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Cleveland Browns Roster 2012: Latest News, Cuts, Preseason Predictions

Mike HoagCorrespondent IIJanuary 10, 2017

Cleveland Browns Roster 2012: Latest News, Cuts, Preseason Predictions

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    Check here for the Cleveland Browns 53-man roster, including the most recent cuts and predictions for the team moving forward.

    Training camp and the preseason are now over and the Browns have finally narrowed their 53-man roster down to what they assume it will look like on opening day.

    Suspensions and injuries have paved the way for undrafted free agents L.J. Fort, Tashaun Gipson and Johnson Bademosi to earn spots on the team. They will likely contribute on special teams, if they dress at all for most games this year. Fort, however, has shown he can be a force on defense and may see some playing time due to the thin depth at linebacker.

    Surprisingly, the Mike Holmgren regime found it necessary to cut ties with long time affiliated veteran quarterback Seneca Wallace. Wallace has been unable to outplay Colt McCoy for the backup QB job. He was also due more in salary and wasn't getting any younger.

    While it may be surprising to some, the move makes sense because McCoy will be around a lot longer and may mature into an excellent backup for Brandon Weeden.

    If Weeden goes down, I think many people would agree with me in saying that I feel more comfortable knowing McCoy is waiting in the wings than Wallace.

Latest Roster Moves

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    9/1/2012: The Browns signed linebacker Tank Carder off waivers from Buffalo and defensive lineman Ishmaa’ily Kitchen off waivers from Baltimore. In the process they waived defensive linemen Scott Paxson and Brian Sanford in order to make room for the two waiver wire acquisitions on Saturday.  

    The Browns also signed the following eight players to their practice squad: defensive lineman Ronnie Cameron, wide receiver Josh Cooper, linebackers Benjamin Jacobs and Solomon Elimimian (waived by Minnesota Vikings on 8/25), fullback Brad Smelley and offensive linemen Garth Gerhart, Jarrod Shaw and Jeff Shugarts. (ClevelandBrowns.com)

    8/31/2012: The Browns cut down their roster to 53 players late Friday evening. The following players were cut by the team: tight end Evan Moore and quarterback Seneca Wallace. Cleveland waived the following players: tight end Dan Gronkowski; defensive linemen Ronnie Cameron, William Green, Ernest Owusu, Brian Schaefering and Kiante Tripp; wide receivers Josh Cooper and Rod Windsor; offensive linemen Jarrod Shaw, Jeff Shugarts, Garth Gerhart, Dominic Alford and Stanley Daniels; linebackers Benjamin Jacobs and Quinton Spears; and fullback Brad Smelley. Scott Fujita was also designated to the Reserve/Suspended list by Commissioner.

    The Browns also traded undrafted free agent safety David Sims to the Philadelphia Eagles for a conditional 2013 draft pick. (ClevelandBrowns.com)

    8/27/2012: On Monday, the Browns trimmed down to 75 players. The Browns waived defensive ends Marcus Benard, Auston English and defensive back Antwuan Reed. Phil Taylor was placed on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list while linebacker Emmanuel Acho and Chris Gocong were designated to the injured reserve. The team was also awarded defensive lineman Ernest Owusu on waivers from the Minnesota Vikings. (ClevelandBrowns.com)

    8/26/2012: The Cleveland Browns cut nine players, giving them 80 on the roster. The moves came on Sunday, a day ahead of Monday's deadline of cutting down to 75. Wide receivers Carlton Mitchell, Bert Reed, Owen Spencer, Jermaine Saffold; Punter Spencer Lanning; defensive back Emmanuel Davis; linebacker JoJo Dickson; offensive linemen Matt Cleveland and Jake Anderson were the nine cut in the first of cuts to come this week. (ProFootballTalk.com)

    8/18/2012: The Browns waived place-kicker Jeff Wolfert Saturday. Wolfert was 2-of-3 on field goals, including a game winning kick in Week 1 against the Detroit Lions. (ClevelandBrowns.com)

    8/14/2012: The Browns were awarded undrafted rookie defensive tackle Ronnie Cameron off of waivers. Five teams put in waiver claims on Cameron, the former Chicago Bears DT, including the Detroit Lions, Houston Texans, Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants. In order to make room on the roster, the Browns released injured running back Eddie Williams.

    8/4/2012: OLB Chris Gocong suffers season-ending ACL injury. Will not be a factor for the Cleveland Browns moving forward. (ClevelandBrowns.com)

Full Team Roster and Projected Depth Chart

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    This slide shows the projected depth chart after the team cut down to its 53-man roster on August 31.

