Adkins – Who helped themselves on the defensive side of the ball?
Training camp has concluded. The initial wave of roster reductions has been made. Now, one preseason game remains and players on the bubble have one last impression to make on the coaching staff, in game conditions.
The stakes have been raised, and some players helped their cause against the Bears, which is critical to the progress of the Cleveland Browns in the 2007 season and beyond.
Nose Tackles –
Heading into the season, we know this much for certain, the Browns are in dire need for a player to step forward and grab the role. Ted Washington is on cruise control and will need to show more once the season begins, but he is not the answer at the position, as he is limited to the number of plays he can possibly play effectively.
On player kept catching my attention was Babatunde Oshinowo, the second-year nose tackle from Stanford. Coming off a rookie season where he was relatively overmatched, Oshinowo came into camp this spring hungry and in better physical condition to play along the interior of the defensive line. Over the past two preseason games and in practice sessions, Oshinowo has been steady and improving against the run and he displays a little spark on passing downs. A work in progress, Oshinowo has shown the strength and mental capacity to play a role with this team, he was steadfast at times in the middle of the battle at the line of scrimmage.
Being pushed off the ball much less frequently than Washington, Ethan Kelley, and J'Vonne Parker (also played defensive tackle/defensive end), Oshinowo could play a significant role for this team in short order due to the overall talent and depth at the position.
Being a 3-4 defensive team, the supposed nose tackles on this roster, outside of Washington and possibly Shaun Smith appear best suited for the 4-3 scheme, due to their size and physical abilities at the point of attack.
Heading into the season, this is an area of the roster which could be an ongoing issue for this team.
Defensive Ends –
Injuries to Orpheus Roye and Simon Frasier opened the door for some additional practice and playing time for many players in camp. Taking advantage of the opportunity, rookies Melila Purcell and Chase Pittman received plenty of snaps, with Purcell making an impression over the past two weeks.
Due to concerns about depth, strength, and quickness at the end position, the Browns have to like the physical ability both rookies provide. Purcell has excelled of late due to his ability to play off the tackles, along with his quickness, Purcell is able to get to lanes quickly. Physically strong for a 285-lb player at the position, Purcell has the look of a player which is going to physically grow into the position and could be serviceable for this team during the 2007 season.
Chase Pittman, while not making as much as a recognizable impact, has had a solid camp and could make his way onto the roster. With the versatile J'Vonne Parker suffering a calf injury against the Bears, Pittman could be one of these players which find his way onto the roster due to the injury factor.
I never thought I would mutter these words, but the versatility of Chaun Thompson will land him a roster spot. Displaying to step in and fill the void, Thompson can play inside or outside, as well as being a solid special team's player. The injury to veteran Willie McGinest may also open the door for outside linebacker David McMillan, but his non-descript manner of play against better competition could be his undoing.
Inside linebacker Clifton Smith is a workmanlike player. Not much fanfare, not much flair, just a steady presence, and a physical one at that, which the coaching staff likes along the inside of the defense. Smith, a long-shot when camp opened has a fighting chance, especially with Jason Short almost assured of a roster position, which could make Mason Unck expendable.
The next few days are going to be tough on the coaching staff, when looking at film and deciding on who will make the 53-man roster. Linebacker and special team's ace Kris Griffin has been a pleasant surprise, not only as a special team's player, but with his steady play and quick reactions at linebacker.
Defensive Backs -
Interesting competition in the defensive backfield, especially when one has to figure three spots are locked up heading into the final days before the team must cut the roster to 53-players. Leigh Bodden, Eric Wright, and Daven Holly are locks, while veteran Kenny Wright, Jereme Perry and others battle for the last remaining spots.
Perry showed his value, not only in the defensive backfield as a reserve and dime back, but as a special team's player in coverage. Often one of the first player's down-field, Perry is part of the core of the unit.
Many teams like to have a veteran presence in the defensive backfield and Kenny Wright was brought in to provide that quality and depth. While injured for a good portion of training camp, Wright played reasonably well of late and can be counted on to give a solid effort.
Rookie Brandon McDonald has had an up and down camp with the team, but has had moments when he played well at corner and special teams. McDonald has progressed significantly since arriving in the spring to camp and could be a player of the future for this team, but at this time is at best a dime package player.