Rich's Rant: My Final 53

Rich Passan does his best Phil Savage (pictured) and offers his take on the Browns personnel heading into training camp. Here is Rich's view on who will make it through training camp - and who won't - as well as his typically frank and objective assessment of where the Browns stand...

Sizing up the Browns as they begin training camp tomorrow, and predicting the final roster (barring trades and other transactions):


Position: Quarterback

Candidates: Charlie Frye, Ken Dorsey, Derek Anderson, Lang Campbell, Darrell Hackney

Projected starter: Frye

Projected bench: Dorsey (unless Phil Savage trades for a better veteran backup) and Anderson

Position grade: C

Prognosis: Frye must prove himself over the course of a 16-game season, providing he is upright long enough to do so. It's difficult to anoint a practically-rookie quarterback as the next Brett Favre. As a passer, he needs to be more decisive and get rid of the ball faster. The Browns are in trouble if Dorsey is the clipboard guy. Savage keeps asking Romeo Crennel is he's satisfied with Dorsey. The answer is always yes. If that's the case, why does Savage keep asking the question? The answer should be obvious and Savage should act. Anderson, with the strongest throwing arm of the three, is a project.

Position: Running Back

Candidates: Reuben Droughns, William Green, Lee Suggs, Jerome Harrison, Jason Wright, Chris Barclay

Projected starter: Droughns

Projected bench: Green, Harrison and probably Wright (unless Savage can't move Suggs)

Position grade: B-

Prognosis: Assuming his off-the-field problems don't land him in the National Football League's doghouse, Droughns starts. But he must find the end zone a lot more than he did last season. Running for 1,200-plus yards is nice. Scoring only twice isn't. I'll trade those numbers for 980 yards and 10 touchdowns. Green, a bust as a No. 1 draft choice, is a capable fill-in. You never know when the light will go on again for him. Harrison will surprise as a third-down back. The rookie has nice hands and has the ability to turn nothing into something. If Suggs is still with the team, projected arrival on injured reserve is last week of training camp.

Position: Fullback

Candidates: Terrelle Smith, Corey McIntyre, Lawrence Vickers

Projected starter: Smith

Projected bench: McIntyre and Vickers

Position grade: B-

Prognosis: Smith remains one of the NFL's best blocking backs. But he must improve on last season's disappointing performance as a pass receiver. He certainly didn't look like someone with the reputation as a back with good hands. If McIntyre makes the team, it will be based on strong special-teams play. Don't be surprised to see Vickers and Smith in the same backfield when the Browns are goal-to-go inside the five-yard line. The rookie can hammer when the goal line is in sight.

Position: Wide Receiver

Candidates: Braylon Edwards, Joe Jurevicius, Dennis Northcutt, Travis Wilson, Frisman Jackson, Joshua Cribbs, Brandon Rideau, Steve Sanders, Carlton Brewster, Brent Little, Kendrick Mosley

Projected starters: Northcutt (Edwards when he returns from surgery) and Jurevicius

Projected bench: Northcutt (eventually, unless he's traded), Wilson and Cribbs

Position grade: B- (and that's being charitable)

Prognosis: After Edwards, this is not a group that will scare opposing secondaries. Jurevicius is a nice addition, but is more of a complementary receiver than a starter. In Seattle, he was the third choice after Darrell Jackson and Bobby Engram. Northcutt has been a huge disappointment the last two seasons. Wilson is a question mark. The rookie disappeared last season at Oklahoma, coming nowhere near to what he did as a junior. The rest of the field offers little hope, except for Cribbs as a return man.

Position: Tight End

Candidates: Kellen Winslow Jr., Steve Heiden, Darnell Dinkins, Paul Irons, John Owens

Projected starter: Winslow

Projected bench: Heiden and Dinkins

Position grade: B-

Prognosis: All the talk about Winslow's comeback has been glowing from the front office. But we still don't know what he can do on a football field when healthy. An NFL field, that is. If he's the player the Browns drafted out of Miami, that bodes well. If missing all this time with injuries has a deleterious effect on his play, all bets are off. It won't be easy coming back after missing what amounts to two full seasons. If Winslow struggles, Heiden is a more-than-capable backup. The third TE spot will be a fight between Dinkins and Irons with Dinkins, who has the edge in size and experience, winning out.

Position: Tackle

Candidates: Ryan Tucker, Kevin Shaffer, Kirk Chambers. Nat Dorsey, Walter Stith, Jonathan Dunn

Projected starters: Shaffer and Tucker

Projected bench: Dorsey and Chambers

Position grade: B- (when healthy)

Prognosis: A lot of people didn't know who Shaffer was when the Browns signed him to a free-agent contract. They'll find out soon enough that this overachiever will be much better at left tackle than L.J. Shelton was last season. Even though he didn't protect Michael Vicks' blind side in Atlanta, Shaffer was responsible for the left flank of the Falcons' offense, the side Vicks usually ran to when in trouble. Shaffer will have the difficult job of facing the opposition's best pass rusher and should do a good job. Tucker is a road grader who seems to be leveling off. Both men had better stay healthy. There is a severe dropoff in talent if they get hurt.

Position: Guard

Candidates: Joe Andruzzi, Cosey Coleman, Bob Hallen, Isaac Sowells, Aatlas Herrion, Rob Smith, Ben Brielmaier, Dave Yovanovits

Projected starters: Andruzzi and Coleman

Projected bench: Hallen, Sowells and Yovanovits

Position grade: C

Prognosis: Andruzzi isn't getting any younger and got a little nicked last season. Coleman was just so-so last season and needs to pick up his game a few notches. Maybe LeCharles Bentley to his immediate left will provide the kick in the pants Coleman needs. There is no dropoff in talent with the versatile Hallen. The rookie Sowells will have to watch for a year.