     

     

     

    Here is the current Cleveland Browns roster:

    *Roster is currently at 53 players (9/1)

     

    Quarterbacks:

    # Name Pos. Exp.
    9 Lewis, Thaddeus QB 1
    12 McCoy, Colt QB 2
    3 Weeden, Brandon QB R

     

    Running backs:

    # Name Pos. Exp.
    20 Hardesty, Montario RB 2
    29 Jackson, Brandon RB 5
    48 Marecic, Owen FB 1
    25 Ogbonnaya, Chris RB 2
    33 Richardson, Trent RB R

     

    Wide receivers:

    # Name Pos. Exp.
    80 Benjamin, Travis WR R
    16 Cribbs, Joshua WR 7
    86 Gordon, Josh WR R
    15 Little, Greg WR 1
    11 Massaquoi, Mohamed WR 3
    10 Norwood, Jordan WR 3

     

    Tight ends:

    # Name Pos. Exp.
    84 Cameron, Jordan TE 1
    89 Moore, Evan TE 3
    81 Smith, Alex TE 7
    82 Watson, Benjamin TE 8

     

    Offensive linemen:

    # Name Pos. Exp.
    75 Cousins, Oniel OL 4
    77 Greco, John OL 4
    66 Lauvao, Shawn OL 2
    55 Mack, Alex OL 3
    60 Miller, Ryan OL R
    62 Pinkston, Jason OL 1
    72 Schwartz, Mitchell OL R
    73 Thomas, Joe OL 5

     

    Defensive backs:

    # Name Pos. Exp.
    37 Bademosi, Johnson DB R
    24 Brown, Sheldon CB 10
    39 Gipson, Tashaun DB R
    23 Haden, Joe CB 2
    27 Hagg, Eric DB 1
    21 Patterson, Dimitri CB 5
    22 Skrine, Buster CB 1
    41 Ventrone, Ray DB 6
    26 Wade, Trevin CB R
    43 Ward, T. J. DB 2
    28 Young, Usama DB 5

     

    Defensive linemen:

    # Name Pos. Exp.
    93 Hughes, John DT R
      Kitchen, Ishmaa’ily DT R
    95 Parker, Juqua DE 11
    71 Rubin, Ahtyba DT 4
    92 Rucker, Frostee DE 6
    97 Sheard, Jabaal DE 1
    96 Stephens, Emmanuel DE 1
    79 Winn, Billy DT R

     

    Linebackers:

    # Name Pos. Exp.
      Carder, Tank LB R
    40 Fort, L.J. LB R
    52 Jackson, D'Qwell LB 6
    50 Johnson, James-Michael LB R
    56 Maiava, Kaluka LB 3
    47 Robertson, Craig LB 1

     

    Special Teams:

    # Name Pos. Exp.
    4 Dawson, Phil K 13
    2 Hodges, Reggie P 5
    57 Yount, Christian LS 1

     

    Reserve-Physically Unable to Perform (PUP):

    # Name Pos. Exp.
    98 Taylor, Phil DT 2

     

    Reserve-Suspended Commissioners List:

    # Name Pos. Exp.
    99 Fujita, Scott LB 10

     

    Injured Reserve:

    # Name Pos. Exp.
    59 Acho, Emmanuel LB R
    51 Gocong, Chris LB 7
    44 Williams, Eddie FB

    2

     

     

     

    Projected Cleveland Browns Depth Chart:

    *Updated on 9/1 (Players I missed on are in bold)


    Offense (25):

    QB (3): Brandon Weeden, Colt McCoy, Thaddeus Lewis

    RB (4): Trent Richardson, Montario Hardesty, Brandon Jackson, Chris Oggbonaya

    FB (1): Owen Marecic

    TE (3): Benjamin Watson, Jordan Cameron, Alex Smith (Had Evan Moore making team)

    OT (4): Joe Thomas, Mitchell Schwartz, Oniel Cousins, Ryan Miller

    OG (3): Shawn Lauvao, Jason Pinkston, John Greco

    C (1): Alex Mack

    WR1 (2): Greg Little, Josh Cribbs

    WR2 (2): Mohamed Massaquoi, Josh Gordon

    WR3 (2): Jordan Norwood, Travis Benjamin

     

    Defense (25):

    LDE (2): Frostee Rucker, Emmanuel Stephens

    DT* (4): Ahtyba Rubin, Billy Winn, John Hughes, Ishmaa’ily Kitchen (Had Brian Schaefering making team)

    RDE (2): Jabaal Sheard, Juqua Parker

    OLB* (3): Kaluka Maiava, James-Michael Johnson, Craig Robertson, Tank Carder

    MLB (2): D’Qwell Jackson, L.J. Fort

    LCB (4): Joe Haden, Buster Skrine, Trevin Wade, Johnson Bademosi

    RCB (2): Sheldon Brown, Dimitri Patterson

    SS (3): T.J Ward, Usama Young

    FS (3): Eric Hagg, Ray Ventrone, Tashaun Gipson

    *OLB Scott Fujita will be added after serving his three-game suspension.

