right guard, his injury opened up the door for rookie right guard Shawn Lauvao. Lauvao has performed well in training camp and was above average in preseason games. Much like the aforementioned offensive linemen, Lauvao missed practice and playing time for personal reasons, though he is expected to start at right guard for the Browns.

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