Here's our first depth chart, for anyone interested in some pre-season prognostication of the 2005 Browns fits together. One new feature that we're doing this year is that the depth chart will also be available in PDF format for easy printing.
Of course, any depth chart at this time of year is highly speculative, and leads us naturally into discussing roster battles which will come into focus during training camp.
Quarterback: Trent Dilfer is the team's clear starter heading into training camp, and the odds that he will be displaced are remote. The real interesting battle will be between Charlie Frye and Josh Harris for the back-up job, assuming that the Browns don't bring in another veteran to sit behind Dilfer. Lang Campbell has been talked up by the team, but the numbers game says that he's headed to the practice squad. Our speculation is that the team will gauge how Harris and Frye are doing before committing to a back-up.
Running Back: A very interesting contest is likely to shape up for the first three spots between Reuben Droughns, Lee Suggs, and the resurgent William Green. We've listed Droughns first because he's returned to camp, has been working hard, and has a 1,200-yard season on his resume. We suspect Droughns is closer to the type of slashing runner the team likely favors now that the interior of the line has been built up. Joe Echemandu will have to create a reason for the team to keep him around for another year, given his injury history. Impressing on kick-off returns would help his case. Chad Scott is new to the team.
Fullback: Terrelle Smith is the clear starter. Corey McIntyre was listed behind him at the end of last season, ahead of Ben Miller, and one will likely wind up being cut by the team. The multi-year investment in Miller was made by the previous administration, so he will have no choice but to impress now.
Wide Receiver: I've listed Antonio Bryant and Andre Davis as the first two, with Braylon Edwards needing to push his way past them to emerge as a starter. Edwards is likely to be the #1 WR shortly into the season, although the timing will be dependent on how long he holds out of training camp. Edwards will have to earn the role, which is why we have him currently listed as #3 despite our confidence that he will emerge as the team's top threat. Dennis Northcutt is the third-down receiver and punt returner, based on his size and how we suspect the team will use him. Alston goes into the summer as the next receiver, simply because of his kick return skills, but no roster spot appears safe past Northcutt. The team brought in a surprising number of wideouts for a team which looks, at first glance, to already have been deep at that position. Keep your eyes open for a possible surprise move involving a veteran.
Tight End: Kellen Winslow continues to make our lives as Browns fans more interesting. All bets are now off regarding a tight end corps that, on paper, doesn't look to have a huge gap between the #1 and #3 spots. With the new coaching staff essentially starting with a clean slate on player evaluations, Steve Heiden, Aaron Shea and Keith Heinrich will need to impress the new guys in training camp and during pre-season. All three players have a spotty injury history, although last year's production from Heiden and Shea put them #1-#2 on our depth chart for now. Paul Irons is a player to watch, particularly since his size gives him some potential for additional duty in a fullback role. Special teams play will be a part of the final roster decisions here.
Left Tackle: With the Ross Verba soap opera quickly shut down thanks to poor reviews and a proactive front office, L.J. Shelton moves in as the undisputed starter at left tackle. We have Marcus Spears listed as his backup, although Spears has more pro experience on the opposite site. Kirk Chambers brings a lot of left tackle experience to bear from Stanford, but was tried just about everywhere but center last year by Butch Davis. He appeared to be getting reps at right tackle during a brief glimpse the media was allowed earlier this month. Lew Dawson gets a second shot to make the team, and Clint Stickdorn made it through rookie camp to get a chance to convince the team to continue their investment past August.
Left Guard: Joe Andruzzi is the starter, and we have Enoch DeMar listed as his backup. We'll learn more about who the team is going to try out at this position when we see mini-camp and the early days of Training Camp in late July. Right now, we are only listing those two at left guard.
Center: Jeff Faine's work to hold onto his starting center role will be one of the mini-dramas at training camp. Melvin Fowler impressed the previous coaching staff once doomed experiments to move him to offensive guard were scuttled in 2004. Crennel spoke positively when asked about Faine's off-season work. The Browns head coach wants to compare the two in game situations - it should be noted that he has no ego or draft investment in Faine. Craig Osika remains on the roster as the #3 center, although he struggled with adjusting to different quarterbacks during last season's training camp.
Right Guard: Cosey Coleman is the obvious starter here, and we have Phil Bogle listed behind him. We will watch to see who else the team tries in this role, particularly as there are players we've listed at both tackle positions who will likely see time here. We're not sure who the team will try at RG yet, and we'll modify the depth chart once we get a chance to see the team practice.
Right Tackle: Ryan Tucker was the only offensive lineman to start every game in 2003, and he is an underappreciated mainstay on the Browns offensive line. He's listed as the top guy here, and will stay in that role. We've listed Greg Randall behind him, as Randall and Spears are the team's experienced offensive tackles, although fans would probably be more comfortable with both in at RT than LT. Javier Collins, Sterling Harris, and the massive rookie Jon Dunn round out the deep listing at RT. One or more could be thrown into the mix at guard - versatility is always a great way for a non-starter on the offensive line to make the roster and will be needed as the Browns figure out the back-ups at guard and tackle.