    *DT Phil Taylor will will be added after recovering from torn pectoral muscle injury.

     

    Special Teams (3):

    K (1): Phil Dawson

    P (1): Reggie Hodges

    LS (1): Christian Yount

Last 5 In

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    Ishmaa’ily Kitchen, DT: Kitchen, a former Kent State product, was waived by the Baltimore Ravens at the deadline and scooped up by the Browns on Saturday. He's a local guy who the Browns scouted at Kent State's Pro Day and will provide depth in place of the injured Scott Paxson.

    Tank Carder, LB: Carder came to the Buffalo Bills from TCU and was waived at the deadline. He's an active and tough linebacker that will help provide the Browns with special teams help and linebacker depth as Scott Fujita serves his three-game suspension.

    Johnson Bademosi, DB: Bademosi made the team, barely, due to his excellent efforts on special teams this offseason. He also is flexible and can play anywhere in the secondary. This makes him even more appealing as the Browns could use any help they can get to provide depth behind their starters back there.

    L.J. Fort, MLB: Fort was a UDFA and is still a bit raw, however, his athletic ability and performance this preseason is undeniable. With the Browns' linebacker corps decimated, Fort may not just make the team but he will likely contribute this year.

    Tashaun Gipson, FS: Gipson is a former starting cornerback in college but is a versatile defensive back who can play anywhere. This may be somewhat of a long-shot, but he could fill the depth hole left by Mike Adams, a very similar player, nicely in the Browns' secondary.

Last 5 Out

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    Brian Sanford, DE - 9/1/2012: Sanford made the 53-man roster by the skin of his teeth but was a casualty to the Browns lacking linebacker depth (because of Scott Fujita's suspension). The Browns brought in linebacker Tank Carder off of waivers from the Buffalo Bills to address that depth issue and waived Sanford in the process.

    Scott Paxson, DT - 9/1/2012: Paxson was injured and waived on Saturday after the Browns signed Ishmaa’ily Kitchen off waivers from the Baltimore Ravens.

    Josh Cooper, WR - 8/31/2012: Cooper flashed some in training camp but wasn't involved enough on game day to warrant an immediate acceptance to the 53-man roster. However, there is some good potential there for Cooper to develop and possibly be called into action in the event of an injury or poor play from the current crop of receivers.

    Brad Smelley, FB - 8/31/2012: Smelley was beat out by Owen Marecic for a roster spot but will be given the chance to develop on the Browns' practice squad this season. Marecic's days may be numbered with Smelley waiting in the wings if he cannot show improvement.

    David Sims, DB - 8/31/2012: Rather than try to stash David Sims on the practice squad, the Browns preemptively traded him to the Philadelphia Eagles. It's unlikely Sims, who impressed in the preseason, would have cleared waivers and been eligible for the Browns squad if they went that route.

Quarterbacks

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    QBs on roster: Brandon Weeden, Colt McCoy, Seneca Wallace, Thaddeus Lewis

    Projected starter: Brandon Weeden

    Offseason additions: Brandon Weeden

    Roster cuts: Cut Seneca Wallace (8/31)

    Projected final roster: Brandon Weeden, Colt McCoy

    Actual final roster: Brandon Weeden, Colt McCoy, Thaddeus Lewis

     

    Colt McCoy has had his shot at becoming the long-term solution for the Cleveland Browns at the quarterback position. Obviously, he wasn't in the future plans of the team when they selected 28-year-old Brandon Weeden in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft.

    McCoy, though, isn't without value to the organization. He is a true team player and competent stand-in in the event Weeden is injured. If you've followed the NFL, specifically the Cleveland Browns, over the past 10 years, you'd see the significance of having more than one quality quarterback on the roster.

    Allegedly, a quarterback competition is continuing to occur, but by all accounts from training camp, Brandon Weeden is shining and the competition is just a formality at this point, as expected.

    Seneca Wallace is an expensive third-string quarterback, but he is familiar with head coach Pat Shurmur's system. Cap space isn't a concern for the Browns in 2012, so it doesn't really matter if they part ways with the aging veteran. Ultimately, Colt McCoy is a cheaper commodity and has shown more promise than Wallace throughout his average career.

