Position Battles: Where We Stand (Offense)

Lane outlines the key position battles on offense and lets you know exactly where the players are. Who is in line for a roster spot, and who still needs to impress before next week's roster cuts?

After the first three weeks of training camp and two preseason contests, some of the position battles aren't over yet. Expect a few surprises and higher expectations over the next three weeks. This is how we see things evolving at this time:

The Opening of the Floodgates:

  • At one time there were two, but as the witching closed hour closed upon us, there were four. Confused? You should be, as the Browns' quarterback battle is quickly evolving into a four-headed monster, with the two players hand-selected to compete for the starting job seemingly running for cover.

    The quarterback position is a wide-open affair. Prior to Saturday, Ken Dorsey and Brady Quinn garnered little discussion and thought as candidates. In the camp setting, though, both players have practiced as well as Charlie Frye and Derek Anderson, and in some cases they have been better. The showing of the four players should have opened some eyes within the organization, which we will be watching closely as the week of preparation for Denver continues.

Catching the Ball shouldn't be this Difficult:

  • Selecting a wide receiver in the second round of every draft did not work for the Browns early expansion years. Neither has trading away your starting running back to secure the services of another. So why not scour the free agent market? There are a great number of below-average to average receivers available.

    The Browns desperately need a wide receiver to step up and take the third receiver position. Travis Wilson again dropped away an opportunity, Tim Carter has struggled a bit with injury, but has been dropping passes at an alarming rate. I don't see this team entering the season with a cast of receivers named Mann, Mason, Mosley, Cribbs, Steptoe, Sanders, and Hill. While some of the above may stick, it will take a serious effort over the next couple weeks of practice for any to stand out, as all are lumped together. Right now, the deal is Edwards, Jurevicius, Wilson, Carter, Cribbs, and Steptoe. From what we are gathering, but this could change in an instant.

Now, this is what we see in the making:

  • Joe Thomas has nailed own the starting left tackle spot, while Nat Dorsey and Cliff Louis have battled for the backup spot. Surprisingly, Dorsey has looked decent as the backup and is leading the race for the roster spot.

  • The right guard position was thought to be an area of great interest and competition. It hasn't happened. Seth McKinney is easily beating out Isaac Sowells for the starting spot. Veteran Ryan Tucker was expected to compete for the starting spot, but his suspension knocks him out of the race.

  • The right tackle spot could have been locked down by Kevin Shaffer, but some inconstant pass rushing skills and a lack of physical presence in the running game in practice and preseason games have provided Kelly Butler an opportunity. While Butler has had his fair share of problems in training camp with speed rushers, he remains a candidate due to his ability to move a defensive end off the ball and create space in the running game. 

  • Jerome Harrison and Chris Barclay continue to battle for the third running back spot on the roster. Jason Wright is the second back. Harrison has had his share of ups and downs in training camp and in the two preseason games, but for the most part has played and practiced as expected. He is an asset coming out of the backfield in the passing game and has been involved on special teams. Barclay is a player the team liked last season and sent him to NFL Europa for playing time and some seasoning. Upon his return in training camp, he has caught the ball well out of the backfield and is a strong kickoff return specialist. This battle could go down to the wire, as both players bring some quality attributes to the table, but we like Harrison by a hair, due to being a draft selection of Phil Savage.

  • Hank Fraley is the starter at center, but Rob Smith has improved throughout training camp and could be a player the team may want to work with further. At this time, Smith may be equal or better than Lennie Friedman at center, though Friedman is replacing the injured Eric Steinbach at guard and has basically sown up a roster position.

  • Second-year right guard Isaac Sowells has not looked good in training camp, some of which comes from losing valuable time last season due to an ankle injury as well as missing time in this training camp. Looking a little slow to get off the blocks in recent practice sessions, Sowells performed better than he has practiced in the game against the Lions this past week. The organization does not appear ready to give up on this promising lineman.

  • Tight ends Kellen Winslow and Steve Heiden have made the team. Darnell Dinkins is as close as it gets, due to his ability to block (by far the best of the players at the position), which leaves the team with two athletic players remaining to evaluate. Ryan Krause and Buck Ortega have stepped have produced when given the opportunity at camp and in the exhibition games. If the Browns decide to keep a fourth tight-end, Krause may hold a slight edge, due to his familiarity with Rob Chudzinski's system.

LA


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