Bubble Watch for Cleveland Browns Training Camp
It's rebuilding time by the shores of Lake Erie...again.
With a new owner, a new general manager and a new head coach the Cleveland Browns are once again trying to claw their way out of the AFC North basement.
New regimes bring with them significant changes, and Cleveland is no different.
There will be new schemes on both sides of the ball, which means big changes to the roster.
Some players are bad fits. Others still had the loyalty of the old staff but now find themselves fighting for a roster spot.
It goes without saying that this year's late-round rookie picks and undrafted free agents are firmly on the bubble, as they are on every team every year.
However, here's a look at a handful of veterans who aren't standing on any firmer ground than those newcomers.
James-Micheal Johnson was a fourth-round pick last year out of the University of Nevada, a player that Terry Pluto of The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports the old staff viewed as a potential starter.
As a matter of fact, the 6'1", 240-pounder started eight games in 2012, tallying 36 total tackles for the season.
Many pundits expected Johnson's size to make him the favorite to start alongside D'Qwell Jackson at inside linebacker in 2013, but now not only is Johnson is on the roster bubble, but that bubble may already have burst.
Pluto recently opined that Johnson is "lost" in the team's new 3-4 defense, is "nowhere in the [new staff's] plans," and is "likely to be cut."
For his part, Johnson isn't going down without a fight.
Had doubters my whole life just more motivation to work harder… I appreciate the doubt and embrace it….. Don’t believe everything you read
— James Johnson (@50JMJ) June 10, 2013
Usually when a player is one of a new regime's first additions that player is on at least semi-solid ground.
Of course, most players have more sense than Quentin Groves.
That's not the kind of first impression players generally try to make.
As Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reported at the time, Groves' team-friendly contract has kept him off the chopping block for now, but the ice he's standing on is plenty thin.
Groves' four sacks with the Arizona Cardinals last year were a career high. The 29-year-old will have to show that he can at least be counted on to repeat that production if Groves is to earn even a reserve role with Cleveland in 2013.
Sometimes a player just gets caught in a numbers game. A logjam at a position can have as much to do with a player getting released as his own skills in some cases.
That might end up being the case with fourth-year running back Chris Ogbonnaya, despite the fact that he just signed a two-year deal to remain with the team in March according to Curtis Crabtree of Pro Football Talk.
It's not really a knock on Ogbonnaya, who had just over 200 total yards on 32 touches last year. He's a third-down type, much like veteran Brandon Jackson and recent acquisition Dion Lewis, and there just isn't room on the roster for three nearly identical backs.
If it makes you feel better you can replace Ogbonnaya's name with either of that pair, but it doesn't change the fact that at least one of those players is probably going to be looking for work before the summer's over.
Jason Pinkston entered the 2012 season as one of the starting guards for the Browns, a position he held down for all 16 games of his rookie season the year before.
However, a blood clot on Pinkston's lung ended his season six games in, and now not only is his starting job likely gone but his roster spot could be as well.
According to the Akron Beacon-Journal, Pinkston ran third in reps among the guards vying for the starting jobs in OTA's, behind both John Greco and Shawn Lauvao.
That's not really surprising. Pinkston graded out poorly back in 2011, ranking 72nd at his position according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
The Browns brought in a pair of rookies in Braxston Cave and Garrett Gilkey who can play guard, and if those youngsters shine, Pinkston may find himself getting pink-slipped.
Three little letters are all that separates tight end Dan Gronkowski from a roster spot in Cleveland.
Those letters, of course, are "R," "O" and "B"
Apparently the Transylvanian lab in which Rob Gronkowski was grown ran out of plutonium, because his brothers aren't anything like their Pro Bowl sibling.
Dan is now back with the Browns, with whom he spent the latter part of the 2011 season, after being out of the NFL altogether in 2012.
Gronkowski has played for four NFL teams and has all of nine career catches, and to say that he's on the roster bubble is actually being kind.
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