Like most head coaches around the NFL, Cleveland Browns head coach Pat Shurmur is a proponent of having players on the roster that can play multiple positions.
Heading into the Browns week one showdown against the Cincinnati Bengals, the diversity within the roster will be immediately felt, as the Browns enter the season opener with injury issues.
And now, for the rest of the story...
- Starting right tackle Tony Pashos is a game-time decision because of a foot injury. The Browns haven't commented other than Pashos has a sore foot and they are letting it "settle." In a walking boot, Pashos has not participated in any practice drills leading up to the season opener against the Bengals and isn't expected to later in the week. Every indication at this point is Pashos will be a game-time decision.
- As teams postured to get down to the 53-player limit this past weekend, the Browns discussed trading the Washington Redskins for veteran offensive lineman Artis Hicks. At the time of the failed discussions, the Browns were aware that Pashos had an issue and was doubtful. It was why the Browns had immediate movement on Hicks.
The Redskins asked for a 2012 draft selection, believed to be a second-day pick. The Browns balked, knowing the Redskins were likely to release the veteran lineman.
Browns general manager Tom Heckert played his cards right, Hicks was released and the Browns' waiver claim awarded him to Cleveland.
Knowing the offensive line could be nearing a precarious state, Hicks -- normally a right-side lineman -- has been schooled on the line terminology and has taken reps at left guard and right tackle this week. With inexperienced rookie Jason Pinkston slotted as the starter at LG, the Browns sought coverage and experience in an attempt to solidify the line.
The injury to Pashos has expedited the process along the line. Oniel Cousins, acquired off waivers from the Baltimore Ravens was signed to provide depth at RG, while having experience at the tackle positions.
With Pashos appearing unlikely to play Sunday, the acquisitions of Hicks and Cousins could provide immediate dividends for the Browns.
- Wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi missed nearly all of training camp and has only recently worked with the Browns offensive unit. Despite missing the critical days of camp to gain physical conditioning and timing with the unit, Massaquoi has stepped up in a big way.
Massaquoi's performance in practice sessions has been excellent, and good enough to propel to the top of the depth chart opposite Brian Robiskie. If Massaquoi continues to practice at this highly-regarded level, he has an opportunity to become a viable No. 1 option for a Browns offense seeking difference-makers on the outside. Massaquoi worked diligently with quarterback Colt McCoy during the offseason, and this work has enabled a confidence between the two.
Benard was one of the many players that suffered because of the lockout. Without the offseason camp sessions and inability to communicate with the coaching staff, Benard wasn't aware the organization didn't want him to add weight, but rather enhance his strength in returning to the defensive end spot.
Looking to generate a pass rush with four down linemen, Benard is the best pure pass-rusher on the roster. He will get opportunities to display his quickness coming off the edge, which is an aspect this team sorely needs.
- Immediate focus will be placed on the Browns defensive line and linebackers come Sunday. With a rookie quarterback -- Andy Dalton -- under center, the Bengals are expected to pound the football at a Browns defense, which historically has been below average against the run.
With three new starters along the line (Sheard, Taylor and Mitchell), the veterans at linebacker could play a pivotal role in helping the youth recognize Cincinnati's offensive traits. Especially considering the issues the Browns defensive ends had in containing the perimeter throughout the preseason.
It's likely the Browns defense is going to attempt to squeeze Dalton to force him to throw the ball downfield, which will pose an interesting challenge with wide receivers A.J. Green and Jerome Simpson, who both possess good speed and quickness. But slot receiver Jordan Shipley could pose the greatest threat, as this second-year receiver has the uncanny knack of finding the soft-spots in the zones.
For a team, such as the Browns, that possess ordinary speed and quickness at linebacker and average coverage skills at safety, the intermediate zones could be the Bengals quickest path to success ... along with the consistent pounding of running back Cedric Benson.