Cleveland Browns: Projecting the 2011 Depth Chart
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With the NFL Draft now just a week away, we should soon be able to start filling in the gaps on the Browns' depth chart for the 2011 season.
At the moment, it's a tough thing to predict. There are a lot of areas of the team where there is little depth behind the starters, and some positions don't really even have a starter lined up for them.
Still, it never hurts to start examining the general framework of the depth chart early to get a clear idea of the team's greatest needs.
We don't know what the Browns will get in the draft or what will happen with free agency before the start of the season, but we can get an idea of which pieces of the puzzle are still missing, and which ones are firmly in place.
As always, your thoughts on the subject are greatly appreciated in the comments below. What do you think about the Browns depth chart at this point in the off-season? Have at it, gang.
1. Running Backs
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With all the holes in the roster that keep us all awake at night, it helps to look at the running back position if you want to ease your nerves. The Browns currently have six running backs on the roster.
Hillis is obviously at the top of the list, and if Montario Hardesty can stay healthy, he'd be second and possibly allow the Browns to either go to a two-back system or move Hillis to fullback.
For now, Mike Bell is listed behind Hillis on the depth chart, and the Browns may want to keep Lawrence Vickers at fullback if the price is right. For the time being, there's plenty of depth here, making running back one of the few positions where the Browns don't need much help, if any.
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The quarterback position is pretty much set on the depth chart, with McCoy starting, Wallace as the backup, and Delhomme as the lawn ornament. Er, third stringer.
If McCoy stays healthy, there are no problems here. If he were to be injured, the Browns could have a big problem on their hands. Wallace can handle the backup job adequately if it's only a game or two, but I'm not sure I'd want to see the offense in his hands all season long if something were to happen to McCoy.
Still, as backups go, he isn't awful, and he's certainly better than Delhomme. And Delhomme does have a function on this team; He's already proven to be an excellent mentor for McCoy. I don't really want to see him on the field ever again, but I love what he brings to the table in terms of guiding McCoy.
3. Wide Receivers and Tight Ends
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The tight end situation for the Browns isn't ideal, but it also isn't their biggest weakness. Ben Watson is a perfectly good starter, and if Evan Moore can ever stay healthy, the Browns would have the option of a fantastic two-tight end formation. It couldn't hurt for the Browns to grab a TE in the draft or in free agency, but it really shouldn't be a priority.
Things look far shakier at wide receiver, unfortunately. Mohamed Massaquoi is at the top of the depth chart, though he could be supplanted if the Browns find a number one receiver in the draft or sign a top-grade free agent.
Regardless, Massaquoi isn't the problem. He's not a true number one receiver, but he's a perfectly good number two if the Browns can fill in that top slot. After that though, things get a little fuzzy.
The depth chart lists Brian Robiskie next, which is unfortunately, not a mistake. There are those out there who believe that Robiskie will be fine under the new West Coast Offense, but he doesn't have a great track record so far.
Carlton Mitchell looks like he could step up this season, but that's pretty much it for what the Browns have at receiver at the moment. Chansi Stuckey probably will not be back, and there's nothing noteworthy after that unless you count Josh Cribbs, who doesn't appear to have the durability to play receiver on a regular basis.
Clearly, this is a spot where the Browns need at least two new players added to the roster before the season starts. Ideally, they add three; two in the draft and one through free agency.
4. Offensive Line
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O-line? Oh no. Pat Shurmur must be losing a lot of sleep over this area of the team.
The situation with the offensive line is very unbalanced. Literally. The left side of the line is in good shape, at least in terms of starters, with Joe Thomas at left tackle, Eric Steinbach at left guard, and Alex Mack at center. It is somewhat concerning even over on the left though, considering there are really no viable backups on the roster for those three. If someone gets injured, the Browns are in trouble.
Things get much worse on the right side. The Browns essentially have no serviceable players at right guard or right tackle. None. Porkchop Womack is old and can't get the job done any more, John St. Clair is a huge liability, and while Tony Pashos and Shawn Lauvao both have the talent, they're both huge injury risks. Billy Yates is a wildard at the moment.
Let's not sugar coat it; if the season started tomorrow, the Browns really couldn't field an offensive line on the right side. That makes this a must-do position for the draft and for free agency. It might even be the part of the team where the Browns need help the most, if you want to keep Colt McCoy alive until 2012.
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In an ideal world, it wouldn't hurt for the Browns to add some depth in the secondary, but what they have on the depth chart currently is adequate and in some cases, spectacular.
Obviously, Joe Haden at CB and TJ Ward at FS are about as good as you can get. Abe Elam has struggled in the past, but he improved greatly at the end of last season and provided the Browns decide to re-sign him, he can hold down the job at SS.
The Browns have a few options in the secondary down the depth chart in Sheldon Brown, Eric Wright, and a few other odds and ends such as Coye Francies, Nick Sorensen, and Ray Ventrone.
Brown is a little old, but he still does a great job when he's healthy. Wright has been a problem and should probably be replaced, but he'll do if the Browns free agent money and draft picks have to be spent elsewhere.
6. Defensive Line
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Let's start with the good part: Ahtyba Rubin at nose tackle. And I'm done.
No, it's not quite that bad, but it's close.
Let's look at the defensive ends (or lack thereof) first. Kenyon Coleman and Brian Schaefering are technically at the top of the depth chart. Yikes. Obviously, the push for the Browns to take a DE in the first round of the draft is warranted.
Still, to fix the need here, they would have to draft two DEs. That's easy if you're just talking about names on a roster, but to get two serviceable, NFL-ready DEs out of the draft may be tough. The Browns will probably have to bring in a free agent here as well.
At linebacker, things are better than they are at end, but there are still some holes and not much true depth. Scott Fujita and D'Qwell Jackson hold their own, Marcus Benard is underrated and Chris Gocong and Eric Barton can do the job well enough, but there's nothing going on at all after that. Keeping Matt Roth would be a huge help in solving the problem, but his attitude and salary demands make that look unlikely.
That means the Browns will need to acquire at least one (and ideally more) player(s) through the draft and free agency to fill in their depth chart for the defensive line in their new 4-3 scheme. They can probably put together a decent group of starters here with what they have, but if anyone were to get injured, they would be in a world of trouble.
Just how aggressively they pursue help at linebacker will depend on how much money and how many draft picks they can afford to throw at and still take care of their other needs.