    All in all, the QB position may end up being a point of strength for the Browns in 2012 and moving forward. Weeden's high-velocity throws are making waves around training camp and he is sure to excite with new offensive weapons Josh Gordon and Trent Richardson at his disposal.

Running Backs

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    RBs on roster: Trent Richardson, Montario Hardesty, Brandon Jackson, Chris Ogbonnaya, Adonis Thomas, Brad Smelley, Owen Marecic, Eddie Williams

    Projected starter: Trent Richardson

    Offseason additions: Trent Richardson, Adonis Thomas, Brad Smelley

    Roster cuts: Eddie Williams (8/27), Adonis Thomas (8/31), Brad Smelley (8/31)

    Projected final roster: Trent Richardson, Montario Hardesty, Brandon Jackson, Brad Smelley

    Actual final roster: Trent Richardson, Montario Hardesty, Brandon Jackson, Chris Ogbonnaya, Owen Marecic

     

    The Cleveland Browns drafted Trent Richardson with the No. 3 pick in the 2012 NFL Draft after realizing their current crop of running backs weren't going to cut it moving forward. Injuries and inconsistency plagued the group throughout much of 2011.

    Richardson brings an exciting combination of strength and explosiveness to the rushing and passing game of the Browns' West Coast offense. His ability to create in space and extend plays for first downs will be essential for an offense that has struggled to do that over the past few seasons.

    Montario Hardesty, with a season removed from an ACL surgery, has showed up to camp looking in much better shape and more like the player GM Tom Heckert thought he drafted in the second round three years ago. If Hardesty can turn his career around, he will provide the Browns with an excellent compliment and backup to Trent Richardson.

    The third running back position isn't necessarily a lock, but Brandon Jackson will return this season after missing all of 2011 with a toe injury he suffered during the preseason. Jackson played on the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers team in 2010, carrying the ball a majority of the way in a depleted backfield.

    Unfortunately for Chris Ogbonnaya, he may find himself on the outside looking in just as he did in Houston. With the backfield filling up and roster spots at a premium, Ogbonnaya will likely end up on the waiver wire while Adonis Thomas will fill a spot on the practice squad.

    At fullback, the Browns will get to choose between the versatile and sure-handed Brad Smelley and Owen Marecic, the team's fourth-round pick in 2011. Marecic has failed, thus far, to live up to his fourth-round selection and may be on his way out if he cannot bounce back and improve in his sophomore season. The Browns should side with Smelley, who has more utility and upside than Marecic.

Wide Receivers

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    WRs on roster: Josh Cribbs, Mohamed Massaquoi, Greg Little, Josh Gordon, Travis Benjamin, Josh Cooper, Jordan Norwood, Rod Windsor

    Projected starters: Greg Little, Mohamed Massaquoi

    Offseason additions: Josh Gordon, Travis Benjamin, Josh Cooper, Bert Reed, Jermaine Saffold

    Roster cuts: Josh Cooper (8/31), Rod Windsor (8/31), Bert Reed (8/26), Jermaine Saffold (8/26), Owen Spencer (8/26), Carlton Mitchell (8/26)

    Projected final roster: Josh Cribbs, Mohamed Massaquoi, Greg Little, Josh Gordon, Travis Benjamin, Jordan Norwood

    Actual final roster: Josh Cribbs, Mohamed Massaquoi, Greg Little, Josh Gordon, Travis Benjamin, Jordan Norwood

     

    The Cleveland Browns have had one of the worst statistical groups of wide receivers for the past three years. In 2012, they will have to make a couple decisions about who they are going to keep. Potential is no longer a viable means to making the Browns’ active roster.

    Greg Little and Mohamed Massaquoi are the most likely options to start at the wide flanker positions. However, Little may also be incorporated into slot-type positions because of his ability to run after the catch.

    Rookies Travis Benjamin and Josh Gordon will likely make a quick impact in Cleveland given their excellent respective talents. Gordon poses a matchup nightmare because of his size and athletic skill-set combination, while Benjamin is a burner that must be accounted for at all times.

    Josh Cribbs will likely see his time at the position decreased as he begins to focus more on special teams returning and coverage. However, the extent of that transition cannot be known for certain until the translation of Gordon and Benjamin’s talents are seen against NFL level competition.

    Long shots to make the team are currently Josh Cooper, Carlton Mitchell, Jermaine Saffold, Owen Spencer, Bert Reed and Rod Windsor. Mitchell, as you know, was a late-round pick by GM Tom Heckert who has been unable to stay healthy and consistently holds on to the football. His time as a Cleveland Browns receiver has likely come to an end. 

