Fans of the Cleveland Browns Organization are used to not knowing what to expect from the Cleveland Browns on the field. The constant turnover creates an uncertainty that can't be matched by anything but the certainty that has been the Browns losing record.
This year is more of the same. With Hue Jackson, Sashi Brown and the rest of the new crew, we can throw a lot of what we think we know about this team out the window. New coaches and personnel guys will look at players different. This regime already showed what it thought about the roster by bringing in 14 draft picks and jettisoning many of the veteran players, even though cap space is in abundance.
They also allowed the team's talented free agents go to other teams, even though the contracts they signed were not considered outrageous.
A full rebuild is a natural expectation and this time, unlike many in the past, the Browns haven't invested in many "win now" big time free agents. QB Robert Griffin III can be seen as the exception to that rule but even his contract is minimal given his upside, age and opportunity.
There is youth stacked upon youth on the Browns current 90 man roster. At finals cuts, it will be interesting if age plays a role in who is cut and who is kept. The 14 draft picks will have a very tough time all making the roster but will they get the benefit of the doubt over players that Jackson and Brown didn't bring in themselves?
A look at my first prediction of what the Browns 53 Man Roster will look like before Week 1, let's call this 1.0:
RG3 & Cody Kessler
Griffin is the starter unless he gets hurt in Pre-Season. If he does, the Browns likely ride with 3 QBs. If not, Josh McCown isn't a great fit for Hue's scheme but could help the team bring back some kind of decent return, compared to his actual value, in a trade. Kessler has already improved his arm strength, reportedly at least 10 yards, and is someone Hue really wants to develop. Between RG3 & Kessler, the Browns hope one allows them not to have to draft a QB high in the 2017 NFL Draft. Deshaun Watson is seen as the top guy but the Browns would love to address needs elsewhere.
Jackson has made it clear that he wants to run the football. While some expect the Browns to only keep three running backs, a fourth makes sense based on Hue's philosophy. Duke is set for a breakout year as long as he can stay healthy, and the new offensive line can block for him, while Crowell is on a redemption path from last year's play and this summer's horrible decision. Watson is on everyone's "sleeper" list given his size, speed and history with Jackson. Winston is a powerful back that fits what Hue is looking for while also able to play on Special Teams.
Jackson has talked up Johnson but not sure he is a perfect fit for what Hue wants in the position. This is a spot that could change quickly as most teams only keep one fullback and a better fit/player could become available at final cuts.
The wide receiver position is going to be the most interesting. The Browns brought in four in the draft, got Gordon back, have seen great improvements from Pryor, need Hawkins on and off the field and love what Moore does on Special Teams. That leaves Ricardo Louis as my first guess as who gets cut and pushed to the practice squad. Louis is the big upside guy who really needs to work on his hands and route running. Keeping seven WRs is a bit much, and injuries could help make decisions here, but Jackson loves his offense and versatile guys.
Outside of Coleman and Hawkins, the rest of the receivers have roster spots up in the air. Gordon is likely to make the team given everything we have heard but if he slips up, which his history says is likely, he is gone. Pryor's development and versatility are exciting while Hollywood Higgins is a solid #2 type receiver in the making. Payton gives the Browns a Brian Brennan type, catch everything in the middle of the field, kind of guy. Moore just keeps surprising people and making the roster.
Before anyone worries, not predicting that Seth DeValve will be cut. Instead, based on his college history and so far in Training Camp, predicting that DeValve will go on the Injured Reserved for the season.
Barnidge had a great season last year but could be playing for a chance to play for a contender at the trade deadline. While Gary had a great year, his age, great contract, production and limited history make him a prime sell high candidate. Browns fans won't want to hear this, nor does it fit with the "Expect to Win" mantra, but Barnidge could have great trade value and be moved.
Either way, expect Barnidge to have a good but not great season. With RG3 more of a deep passer, the focus on the run game and all of the option at WR, his role may be diminished.
