Weeding Through the Depth of Roster Battles

Every training camp has battles for starting positions, much less roster spots open for the taking. For the Browns in this training camp, the focus has been on evaluating and filling positions of depth and versatility. The dog-days of numerous starting position battles have come to an end......

With the majority of starting positions locked-up already, the Browns' 2008 training camp has been about positioning and evaluating depth, as well as getting the team in game-shape. While the getting in shape portion of camp is in full-swing, it is the battles deep with the roster than provides intrigue on a daily basis.

Breaking down the battles is an interesting and large part of the training camp schedule. Throughout the sessions, we have kept a keen eye on the developments and tracked positions of interest extensively through the first 10-days of training camp. Remember, this is a preliminary look after 10-days of camp sessions, time remains for a player to stand-out and earn a roster position otherwise unexpected.

Cornerbacks -

- Eric Wright and Brandon McDonald are the starters. Terry Cousin is the #3 or nickel CB. Presently, A.J. Davis and Jereme Perry are performing well enough to warrant the #4 and #5 CB spots. Rookies Damon Jenkins and Mil'von James could be battling for the #5 spot, or a place on the practice squad. Both rookies have had their ups and downs in camp, with both displaying developmental type talent.

Defensive Line -

- Shaun Rogers, Shaun Smith, Corey Williams and Robaire Smith are keepers, the rest the depth is up in the air. 2007 draftees Chase Pittman and Melila Purcell have added bulk, but this does not appear to have given either play an advantage in gaining a roster spot. Rookies Ahtyba Rubin and Brian Schaefering are in the mix, as well as the improving Louis Leonard. Rubin has not impressed in training camp, many expected this NT to be consistent in clogging up the middle of the defense, but this has not been the case. As a drafted rookie the team may be inclined to keep him on the roster, which will be interesting in the event he does not step up his game in sessions. Leonard is developing and could play the role of a depth player for the team heading into the 2008 season, he has been inconsistent in sessions, but is rarely blown off the point of attack, as some others competing for a roster spot have been.

Pittman and Purcell have shown little, but there has been some glimpses that these two defensive ends could be turning the corner. Schaefering is a high-motor type lineman which has caught the eye of the coaching staff due to his ability to accept coaching and convey that to the practice field. The defensive ends are not nearly as talented as the interior linemen on this roster, which poses an troubling issue for this organization.

In the end, I believe Schaefering will not make the final cut, Leonard based on his start of camp could make the squad, with a continued battle looming for a position between Rubin, Purcell and Pittman. We simply require more evaluation of these players, with the hopes someone will ultimately standout.

Linebackers -

- Right now, Kamerion Wimbley and Willie McGinest will start outside, with D'Qwell Jackson and Andra Davis inside. The injury to Antwan Peek provides further opportunities to players such as David McMillan and Alex Hall to impress and provide versatility to the unit. Veteran Shantee Orr has impressed and is versatile. Orr will continue to see practice time at ILB and OLB and he makes this team. Rookie Beau Bell has shown little in camp, but it is early and the rookie has time to grasp the system and make plays. Bell's strength is his instincts and hitting ability, once comfortable this organization fully believes he will become more than a contributor.

Kris Griffin is a special teams standout and can help at LB in a reserve capacity, while rookie Chase Ortiz is showing some promise, but is a long-shot to stick with the team.

In the end based on observation and the development of young talent, Hall should make this team based on what he has done in camp thus far, Griffin's is well-rounded and may have a head-up on McMillan who is battling for a spot. McMillan's ability at OLB as well as special teams could ultimately be a deciding factor. While Ortiz has made progress, the position is too deep in talent and he could lose out in the numbers game.

Wide Receivers -

- Braylon Edwards and Donte Stallworth are #1 and #2. Travis Wilson has been simply very good in training camp sessions and has the look of a legitimate #3 at this time. Kevin Kasper has been nursing a hamstring injury and has fallen behind Wilson and Syndric Steptoe. Steve Sanders and Lance Leggett have impressed in spurts during drills and Efram Hill is a gamer, but due to the numbers game could be on the outside looking in. Kick returner Josh Cribbs will continue to see opportunities in the offensive set at wide-out, liking limiting the number of roster spots available. Rookie Paul Hubbard is a raw and relatively inexperienced receiver with upside, due to size and speed. From rookie camp and into this training camp, Hubbard has had consistent issues holding onto the ball and his routes are far from proficient. Hubbard has time to make an impression, as the clock is ticking.

If the team keeps five WR's, at this time Edwards, Stallworth and Wilson arguably is the #3. With Wilson still working to earn the trust of the coaching staff, anything can happen. Steptoe has been the forgotten man, but has been receiving reps with the first-team offense and looking very good. Cribbs could be slotted in this position as well, leaving little room for error heading into the next couple weeks of practice sessions for the others battling for a roster spot.

Offensive Line -

- The battle for backup LT has been between rookie James Lee and Cliff Louis. Lee has hands down been the better of the two and continues to show progress in the camp setting. The battle for backup RT has been between Isaac Sowells and Cliff Louis, where again Louis has come up short.

The offensive line is a position of strength for this Cleveland team, the starting five are set, with Rex Hadnot stepping in for Ryan Tucker due to injury. If Tucker returns prior to the season as expected he will be the sixth linemen to start the season. OG Lennie Friedman is versatile and makes the team. Seth McKinney is an established vet and provides quality depth at numerous positions.

The coaching staff likes the progress and demeanor of rookie OG Nathan Bennett and he could land himself a spot on the practice squad.

Running Backs -

- Unless the unexpected occurs, the roster is set with Jamal Lewis, Jason Wright and Jerome Harrison. Rookies Travis Thomas and Austin Scott are in camp battling for a spot on the practice squad to continues their development. Throughout the first ten-days of training camp, Thomas has looked the better of the two which could be a direct relation to Thomas' collegiate career, while Scott collegiate career was far less extensive. Both players display running skills, with each needing work in the blocking game. With both RB's being very similar in proficiency during these sessions, there is not a clear-cut advantage at this position.


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