As our overall look at the start of the Browns training camp, Scout.com takes at the Browns offensive and defensive units, offering thoughts on how the depth chart will change over July and August...
QUARTERBACK: Starter - Derek Anderson. Backups - Brady Quinn, Charlie Frye, Ken Dorsey.
This picture could change drastically before the Browns open the season Sept. 9 in a home game against the Steelers. In fact, it would not be a total shock if Dorsey is retained as the third quarterback and either Frye or Anderson is traded or waived before the preseason ends. Last season Frye threw 17 interceptions and Anderson threw eight. Frye lost seven fumbles and Anderson one. The combined 33 turnovers were the highest of any quarterback tandem in the league. The knock on Quinn before the draft was that he was inaccurate passing. Nothing he did in minicamp quieted those concerns.
RUNNING BACKS: Starters - Jamal Lewis, FB Lawrence Vickers. Backups - RB Jason Wright, RB Jerome Harrison, FB Charles Ali, RB Chris Barclay, RB Jerome Jackson, RB J.R. Niklos.
Supposedly Lewis is just a shadow of the 2,000-yard rusher he was in 2003. The Browns will take that shadow and be satisfied with it. Last season with the Ravens, Lewis rushed for 1,132 yards - about 200 yards less than the Browns gained rushing as a team. His nine rushing touchdowns were two more than the Browns had. Lewis hit the hole quickly in minicamp. That is a change from the hesitancy shown by Reuben Droughns and before him William Green. Harrison put on 20 pounds and is determined to block better. If he does, he will get more than the 20 carries he earned last year. Wright is an excellent spot player. He is probably the smartest player on the team and never complains about being a backup. Vickers will have an increased role as fullback without Terrelle Smith to compete with.
TIGHT ENDS: Starter - Kellen Winslow. Backups - Steve Heiden, Darnell Dinkins, Ryan Krause, Buck Ortega.
The Browns have yet to see Winslow healthy for an entire season. He missed 14 games as a rookie in 2004, all of 2005 and, though he played 16 games in 2006, he played on an injured right knee. He tied a team record with 89 receptions, but most were short tosses. If he heals from microfracture surgery and catches more passes down the middle his 9.8 yards per reception should increase, and so should his three touchdowns from 2006. Winslow will not be a complete player until he blocks better, but for now the Browns would be ecstatic with 75 catches, 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns. Heiden is a workhorse. He does the grunt work, fights for first downs and is a willing blocker. Dinkins is a blocker and an unselfish special teams player.
WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters: Braylon Edwards, Joe Jurevicius. Backups: Travis Wilson, Tim Carter, Joshua Cribbs, Kendrick Mosley, Mike Mason, Syndric Steptoe, Efrem Hill, Maurice Mann, Steve Sanders.
Edwards says he is putting his selfishness behind him, vowing to be a team player this year. If he is true to his word, he and Jurevicius could give the Browns their most exciting receiver combination since the days of Webster Slaughter, Brian Brennan and Reggie Langhorne. The challenge will be finding that third receiver among Wilson, Carter and Cribbs. Wilson is inexperienced (two catches last year), Carter has a history of dropping passes and Cribbs is more valuable on special teams. But as for Jurevicius and Edwards - both can jump and are tall targets in the end zone. Jurevicius has sure hands. Edwards dropped passes last season he normally catches. He is difficult to tackle from behind when he hits his stride. Steptoe is trying to make the team as a punt returner.
OFFENSIVE LINE: Starters - LT Joe Thomas, LG Eric Steinbach, C Hank Fraley, RG Seth McKinney, RT Ryan Tucker. Backups - T Kevin Shaffer, C/G LeCharles Bentley, G Isaac Sowells, T Nat Dorsey, T Kelly Butler, G Fred Matua, C Rob Smith, G Lennie Friedman, G Andrew Hoffman, OL Pete Lougheed, OL Cliff Louis
Bentley vows to be ready for training camp one year after suffering a season-ending patellar tendon tear. He would start if he is back to his pre-injury status, and that would give the Browns a stellar line with Steinbach and Thomas on the left side. The odd man out seems to be Shaffer, last year's starting left tackle. He could end up at right guard or right tackle and Tucker at the position Shaffer does not win, but the coaches like McKinney at right guard if he shows he is past the neck injury that cost him all of 2006 with the Dolphins. Fraley is a capable, hustling center. Sowells, Shaffer and Bentley give the Browns depth they have never had on the offensive line since they returned to the NFL in 1999.
