It's summer, which is the hardest season of all for the die-hard NFL fans.
Last season is in the books, The bulk of free agency has swept by, and the NFL draft came and went like a treasured lover in the night. While we wait for the Browns next minicamp, I decided to unfurl my early projection of the Browns 53-man roster.
So, here it is Browns lovers. Let's take a look at what Randy Lerner's money might buy him. Feel free to rip me to shreds or congratulate me if you must. From that oh-so-tough call on the Browns third quarterback to the last offensive lineman, here we go.
First String: Jake Delhomme
Second String: Seneca Wallace
Third String: Colt McCoy
Flash Package: Josh Cribbs
Notable Cut: Brett Ratliff
No surprises here, and I have a good feeling about both Jake and Seneca, so I doubt we will see Colt this season. This is Delhomme's third year since his elbow surgery so he should be fully recovered and he has good receivers to throw to and a nice stable of backs to rely upon. If he just manages the game we should be fine. Wallace is an excellent backup with a rocket arm and good escapabilty. He has good statistics in limited starts.
The introduction of the Cyclone package for Seneca Wallace has Cleveland all abuzz with the possibilities of Cribbs and Seneca sharing the same backfield. The Flash package will be back with better weapons this year so expect Cribbs to be even more dangerous manning the quarterback position. He is more likely to actually hand the ball off or throw the ball this year with the players at his disposal.
Colt McCoy should and will carry a clipboard unless disaster strikes. He needs to get a feel for the speed of the game and the noise from the sidelines. Simply relaying signals and helping manage the game will do wonders for his development. The next best thing he can do is find anybody he can and throw as much as he can at the stadium to acclimate his arm to the weather.
All in all, I expect our quarterbacks to be a definite upgrade over last year's terrible tandem. Ratliff will latch-on somewhere, and he should. He's better than he showed last preseason.
First String: Jerome Harrison
Second String: Montario Hardesty
Third String: James Davis
First String: Lawrence Vickers
Second String: Peyton Hillis
Notable cut: Chris Jennings
Harrison capitalizes on last year's showing and wins the job by a nose over an impressive Hardesty who is a big, downhill runner with deceptive speed who bursts through holes, and is an excellent receiver and Daboll will use both regularly.
Hillis continues to see action as a receiving threat displaying the skills we saw in camp and has a hard nosed running style that separates him from the other backs. Vickers may be the best blocking fullback in the NFL. Jennings has potential, but Davis returns from a shoulder injury and impresses the Browns as a home run threat.
First String: Ben Watson
Second String: Alex Smith
Third String: Evan Moore
Notable Cuts: Robert Royal, Greg Estandia
Watson and Smith are huge upgrades and will significantly help the Browns in both the running and passing games. Watson is an athletic, all around tight end who is capable of doing everything and will likely be Delhomme's security blanket. Smith is slightly bigger and a better blocker. Moore is more of a finesse tight end, and may see time as a wide receiver to take advantage of his skill set which includes an often incredible set of hands. Robert Royal, I hate to say, "We'll hardly miss ya!"
First String: Mohamed Massaquoi
First String: Joshua Cribbs
Third Wideout: Brian Robiskie
Bench: Chansi Stuckey, Carlton Mitchell, and Johnathan Haggerty
Notable Cut: Jake Allen
The Browns have been really talking up Haggerty and his 4.41 speed throughout the early camps, and they say Cribbs has made great strides as a wideout. By far though, the story of camp has been Robiskie, and he may steal the starting spot away from Cribbs before the season starts.Robiskie is a polished route runner with excellent hands.
The further along the summer progresses the less likely it seems the Browns will sign a veteran wideout. Massaquoi looks to avoid a sophomore slump and improve upon a solid rookie campaign.He is an excellent all around receiver. Mitchell hopes to put his speed, size and leaping ability to work as a vertical threat. Stuckey is a possession receiver who hopes to put last season's drops behind him.
Look for Evan Moore to line up as a wideout at times.
Left Tackle: Joe Thomas
Left Guard: Eric Steinbach
Center: Alex Mack
Right Guard: Scott Kooistra
Right Tackle: Tony Pashos
Bench: Floyd "Pork Chop" Womack, Shawn Lauvao, and Eric Ghiaciuc
Notable Cuts: John St. Clair, Billy Yates, Pat Murray, Jason Capizzi
I don't have a good feel for any of the starters beyond Thomas, and Mack and I admit it.Thomas is an All-Pro at left tackle and will be for the next 10 years and Mack will be for the next 10 years at center. They are the anchors of an unusually tough line to decipher.