Position: Center

Candidates: LeCharles Bentley, Hallen, Yovanovits, Ryan Pontbriand (long snapper)

Projected starter: Bentley

Projected bench: Hallen, Yovanovits and Pontbriand

Position grade: A

Prognosis: Bentley, who is as tough as they come, is the key to the success of the offensive line. As the linchpin, he sets the tone for the rest of the line. And he's one of the best on the NFL. No longer will you see nose tackles or defensive tackles bee-lining their way into the Cleveland backfield. Hallen provides solid relief. And Pontbriand is a fixture in the kicking game.

Position: Placekicker

Candidates: Phil Dawson, Jeff Chandler

Projected starter: Dawson

Projected bench: Unless the Browns use Chandler as a kickoff specialist, which is unlikely, Dawson is the man.

Position grade: B+

Prognosis: No worries here. Consistency is Dawson's hallmark. What he lacks in kickoff depth he more than makes up with his solid directional kicking.


Position: End

Candidates: Orpheus Roye, Alvin McKinley, Simon Fraser, Nick Eason

Projected starters: Roye and McKinley

Projected bench: Fraser and Eason

Position grade: C+

Prognosis: Roye is coming off his best season as a Brown, but needs help from the other flank. With Ted Washington on the nose for 20-25 plays a game, maybe McKinley will flourish. He is certainly the weak link to the defensive line. Perhaps Eason can step up and surprise. He showed flashes last season. Fraser is a special teamer.

Position: Nose Tackle

Candidates: Ted Washington, Ethan Kelley, J'Vonne Parker, J'Waren Blair, Babatunde Oshinowo, Darrell Campbell, Andrew Hoffman

Projected starter: Washington

Projected bench: Kelley and Oshinowo

Position grade: B- (higher if Washington was an every-play guy)

Prognosis: Too bad Washington is 38 and well on the downside of a terrific career. Too bad he can't play more than 20-25 plays a game. Too bad unless . . . Oshinowo stuns everyone and makes a smooth transition to the NFL game. He's smart, quick and strong. But he's a rookie and rookies make mistakes. We saw some positive glimpses from Kelley last season when it was obvious Jason Fisk wasn't getting the job done.

Position: Outside Linebacker

Candidates: Willie McGinest, Matt Stewart, David McMillan, Nick Speegle, Justin Kurpeikis, Kamerion Wimbley

Projected starters: McGinest and Stewart

Projected bench: Wimbley (as a pass-rushing specialist), McMillan and Speegle

Position grade: B-

Prognosis: The high grade stems from the presence of McGinest, who is past his prime but still has something left. If nothing else, he is the type of player who can bring the best out of his teammates. And that's what Crennel is counting on. McGinest will be like a coach on the field. The steady Stewart is just keeping his spot warm for the rookie Wimbley, who most likely will start off as a situational pass rusher. McMillan and Speegle are special teamers.

Position: Inside Linebacker

Candidates: Andra Davis, Chaun Thompson, Clifton Smith, Mason Unck, D'Qwell Jackson, Kenny Kern, Leon Williams

Projected starters: Davis and Thompson

Projected bench: Jackson, Williams and Unck

Position grade: C+

Prognosis: Davis racks up huge numbers in tackles, but initial contact is usually made well past the line of scrimmage. The presence of Washington in the middle of the line might enable Davis to establish contact earlier. Thompson, who some considered a failure at outside linebacker, brings speed and toughness inside. He could surprise. The rookies Jackson and Williams most likely will have significant roles on special teams at first with Jackson pressing Thompson for starting status by mid-season, if not sooner.

Position: Cornerback

Candidates: Gary Baxter, Daylon McCutcheon, Leigh Bodden, DeMario Minter, Chris Thompson, Antonio Perkins, Pete Hunter, Jereme Perry, James Thornton

Projected starters: Baxter and Bodden

Projected bench: McCutcheon, Minter and Perkins (mainly as a return specialist)

Position grade: B

Prognosis: The club got stronger at this position with the emergence of Bodden as a starter when Baxter went down last season. That drops McCutcheon to nickel back unless the veteran has a whale of a training camp. The rookie Minter is a terrific pickup and Perkins proved last season that his value lies in the return game.

Position: Safety

Candidates: Brian Russell, Brodney Pool, Sean Jones, Justin Hamilton, Shawn Mayer, Andrew Pace

Projected starters: Russell and Pool

Projected bench: Jones and Hamilton

Position grade: C+

Prognosis: The X-factor here is whether Pool can step in and do the job at strong safety after missing a good portion of his rookie season with injuries. If he turns out to be the player Savage thought he drafted out of Oklahoma last season, the grade goes up. And if Jones can step in a free safety for the steady Russell and do the job, the grade moves up even more. That's a lot of ifs, though. Hamilton is a special teamer.

Position: Punter

Candidates: Dave Zastudil, Kyle Basler

Projected starter: Zastudil

Projected bench: Zastudil is the man.

Position grade: B+

Prognosis: Do not underestimate the importance of signing the Bay High School graduate as a free agent. His numbers are not spectacular, but his directional kicking should help the defense in terms of field position. The importance of good field position for the defense cannot be stressed enough.

That's a 56-man roster (not including Braylon Edwards). Three cuts have to be made to get to the required 53. After considerable thought (well, not really), make those victims Jason Wright, Dave Yovanovits and Mason Unck. When Edwards returns, Corey McIntyre leaves.

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