Tight Ends

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    TEs on roster: Benjamin Watson, Alex Smith, Evan Moore, Jordan Cameron, Dan Gronkowski

    Projected starters: Benjamin Watson

    Offseason additions: N/A

    Roster cuts: Evan Moore (8/31), Dan Gronkowski (8/31)

    Projected final roster: Benjamin Watson, Alex Smith, Evan Moore, Jordan Cameron

    Actual final roster: Benjamin Watson, Alex Smith, Jordan Cameron

     

    Benjamin Watson, Browns’ starting tight end, suffered an astounding three concussions in the 2011 campaign. This begs the question on whether or not he is stable enough to play much longer in the NFL. If he is okay, and he can play the year, he will be a significant impact player in the passing game. The former first-round pick has proven to be one of the better Browns’ free-agency pickups of the last five years—when he can stay on the field.

    Alex Smith has proven to be a versatile player who can be moved anywhere in the Browns’ offensive formations. However, his playing time may begin to decrease as Evan Moore and Jordan Cameron continue to develop and breakout into a bigger role on the offense. Also, Brad Smelley is a true h-back with better catching skills, so Smith’s days may be numbered in Cleveland if Smelley can crack the roster and perform well.

    Evan Moore has the potential to be a playmaker in the NFL. He has the size and hands needed for the Browns to fit the ball into places where defenses can’t get to it. Just as he was starting to get more involved a season ago, the injury bug again slowed his progress. If he is going to stay in the NFL, he’s going to need to be able to play a significant amount of a season without riding it out on the injury report.

    Jordan Cameron is the real enigma of this group. The former USC basketball player has unlimited physical gifts but has taken some time in transitioning those over to the NFL level. All reports have been solid about Cameron throughout the offseason and he remains one of the biggest "must watch" players of Browns' training camp.

Offensive Tackles

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    OTs on roster: Joe Thomas, Mitchell Schwartz, Oniel Cousins, Ryan Miller, Jeff Shugarts

    Projected starters: Joe Thomas, Mitchell Schwartz

    Offseason additions: Mitchell Schwartz, Jeff Shugarts, Jake Anderson, Ryan Miller

    Roster cuts: Jeff Shugarts (8/31), Jake Anderson (8/26)

    Projected final roster: Joe Thomas, Mitchell Schwartz, Oniel Cousins, Ryan Miller

    Actual final roster: Joe Thomas, Mitchell Schwartz, Oniel Cousins, Ryan Miller

     

    All-pro Joe Thomas is a perennial Pro Bowler with the size and strength to make even the fiercest edge pass-rusher cringe. His play has been recognized continually as some of the best the league has to offer at the blind spot.

    Rookie Mitchell Schwartz joins former University of California teammate Alex Mack along the young and imposing Cleveland Browns offensive line. Schwartz was selected atop the second round of the draft and the Browns are really hoping his imposing size pave the way for Trent Richardson for years to come.

    Oniel Cousins has not been spectacular but he has experience in the Browns’ system and has a strong chance of making the roster because of that experience. However, he is a liability in passing situations and will hopefully only see game action in relief for either Schwartz or Thomas.

    Undrafted free agents Jake Anderson and Jeff Shugarts will be competing with each other for a fourth tackle position that may or may not exist depending on the composition of the other positions on the team.

    The versatility of some of the other linemen competing for roster spots may make this somewhat of a long shot for Shugarts and Anderson.

Offensive Guards

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    OGs on roster: Jason Pinkston, Shawn Lauvao, John Greco

    Projected starters: Jason Pinkston, Shawn Lauvao

    Offseason additions: Matt Cleveland, Garth Gerhart, Stanley Daniels

    Roster cuts: Jarrod Shaw (8/31), Dominic Alford (8/31), Stanley Daniels (8/31), Garth Gerhart (8/31), Matt Cleveland (8/26)

    Projected final roster: Jason Pinkston, Shawn Lauvao, John Greco

    Actual final roster: Jason Pinkston, Shawn Lauvao, John Greco

     

    The decision to carry four guards will likely come due to the versatility presented by all of them. Last season, Steve Vallos and John Greco took snaps at center in relief for Alex Mack. Greco's versatility will allow the Browns to go thin on the offensive line.

    Third-year right guard Shawn Lauvao needs to have an excellent season if he is to justify him staying in the starting lineup for the Browns. Colt McCoy and Seneca Wallace were forever running for their lives a season ago due to the permeable nature of the right side of the line.