DEFENSIVE LINE; Starters - LDE Orpheus Roye, RDE Robaire Smith, NT Ted Washington. Backups - NT Shaun Smith, NT Babatunde Oshinowo, DE Simon Fraser, DL Ethan Kelly, DL Orien Harris, DL J'Vonne Parker, DE Melila Purcell, DE Chase Pittman, DL Alvin Smith.
The Browns have plenty of bodies on the defensive line. The challenge is finding players after Fraser capable of backing up the starters. Roye is breaking down as he enters his 12th season. Washington is in his 17th year and Robaire Smith is in his eighth season. The Browns ranked 29th in the league in run defense last year, and Robaire Smith is the only addition among the starters. Fraser is a successful pass rusher, but is vulnerable against the run. Harris, picked off the Pittsburgh practice squad late in 2006, could elbow his way into significant playing time with an impressive training camp. Purcell and Pittman are rookie projects. Shaun Smith has a decided edge in the challenge to back up Washington.
LINEBACKERS: Starters - WLB Kamerion Wimbley, ILB D'Qwell Jackson, MLB Andra Davis, SLB Willie McGinest. Backups - ILB Leon Williams, ILB Mason Unck, OLB Antwan Peek, OLB David McMillan, OLB Matt Stewart, ILB Jason Short, OLB Kris Griffin, OLB Clifton Smith, ILB Chaun Thompson, OLB Kevin Sears.
The linebacking crew can be a force if it gets any help from the defensive line. Wimbley had 11 sacks as a rookie. He gets low as he scoots around the end and is working on other techniques to get to the quarterback. Williams bears watching in this camp. He could challenge Jackson or Davis for a starting job. He is more active at the line of scrimmage than the starters. Peek won't start, but he could replace McGinest on passing downs and provide a rush from the left. The rest of the linebacking corps makes up the bulk of special teams. McMillan is fighting for a job. If he is cut it will be another indictment on the 2005 draft, which provided Edwards, safety Brodney Pool, Frye and not much else. Time might have finally run out on Thompson, a 2003 second-round draft pick. He is athletic, but sometimes slow to react.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters - LCB Leigh Bodden, RCB Eric Wright, FS Brodney Pool, SS Sean Jones. Backups - DB Gary Baxter, CB Kenny Wright, CB Daven Holly, CB Jereme Perry, CB Kenny Wright, S Mike Adams, CB Therrian Fontenot, CB Jeremy LeSueur, CB DeMario Minter, S Justin Hamilton, CB Brandon McDonald.
The secondary comes with some 'ifs,' but they are not big ifs. If Bodden, coming off ankle surgery, can play a full season, if rookie Eric Wright sticks to receivers as well as he did in minicamp and if Pool steps in for departed Brian Russell without any drop-off the Browns secondary can be a scary place for opposing quarterbacks. Holly and Kenny Wright will battle for the nickel job with the loser becoming the dime back. Adams and Hamilton will battle as the backup safeties. Adams has starting experience with the 49ers, but this is Hamilton's second year in the system. McDonald is in the mix as a punt returner. The Browns gave up 20 touchdowns through the air last year. Injuries to Baxter, Bodden, Russell and Daylon McCutcheon became too much to overcome. Baxter is trying to come back from tearing both patellar tendons. If he does, he could be the nickel back or he could play safety.
SPECIAL TEAMS - K Phil Dawson, P Dave Zastudil, LS Ryan Pontbriand, KR Joshua Cribbs, PR Cribbs, K Jesse Ainsworth, P Kyle Basler.
Dawson was 21 of 29 on field goals last year. The Browns would like to see that improve in his ninth season as kicker. Zastudil brought stability to a shaky position last year (44.0 average, 38.4 net, 28 inside the 20), his first with the Browns. Critics chastised former coach Butch Davis for drafting Pontbriand in the fifth round in 2003, but the long snapper has proven to be a good investment. Cribbs will double as the kick and punt returner unless Steptoe or McDonald beats him out on punt returns.