Berea Notes: What About Cornerback?

With the regular season looming closer each day, the Browns still have some question marks scattered around the depth chart. Fred Greetham reports from Berea about the unsettled right cornerback position, as well as more news of the day...

BEREA – Even if Gary Baxter and Daylon McCutcheon return for the start of the regular season, who is going to be the Browns fourth cornerback?

With Leigh Bodden being a major bright spot and potentially the MVP of training camp, the right side opposite him has been not much more than a quagmire.

Potential suspects have been Ralph Brown, Pete Hunter, Antonio Perkins, Daven Holly, Jereme Perry and Therrian Fontenot. Fifth-round draft choice DeMario Minter was placed on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list with a knee injury and will be unavailable until October. Jeremy LeSueur was placed on injured reserve and is lost for the season.

Brown and Holly were free agent signings this summer, while Perry was an undrafted rookie free agent signing.

"If we can get a Gary Baxter back on field, I think that will solidify the position," Romeo Crennel said Monday. "In the meantime, we're taking a look at guys like Ralph Brown, who can come in and do some things.

"But he's not Gary Baxter."

With a lot of the talk early on in training camp surrounding the turmoil at the center position, a simmering problem was starting to show itself at the cornerback position.

It's nearly at full boil with the season just a week-and-a-half away.

First, McCutcheon had to have arthroscopic surgery on his knee on Aug. 1 to get loose cartilage cleared out. Baxter hurt the opposite pectoral muscle that sidelined him for most of last season in the first preseason game with the Eagles. Both players were expected to be ready for the opener Sept. 10. Baxter missed the final 10 games of the 2005 season with a torn right pectoral muscle.

However, McCutcheon has yet returned to practice and Baxter just started with limited work on Monday.

The preseason has shown the weakness of the Browns corners as the candidates to replace Baxter and McCutcheon have been exploited through the first three games.

Hunter was given the first opportunity and he gave up a 33-yard pass from Donovan McNabb to undrafted free agent Hank Baskett to the two-yard line in the Eagles' game. He also allowed a 32-yard touchdown pass to Darnerien McCants from Jeff Garcia later in the same game. Hunter is a four-year veteran, who started five games for the Cowboys with three career interceptions.

After the game, Hunter was dropped behind Brown, whom the Browns signed on Aug. 6. Brown started against the Lions and Bills, but was beat for a 45-yarder pass play by Roy Williams from Jon Kitna in the Lions game. He then was beaten by Peerless Price for a 54-yard touchdown pass from J.P. Losman in the Bills' game. Brown is a seven-year veteran from Nebraska.

"We talk to them all the time about not giving up long passes, and so far in the preseason, we continue to give up a pass or two a game, which definitely hurts us," Crennel said.  

Perkins—last year's fourth-round draft choice-- had a few flashes in practice, but has yet to step up and claim a role. With Baxter and McCutcheon counted, the Browns still need the fourth guy to step up in passing situations.

It's obvious the Browns are concerned with the position as they tried to trade Lee Suggs to the Jets for cornerback Derrick Strait and then when the trade was rescinded they traded with Green Bay for Fontenot.

If someone doesn't emerge soon, don't be surprised to see the Browns continue to search the waiver wire as teams make cuts as they try to upgrade the position—particularly at the fourth spot.

"If you have to bring in a new batch of players at the bottom of the roster, it's not that big of a problem," Crennel said. "It's more of a problem at the top of the roster, if you have to play them right away."


Full Speed Ahead: Crennel said he wants every player going into Thursday's game to be prepared to play the whole game.

"If they play less than that, I'll make that decision," he said.

Many teams use the last preseason game to protect their starters from potential injury.

"My experience has been if you go in scared, that's when you get hurt," said Crennel.

Feeley Good: Crennel didn't rule out the Browns taking a look at A.J. Feeley as a potential backup to QB Charlie Frye.

"We will look at him and see if we have an interest."

Feeley was released by the Chargers on Monday.

Crennel said he's leaning toward keeping three quarterbacks, and hasn't yet ruled out the possibility of bringing in a veteran quarterback.

Friedman Fine: There was a report on ESPN that OL Lenny Friedman and the Browns had parted ways, but that wasn't the case—other than for five minutes.

"They had to adjust the contract on some different things," Friedman said. "I knew about it and I was not a Cleveland Brown for about five minutes."

Crennel said he hopes to get Friedman in the Bears game on Thursday.

Suggs Watch: RB Lee Suggs did not get any carries in last week's game with the Bills as speculation continues that he will be traded or released in the coming days.

He said Thursday's game is important for his future, whether with the Browns or somewhere else.

"I have no concerns," Suggs said. "I want to make a real impact in the game and make the most of the chances I'm given."

Crennel was asked if he has seen the best of William Green and Suggs in his two seasons with the team.

"Probably not," Crennel said. "Because they haven't been on the field. Sometimes, you don't get the opportunity to show what you can do in games. They have had opportunities in practice."

Injury Update: The situation remained the same with CB Daylon McCutcheon (knee), LB Mason Unck (knee) and LB Clifton Smith (hamstring) on the stationary bikes. Crennel said McCutcheon did some running outside to test the knee and it responded well.

Stith Waived: The Browns move to get to the 75 man roster limit was to waive OL Walter Stith. He was a 6-9, 320 pound undrafted free agent rookie from North Carolinia A & T.

Wimbley Progressing: LB Kamerion Wimbley has made a sack in each of the last two games and Crennel likes what he sees.

"He's coming along," Crennel said. "He's making progress every game."

Browns Indoors: The Browns practiced inside for the first time during training camp.

"It was a good change of pace for us," Crennel said.

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