QUARTERBACK: Starter Derek Anderson. Backups -- Brady Quinn, Ken Dorsey.
Anderson has been somewhat inconsistent in his second season as a starter, but some of that could be due to looking over his shoulder with Brady Quinn. Quinn benefited with two starts while Anderson rested in the preseason. He needs to be sharper to fill in for Anderson in the regular season if necessary. Dorsey is more valuable as a coach in pads than as a quarterback.
RUNNING BACKS: Starter -- Jamal Lewis, FB Lawrence Vickers. Backups -- Jason Wright, Jerome Harrison, FB Charles Ali.
Lewis is lighter than a year ago when he rushed for 1,304 yards and nine touchdowns. He plans to run around rather than over opponents. The Browns were cautious when he suffered a pulled hamstring Aug. 18. Wright is a quick change of pace back. This could be Harrison's biggest year to date. The Browns like the way he runs with the ball in open space.
TIGHT ENDS: Starter -- Steve Heiden. Backups -- Darnell Dinkins, Martin Rucker.
Kellen Winslow had an excellent training camp and preseason. He missed some time with a hamstring injury and the Browns rested him on occasion during two-a-days. He is suspended for this games. Heiden overcame a knee injury early in preseason. He will be primarily a blocker, but he can catch the ball well. Dinkins will have a role similar to Heiden, though he will play mainly on special teams. Rookie Martin Rucker will get chances as a receiver if he does not end up on I.R. recovering from knee surgery.
WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters -- Braylon Edwards, Donte Stallworth. Backups -- Josh Cribbs, Syndric Steptoe.
A heel injury prevented Edwards from playing in the last three preseason games. The theory is Stallworth can stretch the field, opening space for Edwards and Winslow. Stallworth and Edwards run well after catching the ball. The talent drops off after that. Cribbs is inconsistent as a receiver, Steptoe is inexperienced. Joe Jurevicius would be the third receiver, but he is on PUP recovering from his fourth knee operation since January.
OFFENSIVE LINE: Starters -- LT Joe Thomas, LG Eric Steinbach, C Hank Fraley, RG Rex Hadnot, RT Kevin Shaffer. Backups - G/T Ryan Tucker, G Scott Young, G Seth McKinney, T Isaac Sowells.
Derek Anderson was sacked only 14 times last season. The line that blocked so well is back intact with the exception of right guard, where Hadnot is starting because Tucker is recovering from a fractured hip. Tucker is making progress. He started training camp on P.U.P. and might start the season with that designation, in which case he could not play until Oct. 19 at Washington at the earliest. The Browns are solid with their inside backups, but they are thin at tackle after Pro Bowl player Thomas and Shaffer, the converted left tackle.
DEFENSIVE LINE: Starters -- LE Corey Williams, NT Shaun Rogers, RE Robaire Smith. Backups -- E Louis Leonard, NT/E Shaun Smith, NT Ahtyba Rubin.
This is the showcase group of the 2008 Browns. Williams and Rogers are charged with improving an anemic run defense and pass rush. The run defense looked improved in preseason, but coach Romeo Crennel wants to see more of Rogers in the pass rush. Rogers had seven sacks with the Lions last year. Robaire Smith is a solid if not spectacular right end. Shaun Smith is versatile. He can play the nose or move out to left end. Rubin is a developmental player.
LINEBACKER: Starters -- LOLB Willie McGinest, MLB Andra Davis, WLB D'Qwell Jackson, ROLB Kamerion Wimbley. Backups -- MLB Leon Williams, WLB Kris Griffin, ROLB Alex Hall, WLB Shantee Orr.
The Browns are counting heavily on Wimbley to rush the quarterback. \ With the improved defensive line Davis, Jackson and McGinest should be more active near the line of scrimmage stopping runners after two yards instead of five. Williams, Griffin and Orr provide enough depth for the Browns to put rookie Beau Bell (knee surgery Aug. 7) on injured reserve.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters -- LCB Eric Wright, RCB Brandon McDonald, SS Sean Jones, FS Brodney Pool. Backups -- CB Terry Cousin, CB Travis Daniels, S Mike Adams, S Nick Sorensen, CB Gerard Lawson.
Wright and McDonald are second-year players. Confidence is not a problem. Jones (knee) and Pool (concussion) were injured in preseason and missed the last two games. There is a significant drop-off when they do not play. They are expected back for the opener. Adams will be the nickel back if he doesn't have to play safety. Cousin would be the nickel back if Adams isn't.
SPECIAL TEAMS: K Phil Dawson, P Dave Zastudil, LS Ryan Pontbriand, KR Josh Cribbs, PR Cribbs.
Dawson kicked a 56-yard field goal and a 53-yard field goal in preseason. He scored 120 points last year and is ready for more. Zastudil is over his back problems of a year ago and punting well. Pontbriand continues to be automatic as a long snapper. Cribbs sprained his left ankle in the second preseason game. The Browns were cautious on his rehab and expect him back for the opener. If he can cut and accelerate on that ankle he is the most dangerous weapon the Browns have.
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