    On the other side, rookie Jason Pinkston played impressively for a rookie switching from tackle to guard. He wasn’t perfect, but he got the job done for the most part.

    Playing next to Joe Thomas probably didn’t hurt.

    With Mitchell Schwartz likely to start at right tackle, Lauvao will likely benefit, having continuity and efficiency lining up next to him each play.

Centers

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    OCs on roster: Alex Mack

    Projected starter: Alex Mack

    Offseason additions: N/A

    Roster cuts: N/A as of 8/3/2012

    Projected/Actual final roster: Alex Mack

     

    Pro Bowler Alex Mack will likely remain the sole pure center on the 2012 Cleveland Browns. The position is his, barring an unforeseen injury, and carrying a backup is not necessary considering the versatility of the guards the team has brought in.

    Mack has played exceptionally to this point in his brief NFL career.

    Rookie tackle Mitchell Schwartz played with him during his senior season at California, which should help the unit mesh early on.

Defensive Ends

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    DEs on roster: Jabaal Sheard, Frostee Rucker, Juqua Parker, Emmanuel Stephens, Auston English, Marcus Bernard, William Green, Brian Sanford

    Projected starters: Jabaal Sheard, Frostee Rucker

    Offseason additions: Frostee Rucker, Juqua Parker, William Green

    Roster cuts: Brian Sanford (9/1), William Green (8/31), Marcus Benard and Auston English (8/27)

    Projected final roster: Jabaal Sheard, Frostee Rucker, Juqua Parker, Emmanuel Stephens

    Actual final roster: Jabaal Sheard, Frostee Rucker, Juqua Parker, Emmanuel Stephens

     

    There isn't really a battle to speak of when looking at the probable Cleveland Browns defensive ends to make the team.

    Marcus Bernard returning this season after a motorcycle injury sidelined him for most of 2011. He fits the mold of a lighter and faster pass-rushing defensive end preferred by GM Tom Heckert and would have been a big asset for the Browns this season. However, he dislocated his elbow in Week 3 of preseason and was subsequently waived on August 27.

    Emmanuel Stephens is the most likely candidate to be fourth man of this unit. His play a season ago, in relief for the under-performing Jayme Mitchell, was good enough to warrant giving him another opportunity this season. He's shown up and played consistently during camp and throughout the preseason.

    Jabaal Sheard had a breakout rookie season and will continue to build on his success in his sophomore campaign. He recorded 55 tackles and 8.5 sacks as the starting defensive end for the Browns last season.

    Free agents Frostee Rucker and Juqua Parker bring a solid veteran presence to the team that it is severely lacking at the position. Parker, a more explosive pass-rusher, will likely be the first depth alternate for Sheard. Rucker, an edge-sealing run stuffer, will likely anchor the opposite end of Sheard in hopes of closing down rushing lanes and containing on the edges.

Defensive Tackles

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    DTs on roster: Phil Taylor*, Ahtyba Rubin, Scott Paxson, John Hughes, Billy Winn

    Projected starters: Ahtyba Rubin, Scott Paxson 

    Offseason additions: John Hughes, Billy Winn, Ronnie Cameron

    Roster cuts: Scott Paxson (9/1), Brian Schaefering (8/31), Kiante Tripp (8/31), Ronnie Cameron (8/31)

    Projected final roster: Ahtyba Rubin, Scott Paxson, John Hughes, Billy Winn, Brian Schaefering

    Actual final roster: Ahtyba Rubin, John Hughes, Billy Winn, Ishmaa’ily Kitchen

     

    The Cleveland Browns will be without their 2011 first-round pick Phil Taylor for a significant amount of the 2012 season. Luckily for them, they drafted two fresh defensive tackles in the 2012 NFL draft. Originally, John Hughes and Billy Winn were designed as depth additions, but now they may be much, much more than that.

    Ahtyba Rubin is what some call a “space-eater.” He absorbs multiple blockers on every play and does his best to clog up and disrupt rushing lanes. Situationally, he’s also not half bad at rushing the passer when needed.

    Taylor, on the other hand, plays a more aggressive and gap-shooting technique that requires a quick first move and block-shedding ability. Billy Winn of Boise St. better fits that description and will likely see time aside Rubin.

    Third-round pick John Hughes fits Rubin’s description much more accurately and will likely see action as part of a rotation.

    While Winn may ideally fit better in Taylor’s place, he is going to have to earn the position over veteran Scott Paxson. Paxson is the early filler for Taylor’s gap he left along the defensive front.