Steinbach was bashed by a lot of publications last year but still seems like the best bet at left guard
Pashos is a big, aggressive mauler who was a multi-million dollar free agent pick up who was hurt last year and hasn't found his stride yet in camp, but I predict he will and I think he will be the starting right tackle. Kooistra seems to have really caught the eye of Mangini and was a quality starter in Cincinnati for a number of years, so he may be the real dea at guard.
Pashos made the strange suggestion to the coaches that he try out at defensive end. St. Clair and Womack came down to versatility and I think Womack is a little more of a swingman. Rookie Shawn Lauvao is the future at guard.
First String: Joe Haden
First String: Sheldon Brown
Nickelback: Eric Wright
Dimeback: Brandon McDonald
First String FS: Michael Adams
Bench: T.J. Ward, Nick Sorensen
First String SS: Larry Asante
Bench: Abe Elam, Ray Ventrone
Notable Cuts: DeAngelo Smith, Nick Sorensen
In a revamped secondary rookie Larry Asante wins a close battle with Abe Elam aided by Elam's holdout. Joe Haden and Sheldon Brown prevail as the more physical corners needed in the rough and tumble AFC North in the three way battle with Eric Wright, who will be a great nickelback and McDonald has a great pair of hands for the dime.
Look for Ward to push Adams at free safety and supplant him and make his presence felt as Rob Ryan's designated blitzer off the bench. Ventrone is a special teams ace. Adams will play everywhere during the season, as will a lot of these guys, as versatility is the key in the Browns 3-4.
Last season the Browns were badly beaten by opposing teams passing games but this year there is a sense of optimism based upon the fresh faces and new talent acquired in the offseason.
Nose Tackle: Ahtyba Rubin
Defensive End: Shaun Rogers
Defensive End: Robaire Smith
Backup NT + DE: Brian Schaefering
Backup DE: Kenyon Coleman, Clifton Geathers, and Titus Adams
Notable Cut: C.J. Mosley
Look for Shaun Rogers to post career highs in sacks and pressures at end. Rubin will control the two gap exactly as Defensive Coordinator Rob Ryan draws it up and Smith is a pro's pro who will do his job and is well respected in the locker room.
Schaefering is a valuable swingman who impressed the coaches with his versatility and toughness, while Coleman's best days may be behind him. Geathers is a super promising project that may be a gold mine at defensive end. Defensive tackleTitus Adams may be ready for some real game time action this year.
Overall, the defensive line bears watching because Rogers may be facing a league suspension for gun possession and if that happens the Browns will be very thin on the line and may have to call up someone like rookie defensive lineman Martin Tevaseu from the practice squad. He can play end or tackle and can penetrate the line a little and is a good tackler who needs work on his technique and leverage.
Starting OLB: Matt Roth
Starting OLB: David Bowens
Starting ILB: Scott Fujita
Starting ILB: Chris Gocong
Pass Rush Specialist: Marcus Benard
Bench: D'Qwell Jackson, Jason Trusnik, and Blake Costanzo
Notable Cuts: Kaluka Maiava, Eric Barton, and David Veikune
The Browns were loaded at linebacker going into the offseason and had to make three tough cuts.
Benard steps into a critical role this season as a pass rush specialist. Gocong really emerged in camp as an energetic natural in the 3-4. Bowens and Fujita are solid capable veterans who are tried and true football players. Roth needs to capitalize on the momentum from last year.
D'Qwell damaged himself and his chances of starting with his holdout.
I know we carried nine linebackers most of last season, but I expect the Browns to carry a defensive lineman, Clifton Geathers, who probably won't see too much of the field in the early going so an extra defensive lineman will be needed this year.
The Browns linebackers will all see the field in different sets as Rob Ryan loves mixing and matching.
Punter: Dave Zastudil
Kicker: Phil Dawson
Long Snapper: Ryan Pontbriand
The Browns have three seasoned veterans who know what their jobs are and how to do them. Hopefully Dawson doesn't let his unhappiness with his contract detract from his performance. Zastudil and Pontbriand are quiet, no nonsense guys who do their jobs well.
Joel Reinders, Offensive Lineman
Chris Chancellor, Defensive Back
Martin Tevaseu, Defensive Lineman
Kwaku Danso, Defensive Lineman
Casey Bender, Offensive Lineman
Auston English, Outside Linebacker
James Robinson, Wide Receiver
Jake Allen, Wide Receiver
Reinders is an imposing physical player who has limited experience. Chancellor has blazing speed and good ball skills. English is a pass rush specialist who can't stay healthy.
Allen has a lot of talent, good speed and leaping ability. Danso is a 6'5" 336lb nose tackle who the Browns will groom as a zero technique. Tevaseu has good strength, size and a solid bull rush but must work on his technique and leverage.
Casey Bender must continue to develop his strength, leverage, and burst off the ball.
Thanks for reading, enjoy your summer day, and keep counting the days till the first preseason game!