The Cleveland Browns completed their roster cuts on Saturday and there were a few notable surprises among them.
The team kept twelve linebackers including barely used Titus Brown and only three cornerbacks after releasing Brandon McDonald.
Six out of eight draft picks made the team as fifth round safety Larry Asante and sixth round defensive end Clifton Geathers were cut. Both were surprises as Asante had a solid preseason and Geathers has a ton of physical potential. The Browns are likely hoping they clear waivers so they can sign them to the practice squad.
The team rolled the dice on oft injured running back Montario Hardesty when they traded up in the draft to select him and it came up snake eyes as the running back tore an ACL and will be out for the season. This leaves the Browns with Jerome Harrison, Peyton Hillis, James Davis and Lawrence Vickers at running back. I think they will be just fine. Chris Jennings was the notable cut as Davis excelled in the preseason.
The wide receiving corps features holdovers from last year withe only new name being rookie Carlton Mitchell. Mitchell's chances of making the team often seemed tenuous during camp as Jake Allen often outplayed him but the team elected to go with his breathtaking potential. Brian Robiskie has seized the starting spot opposite Mohamed Massaquoi after an outstanding offseason.
The quarterbacks will be Jake Delhomme, Seneca Wallace and rookie Colt McCoy in that order. Delhomme had an outstanding preseason while Wallace brings electricity along with a cannon for an arm into the game when called upon. McCoy needs a lot of seasoning but he showed excellent touch on short passes to running backs during the preseason but disturbingly reminded me some of Brady Quinn with his refusal to go downfield with the ball. Brett Ratliff was let go.
Ben Watson leads the tight ends which are pound for pound the strongest unit on the squad. Evan Moore has superb hands and knows how to get open while Alex Smith is also a quality NFL tight end. Curiously, Robert Royal made the squad and I wonder if his spot could have gone to Asante or Geathers.
Joe Thomas, Alex Mack, and Eric Steinbach return as starters on the offensive line and rookie draft pick Shawn Lauvao joins them as the starting right guard. It appears Tony Pashos will open the season as the starting right tackle with veteran "Pork Chop" Womack the top reserve as soon as his knee allows.
The defensive line will feature Shaun Rogers, Ahtyba Rubin and Robaire Smith as the starters with Brian Schaefering as the top reserve along with Kenyon Coleman. C.J. Mosley, a top reserve last year was waived as Derreck Robinson beat him out. Robinson made some big plays against the Bears and seems to have a better motor than Mosley.
Twelve linebackers is too many but there will be other moves in the upcoming week. Scott Fujita, Matt Roth, Chris Gocong, Marcus Benard, Blake Costanzo and D'Qwell Jackson are probably safe. Titus Brown, Kaluka Maiava and David Veikune are likely the most logical candidates for a roster move.
Joe Haden, Sheldon Brown and Eric Wright are the only three cornerbacks currently on the roster. That will change before the start of the season. Brandon McDonald was released after a three year career with the team in which he he was a part time starter and had eight interceptions. The safeties are led by rookie T.J. Ward and Abe Elam and include special team aces Ray Ventrone and Nick Sorensen.
I look at the roster and I wonder where the pass rush will come from besides Shaun Rogers, Matt Roth and Marcus Benard.
The running game is going to be fine without Hardesty. This is not a knock on Montario as I believe when healthy he has has the potential to be a special player but Hillis and James Davis are going to open a lot of eyes this year. The key is keeping everyone healthy.
Cleveland's passing game will be greatly improved with the additions of Delhomme, Wallace, and Watson. Robiskie is a much more polished receiver than Cribbs and should end up with significantly better numbers. Delhomme will use his tight ends a lot and he should. Watson and Moore are excellent receivers. The only thing they are missing is a deep threat and perhaps Mitchell will develop into one.
I love our cornerbacks and think they will be a huge upgrade but to be effective the Browns have to find a decent pass rush
T.J. Ward has made a believer out of me but Abe Elam has not and the Browns will remain susceptible to the deep ball until they find someone to fill his spot.
Shawn Lauvao makes the offensive line better but I'm not sold on Pashos at right tackle. I believe he is more of a guard and I think Womack will eventually be the starter.
The linebackers receive a lot of press and praise and there is potential among the many candidates but the team needs to find eight players they really want and let them begin to build some continuity. Too many cooks etc.
Overall, the Browns will be much better offensively and the defensive secondary has been seriously upgraded but the defensive line needs to show they can get some penetration and the team needs to settle on a core group of linebackers for the defense to be successful.