Scout.com provides a brief positive-by-position look at the Browns as training camp draws nearer:
Phil Savage was in the Ravens front office when Dilfer guided the Ravens offense to the Super Bowl championship after the 2000 season. >From the beginning, Dilfer was the quarterback Savage wanted to replace Jeff Garcia, who never fit in Cleveland. Dilfer has leadership and a strong arm. He is not as mobile as he once was, but he has a knack for winning with 24 victories in his last 29 starts. It gets very thin for the Browns after Dilfer, however. Johnson is a plug-in and nothing more. Frye is as raw as a rookie can be. Harris has limited experience and could end up on the practice squad.
Suggs is listed as the starter only because he was with the Browns last season and finished with three straight 100-yard games. He goes to the hole decisively and can make people miss when he gets through it. Smith is a punishing blocker who should see more action in Romeo Crennel's run-oriented defense. Droughns has designs of his own to start. He was a 'downhill' runner with the Broncos last season, and the Browns are hopeful his 1,240-yard rushing season was not a quirk. So where does Green fit in? That's the question of training camp. For now, the Browns plan to hold onto all three backs, but if they could get something in a trade for Green in the preseason, they might be willing to deal.
This position was doomed from the start. First Kellen Winslow Jr. ruined
his season by crashing his motorcycle May 1, and then on June 1 Keith Heinrich's
season ended while blocking a safety during quarterback school. Each had an ACL
repaired the same day in mid-June. Heiden is a capable starter. He does not have
Winslow's size or speed, but he catches the ball and is a reliable blocker. Shea
is a workhorse. He is happy to be strictly a tight end after failed attempts to
make him an H-back. Irons is strictly for depth and special teams.
The Browns expect Edwards to find the end zone early and often after
passing up defensive help to take him with the third pick in the draft. If he
lives up to expectations, and Bryant starts catching the ball consistently, the
Browns will have their best one-two punch since the days of Webster Slaughter
and Reggie Langhorne. Northcutt is an excellent slot receiver and Davis is the
fastest player on the team, but he also is fragile. Jackson will have to impress
Crennel quickly. Alston is the No. 1 kick returner and a spare part as a
receiver. The others are training camp bodies, though Cribbs could emerge as a
OFFENSIVE LINE: Starters - LT L.J. Shelton, LG Joe Andruzzi, C Jeff Faine, RG Cosey Coleman, RT Ryan Tucker. Backups - G Enoch DeMar, C Melvin Fowler, T Jonathan Dunn, T Kirk Chambers, G Javiar Collins, G/C Craig Osika, T Greg Randall. Returning injured starters - Faine, Tucker
Beefing up run-blocking was the top priority of free agency, and to that end Andruzzi and Coleman were acquired. They could be the best players on the line. Tucker might be breaking down after nine years in the league. He missed extended time with injuries twice last season, first with a torn quad and then with a knee injury. Faine gets pushed around. Shelton replaces Ross Verba, only because Verba created a stink by asking for a new contract. Fowler is a solid backup to Faine, and DeMar has experience as a starter, but after that it would be throw and duck for Dilfer.
Converting to a 3-4 defense means Roye and McKinley are moving from tackle to end. Both are down-and-dirty players. Roye played end in the 3-4 with the Steelers and McKinley was an excellent run-stopper in short yardage as a tackle. Their job will be to tie up the offensive tackles so the linebackers can swoop in and make the tackle. Fisk is in his 11th season. He will need support from Hoffman, the rookie from Virginia, if he is to last 16 games. Crennel likes Eason because Eason can play anywhere along the line. Fraser is a project but could end up on the practice squad.
LINEBACKERS: Starters - LOLB Chaun Thompson, LILB Ben Taylor, RILB Andra Davis, ROLB Matt Stewart. Backups - OLB Kenard Lang, ILB Brant Boyer, OLB David McMillan, OLB Nick Speegle, ILB Renauld Williams, ILB Mason Unck, ILB, OLB Sherrod Coates, ILB Jamal Brooks. Returning injured starter - Davis.
Lang could end up the starter ahead of Thompson if he learns his new position quickly enough. This is his ninth season. He was a defensive end and a part time tackle the first eight years. Taylor was an outside linebacker his first three years with the Browns, but he played inside at Virginia Tech and is probably more effective in smaller space. Davis is underrated because he has been on bad football teams the last two years. He is a sure tackler and quick to the point of attack. Stewart played outside linebacker in the 3-4 in Atlanta. His experience will help the transition work. From somewhere in this group Crennel hopes to find at least two pass rushers. Lang has proven he can get to the quarterback. McMillan played end at Kansas, but at 262 pounds is too light to play end in this scheme. Speegle, a sixth-round draft choice, looked quick in shorts and a T-shirt in minicamp. Coaches are eager to see what he can do in pads.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters - LCB Gary Baxter, RCB Daylon McCutcheon, FS Brodney Pool, SS Sean Jones. Backups - CB Michael Lehan, CB Antonio Perkins, CB Leigh Bodden, S Chris Crocker, S Brian Russell, CB James Boyd, S Michael Jameson.
The Browns are extremely young at safety. Jones missed all of his rookie year in 2004 with a knee injury and Pool is a 2005 second-round pick from Oklahoma. Russell might start over Pool because he has three years of experience with the Vikings. McCutcheon plays bigger than his 5-10 program height. Baxter was the biggest free agent acquisition on defense, but concerns exist about the former Raven's speed. Perkins, a rookie from Oklahoma, will challenge Lehan and Crocker as the nickel back. The loser will be the dime back. Bodden has good hands and can play corner or safety in a backup role.
Dawson has made 80 of 89 field-goal attempts inside 40 yards over the
first six years of his career. His kickoffs get deeper every year. Richardson
was signed in free agency to stabilize a position that was in the shaky hands of
Derrick Frost last season. Richardson is a master at feathering his punts inside
the 20. Alston has speed if he can get to the outside on kick returns. Northcutt
will be challenged by Perkins on punt returns. Northcutt is frail, but not
afraid to take a hit. Critics smirked when former coach Butch Davis drafted
Pontbriand in the fifth round in 2003, but no one involved in special teams is
complaining. His snaps are quick and on the money.