Bibbs is a favorite of this writer with his soft hands, quick feet and tenacity. He doesn't have the size profile that Jackson normally likes but has shown well in camp. Hamlett has everything Jackson will love at tight end and has come on strong in camp. Randall Telfer, the second year guy who was injured all of last season, should compete for a spot as well.
The Browns lost two-thirds of their starting offensive line but what that means for the team is a big question. Jackson's style and system could make up for the loss of talent in a big way. Joe and Joel are locked in at their spots while Greco, another name starting with JO, seems to have the right guard spot locked up. Erving is the center by default as the Browns try to see what they got while Bailey was a sneaky pickup.
Coleman and Drango are seen as long term pieces on either side of the line while Pasztor has a nasty streak and enough physical talent to be an important swing guy should the Browns struggle or have an injury. Gerhart is the surprise, as well as keeping 9 on the OL. He has made a name for himself and could be the team's backup center.
The loss of Desmond Bryant looms large for the Browns. Best case scenario was Nassib showing he could hold his own there but the Browns also moved fellow rookie Ogbah down to the line as well, which may delay his development/transition into the NFL. The Browns were hoping that the two rookies could be used as pass rushers mostly but now will be needed to play more varied roles.
Cooper has lined up in Bryant's old spot but is better suited to play the 3-technique than Bryant's 5-technique. Shelton has seemed to excite coaches and fans but working on leverage and pad level is not easy and will take some time to develop. Hughes and Meder are good depth guys, especially in a 3-4 system.
Moving Ogbah down to the line leaves the Browns thin here. Armonty Bryant could still make the team but his off the field issues are troubling and the Browns could decide to minimize how many guys like that they have. Kruger has proven his ability to get after the passer and is versatile while Mingo returns under DC Ray Horton, who he had his best year under.
Schobert can play inside and out and could be a surprise impact player for the Browns. Orchard, a 2nd Round pick last year, still has to develop in coverage and run support but showed he can get after the passer.
Pass rush has been the biggest concern so far in camp. The Browns are likely to look for another OLB after the 53 man cuts.
The Browns feel very good about Davis and Kirksey on the inside. Carder is valuable on special teams, like WR Moore, which keeps him on the team. Tuggle, signed this off-season, has a lot of versatility which will help his cause.
Philip Wright, aka "Scooby", is a player that Browns fans will love but will struggle to make the team. His injury history is a concern and the Browns will likely hope to slip him to the Practice Squad if he is healthy. Carder's roster spot would be in jeopardy if Wright makes the team.
With Haden out and T. Williams getting veteran's treatment, Gilbert has seen his ups and downs as the coaching staff throws him in the fire. They like his overall talent, will use him in multiple ways (Special Teams, rushing the passer, actually at corner) throughout Pre-Season to see how he responds.
K. Williams and Taylor, picked up from the Miami Dolphins near the end of the NFL Draft, have been great in the slot.
Campbell showed some signs last year as a rookie and could be a very good starter, if he fits what the new coaching staff wants. Poyer has been the most versatile DB on the team for a couple of years and can play some corner with only 5 kept in this first draft.. Kindred's toughness will keep him on the team as he will throw his body into anyone.
Moore is a veteran that could be most impacted by Desir's, seemingly permanent, move to safety. Desir's speed, football IQ and ball skills makes him perfect at safety. It isn't the position he wants to play but he could be great back there and get paid very well in a league that values versatility.
The Browns Special Teams could be great. Lee is one of the best in the leagues while Coons still has to work on his ball trajectory but is reportedly getting stronger. Knowing who the long snapper is either means you are a 1% kind of fan or he screwed up a ton.
As always, the Browns bottom of the roster is likely to churn. The team is a little unbalanced with too many WRs and OLmen and not enough linebackers for a 3-4. Jackson wants to win and create a culture but won't sacrifice talent to win an extra game or two.
Remember this is just the first prediction. Injuries, players showing well in pads and Pre-Season games and even possible trades could change things.
Where do you agree? Disagree?null