Cornerback has become so thin for the Browns this summer that Coach Romeo Crennel said he considered flipping a coin before the preseason game against the Lions to determine the starter at right corner.
Seven-year veteran Ralph Brown, signed August 6, got the call. He let up one deep pass and then made the first hit on a play inside the 15 a few plays later to prevent a touchdown.
Gary Baxter would be starting on the right side, but he is out with a strained pectoral muscle. He vows to be ready for the season opener against the Saints September 10, but doctors have told Crennel Baxter could miss a week or two of the regular season. He missed the final 10 games of 2005 with a torn pectoral. This injury is not as severe.
Daylon McCutcheon started camp competing with Leigh Bodden for the starting job at left corner. He had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee to clean up some cartilage. Coaches are worried he might not be ready to play the Saints. Barring a miracle he will miss the final two preseason games.
Some players that could help are fading. Antonio Perkins, a 2005 fourth-round cornerback from Oklahoma, is fragile. He pulled a hamstring early in camp and missed the game against the Lions because of a pulled groin. Pete Hunter showed promise when he was signed in December last year, but he has been victimized in practice and he gave up a 32-yard touchdown pass in the preseason opener. He played in garbage time against the Lions.
"Training camp is about giving guys an opportunity to show what they can do," Crennel said. "That's why we rotate guys and play everyone in the game. We can begin to get a better feel for everybody. When cornerbacks get hurt, the guys behind them have an opportunity to show what they can do."
Daven Holly, 5-10, 192 pounds, a seventh-round draft choice by the 49ers in 2005, is trying to take advantage of the situation. He was among San Francisco's final cuts last September and then claimed by the Bears the next day. He played in three games and finished with seven tackles. Holly says he is a 'balance player,' meaning he can be physical but speed is his best asset.
"I can imagine I'm one of many guys who are going to get a chance at that position," Holly said. "Depending on how things go, I could be the mainstay but there are other guys they might want to try.
"I have to show I know what I'm doing and toughness and effort. If I can show those three things I think I'll be fine. I know what I can and can't do. I don't try to be overly physical. I try to get a jump on a receiver and close on him on a flat route."
The Browns could end up benefiting from the injuries to Baxter and McCutcheon if some of the other cornerbacks play well. They could end up with more depth than they thought they had. Meanwhile, Savage will keep his ears open and his dialing finger busy.
"You look and identify teams that might have an extra player and see if it matches up with something you might have," Savage said.