Outside Linebackers

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    OLBs on roster: Scott Fujita, Kaluka Maiava, James-Michael Johnson, Craig Robertson, Emmanuel Acho, Quinton Spears

    Projected starters: James-Michael Johnson, Kaluka Maiava

    Offseason additions: James-Michael Johnson, Craig Robertson, Emmanuel Acho, JoJo Dickson

    Roster cuts: Quinton Spears (8/31), JoJo Dickson (8/26); Emmanuel Acho (8/27 -IR)

    Projected final roster: Scott Fujita*, Kaluka Maiava, James-Michael Johnson, Craig Robertson

    Actual final roster: Scott Fujita*, Kaluka Maiava, James-Michael Johnson, Craig Robertson, Tank Carder

    *Will not count against 53-man roster while serving three-game suspension

     

    The Cleveland Browns will likely begin the season with a very new looking outside linebacker group that will likely include at least one rookie starter.

    On Saturday, August 4, Chris Gocong suffered a season ending ACL injury. The injury effectively decimates an already thing linebacker group. Now, Kaluka Maiava will be the only linebacker with any starting experience for the first three games of the season. Scott Fujita will be back after serving a suspension over that three-game span.

    There is a possibility that the Browns could use rookie middle linebacker James-Michael Johnson at the outside backer position. He rotated in at the position along with Kaluka Maiava after Gocong went down Saturday morning.

    "With Gocong out of the lineup, the Browns rotated in rookie linebacker James-Michael Johnson and fourth-year professional, Kaluka Maiava. Shurmur said Johnson and Maiava are 'very flexible, position-wise.'”

    (via ClevelandBrowns.com)

    Rookie Emmanuel Acho has the athletic ability necessary but has not been fully evaluated as to whether or not he can be an every down starter at outside linebacker. He was placed on the injured reserve on August 27.

    The battle for the remaining spot is between Quinton Spears and Craig Robertson. At the end of 2011, the Browns brought in Robertson for depth and he could likely fill that same role for the Browns as they struggle to fill their linebacker depth chart. Johnson may end up getting the nod next to Maiava, but anything can happen from now until September 9.

Middle Linebackers

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    MLBs on roster: D'Qwell Jackson, Benjamin Jacobs, L.J. Fort

    Projected starter: D'Qwell Jackson

    Offseason additions: L.J. Fort

    Roster cuts: Benjamin Jacobs (8/31)

    Projected final roster: D’Qwell Jackson, L.J. Fort

    Actual final roster: D’Qwell Jackson, L.J. Fort

     

    The Cleveland Browns' linebacker grouped needed to get faster after being somewhat exposed by opposing offenses’ propensity for throwing all over them in 2011. They drafted a quick and strong backup in James-Michael Johnson in order to provide quality depth behind the starters.

    We will see this year if depth and time on the field were the problem a season ago.

    Cleveland Browns starting middle linebacker D’Qwell Jackson is coming off of a successful full-season and contract extension. The veteran and defensive leader’s future was uncertain after a string of injuries that almost pushed him out of Cleveland.

    L.J. Fort has made a big impact in both game situations and in special teams and is making it hard for the Browns' brass to get rid of him.

    James-Michael Johnson, one of the team’s fourth round picks, will provide excellent depth due to his ability to play both the OLB and MLB positions.

    Johnson may not be limited to strictly back-up duty, though. His athletic ability and size make him an interesting option at the outside linebacker position as well.

    He is gifted enough to provide immediate relief for the suspended Scott Fujita and injured Chris Gocong, who will miss the entire 2012 campaign.

Cornerbacks

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    CBs on roster: Joe Haden, Sheldon Brown, Dimitri Patterson, Buster Skrine, James Dockery, Trevin Wade, Antwuan Reed, Johnson Bademosi

    Projected starters: Joe Haden, Sheldon Brown, Dimitri Patterson 

    Offseason additions: Trevin Wade, Johnson Bademosi, Antwuan Reed

    Roster cuts: James Dockery (8/31), Antwuan Reed (8/27)

    Projected final roster: Joe Haden, Sheldon Brown, Dimitri Patterson, Buster Skrine, Trevin Wade

    Actual final roster: Joe Haden, Sheldon Brown, Dimitri Patterson, Buster Skrine, Trevin Wade, Johnson Bademosi

     

    Cornerbacks are a premium position at the NFL level. In a game that is developing into a pass-first endeavor, you can never have too many skilled players at the position.

    That’s why the Cleveland Browns, and many teams around the league, are always looking for talented players who can upgrade their secondary. The Browns have nine players in camp this year but will likely only maintain five of them into the season.

