QUARTERBACKS: Starter -- Jeff Garcia. Backups -- Kelly Holcomb, Luke McCown.
The Browns feel like they've upgraded by bringing Garcia in to replace Tim Couch. In Garcia, the Browns have an experienced, mobile quarterback who has been to Pro Bowls. He must adjust to a new offense and stay healthy, but Butch Davis feels much better about this position now than he did the end of 2003. Holcomb will be the backup this season, but the drafting of McCown might mean he won't be back after his contract expires after the season.
RUNNING BACKS: Starters -- RB Lee Suggs, FB Terrelle Smith. Backups -- RBs William Green, James Jackson, Adimchonobe Echemandu. FB Ben Miller.
Suggs is only the starter in pencil. The competition between Suggs and Green will be the most interesting in training camp. Green seems to be beyond the personal problems that ended his 2003 season early thanks to a league suspension, but Davis has said that Green has to show the coaching staff something to win his job back. That means show reliability and consistency. Suggs emerged in the season finale, when he ran for 187 yards in a win over Cincinnati. No matter who starts, the Browns feel good about the depth at this position. Smith is the first true fullback the team has had on the roster since 1999.
TIGHT ENDS: Starter -- Kellen Winslow Jr. Backups -- Steve Heiden, Aaron Shea, Darnell Sanders.
The Browns were giddy at the drafting of Winslow in the first round. There are some with the team who privately felt he was the best player in the draft. He gives the Browns a receiving dimension at tight end the team has lacked since it returned via expansion in 1999. Heiden is a solid backup, but Shea and Sanders have something to prove. Shea has to show he can stay healthy, and Sanders has to show he was worthy of the accolades heaped on him when he was drafted three year ago.
WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters -- Quincy Morgan, Andre' Davis. Backups -- Dennis Northcutt, Frisman Jackson, Andre King, C.J. Jones.
The Browns need more from their starters than they've gotten, though Davis could emerge this season. Morgan's talent is enticing, his inconsistency maddening. Davis had a chance to start late last season after Kevin Johnson was cut, but had trouble beating jams at the line. Northcutt is among the best third receivers in the league, but this group does not seem to be the team strength everyone thought it was one year ago.
OFFENSIVE LINE: Starters -- LT Ross Verba, LG Enoch DeMar, C Jeff Faine, RG Kelvin Garmon, RT Ryan Tucker. Backups -- OT Chad Beasley, OT Kirk Chambers, OG Melvin Fowler, OT Joaquin Gonzalez, OG Chuck Klabo, OG/OT Paul Zukauskas, OG Craig Osika.
The biggest concern on the team in 2003 remains the biggest concern on the team in 2004. While other teams were making multi-millionaires out of average free agent linemen, the Browns kept their cash and signed only Garmon to play guard. He's the kind of big-body guy Butch Davis likes, but he's not considered among the league's elite. Verba is coming off biceps tendon surgery and must show he's recovered, and the depth is not exactly stellar. Davis believes in the young players he's brought in, and one or more of them may have to step forward.
DEFENSIVE LINE: Starters -- RE Courtney Brown, RT Orpheus Roye, LT Gerard Warren, LE Kenard Lang. Backups -- DEs Felipe Claybrooks, Ebenezer Ekuban, Corey Jackson, Cedric Scott, Mark Word, Jamal Reynolds. DTs Alvin McKinley, Antonio Garay, Mike Myers, Amon Gordon.
A position of concern because not everyone has lived up to the lofty standards set by their pay. Brown's problem has been staying healthy. This camp he's coming off biceps tendon and knee surgery. Warren has been an underachiever since being the third overall pick in the 2001 draft. He does things not everyone notices, but does not make as many plays as Roye, who has played consistently well the last two seasons. Lang had a strong season in 2003; the same is expected in '04.
LINEBACKERS: Starters -- OLBs Chaun Thompson and Warrick Holdman, MLB
Andre Davis. Backups -- OLB Ben Taylor, Kevin Bentley, Sherrod Coates, Barry Gardner. MLB Mason Unck.
Two new starters are penciled in outside, one a veteran the other an inexperienced youngster. Thompson is being given the chance to show the athletic ability the Browns thought he had when they drafted him in round two in 2003. He is very raw, but the team wants to see what he can do. Holdman was a free agent signee who could prove very valuable. He's a good player the Browns like a lot. Davis was the team's Player of the Year in 2003.
SECONDARY: Starters -- CBs Anthony Henry and Daylon McCutcheon, Ss
Earl Little and Robert Griffith. Backups -- CBs Leigh Bodden, Michael Lehan,
Roosevelt Williams. Ss Chris Crocker, Kentrell Curry, David Gibson.
The Browns took a hit when second-round draft choice Sean Jones tore his ACL in training camp. He won't play this season, which may delay expected improvement at the safety spot. The one factor that mitigates the injury is that the team wasn't sure if Jones might need a year's experience before he was ready to play. The Browns like their corners, but neither are pure, shut-down types.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Starters -- P Derrick Frost, PK Phil Dawson, LS Ryan Pontbriand, KR Andre King, PR Dennis Northcutt. Backups -- P Ryan Dutton, PK
Former punter Chris Gardocki departed via free agency, and he was dependable veteran who never had a kick blocked. The Browns will be letting guys they think are talented compete, but neither are experienced. Phil Dawson is as solid and dependable a kicker as there is in the league.