    Joe Haden has emerged as one of the most widely known players at the position after only two years of NFL experience. His ability to blanket receivers and convince opposing offenses to throw away from him truly helps the defense in so many ways.

    Dimitri Patterson was signed to a three-year contract extension worth a maximum of $18 million this offseason. This payday shows the strong likelihood of the Browns running three cornerback nickel sets.

    Buster Skrine is blazingly fast and will likely continue to contribute in nickel and dime sets. It’s hard to imagine him lining up with the taller and stronger flankers in the league.

    The biggest question mark at the position will be how far along Trevin Wade is and how soon he will be able to contribute. Wade, a seventh-round pick from Arizona, has the potential to be a good corner in the league because of his size and reaction time.

Safeties

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    Safeties on roster: T.J. Ward, Usama Young, Eric Hagg, Ray Ventrone, Tashaun Gipson, David Sims

    Projected starters: T.J. Ward, Eric Hagg

    Offseason additions: Tashaun Gipson, David Sims, Emanuel Davis

    Roster cuts: David Sims (8/31 - Traded to Eagles), Emanuel Davis (8/26)

    Projected final roster: T.J. Ward, Usama Young, Eric Hagg, Tashaun Gipson

    Actual final roster: T.J. Ward, Usama Young, Eric Hagg, Tashaun Gipson, Ray Ventrone

     

    T.J. Ward and Eric Hagg are looking like the early favorites to earn starting positions as Cleveland Browns’ safeties in 2012.

    Ward, if he can stay healthy, is an adequate option due to his excellent instincts and tackling ability. He is somewhat suspect in coverage but isn’t horrible when asked to do so.

    Hagg, on the other hand, complements Ward nicely by using his size and closing speed to effectively cover opposing offense’s tight ends and wide receivers over-the-top in zone coverages. He has risen quickly due to those abilities and a stronger fundamental ability to execute a tackle.

    Usama Young will provide depth but is a scary option when in the game. His skills were supposed to have been in coverage because he is a converted cornerback, however, he found himself struggling to stay with receivers last season. To make things worse, his poor arm-tackle style led to several big plays and some embarrassment for the defensive back.

    Undrafted rookie Tashaun Gipson will likely focus his efforts on special teams. In relief duty for Ward last season, Ventrone was less than impressive and only recorded three special teams tackles. Hopefully Gipson can catch on with the team and learn quickly because there is little reliable depth behind Ward and Hagg.

Kicking Specialists

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    Kicking specialists on roster: Phil Dawson, Reggie Hodges, Spencer Lanning 

    Projected starters: Phil Dawson, Reggie Hodges 

    Offseason additions: Jeff Wolfert, Spencer Lanning 

    Roster cuts: Jeff Wolfert (9/18); Spencer Lanning (9/26)

    Projected final roster: Phil Dawson, Reggie Hodges, Christian Yount

    Actual final roster: Phil Dawson, Reggie Hodges, Christian Yount

     

    Phil the “toe” Dawson is the all-time scoring leader in Cleveland Browns’ franchise history. Before he retires, he’s going to keep adding to that total. The Browns have brought back the sure-footed veteran with another franchise tag in 2012.

    Reggie Hodges will return to the punting team, which should greatly improve the effectiveness of the unit. He missed all of 2011 due to an injury he encountered during the 2011 preseason. His strong leg, ability to corner punts and ample hang-time will be a breath of fresh air after a bad season of punting by veteran Brad Maynard last season.

    Christian Yount was brought in after former Pro Bowl long-snapper Ryan Pontbriand completely melted down last season.  He’ll likely handle the long-snapping duties again in his second season with the team.

Return Specialists

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    Returners on roster: Josh Cribbs, Jordan Norwood, Travis Benjamin 

    Projected starters: Josh Cribbs 

    Offseason additions: Travis Benjamin 

    Roster cuts: N/A as of 8/3/2012 

    Projected final roster: Josh Cribbs, Jordan Norwood, Travis Benjamin

     

    Josh Cribbs is apparently being shifted back from an offensive role, to a predominately special teams’ focused role.

    That’s great as Cribbs has been previously selected to the Pro Bowl as both a returner and coverage man.

    Jordan Norwood has taken kick returning duties in Cribbs’ absence in the past and is a strong candidate to do so if something happens in the future.

    Rookie Travis Benjamin was the Miami Hurricanes’ main kick returner in 2011 and also returned some punts for the ‘Canes. In 2011, he averaged 23.7 yards per kick return.

    He certainly has the explosive, game-changing speed you look for in a return man. However, his small frame may deter the Browns from utilizing him frequently in this fashion.

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