Like any team in the NFL, the preseason is a time to view the many different positional battles.
This is the time for players to step up to show the coaching staff that they are the best player on the team at their position and should be the starter come Week 1.
It's the time when rookies, fresh to the game, challenge the team's top players and try to squeeze themselves into a starting position.
As much as the vets may hate it, position battles bring out the best in players.
For the first time in a few years, one of the position battles in Cleveland does not involve who's under center.
Even without a quarterback battle, there are still plenty of position battles going on in Berea, on both sides of the ball, and it looks as if they will go on long into the preseason, maybe even into opening week.
Newly-acquired free safety Usama Young has impressed in Browns training camp so far.
Head coach Pat Shurmur hopes that Young will emerge as the team's starter, but that doesn't mean that Mike Adams, the starting free safety for the team last year, will be going down without a fight.
"We’re looking for Usama to emerge and be our starter, and Mike’s doing a good job of competing there,” Shurmur said. “I think that’s what you want. We want to play the best guy. I think that’s what you’re seeing at that position.”
When interviewed, Young welcomes the competition from Adams and plans on "going all out" every play, whether he is with the first-, second- or third-team defense.
"Seeing the different competition, that’s when you raise the level of your game. So competition’s great. I never thought I wasn’t getting pushed," said Young.
"Once I got here, I knew I was getting pushed. You’ve gotta have that competition to take your game to the next level.”
The Browns depth chart was recently released and Young is currently the starter at free safety. However, with the preseason still to play, Adams could still swoop in to take back his position.
In the Browns first preseason game against the Green Bay Packers, the first-team defense struggled.
Even though they forced a three-and-out in the Packers' first possession, Aaron Rodgers moved the ball easily in the team's second possession, including a long pass to Donald Driver that Mike Adams couldn't keep up with.
When it comes to the running back position, it's Peyton Hillis' territory. However, there is a clear battle going on for who will carry the load when Hillis is on the bench.
The Browns took a chance on Montario Hardesty last year when he was drafted out of Tennessee. Hardesty had a long list of injuries that included a torn ACL in 2005, ankle sprains and a stress fracture in 2008.
Still, Hardesty came into training camp last season and impressed the team's coaching staff, even getting mentioned of competing for the starting job.
However, the injury bug struck again; Hardesty tore his ACL in his first preseason game against the Chicago Bears and missed the entire year.
Hardesty is hoping to be able to stay healthy and prove he was worth the risk, but to be safe, the Browns went out and signed former Green Bay Packer Brandon Jackson.
Jackson stepped up when the Packers suffered their own injuries to starter Ryan Grant. Jackson finished the season with 703 rushing yards, as well as four touchdowns (three rushing, one receiving) as the Packers went on to win the Super Bowl.
The two will battle it out to see who will backup Peyton Hillis and things are not starting off well for Hardesty.
The Volunteer alum has been held out of several practices as he has been recovering from his 2010 knee surgery. Hardesty missed out on the Browns' first preseason game; Jackson was given a bulk of the carries against his former team.
Jackson finished the game with eight carries for 28 yards—nothing spectacular that would earn him the backup role in one game.
If Hardesty can come back strong and stay healthy, this is a battle that could last until opening kickoff.
One of the biggest issues that the Browns needed to address during the offseason was the position of wide receiver.
General manager Tom Heckert started that process when the team drafted Greg Little out of North Carolina.
Little has been known to play "taller than his listed height of 6-2 and stronger than his listed weight of 220 pounds," which is one of the reasons the Browns were so interested in drafting him.
After the team drafted Little, Shurmur let it be known that Little could very well be the team's No. 1 wide receiver.
So far, Little has had his ups and downs in training camp, but is starting to get the hang of it and is impressing—especially during the Browns' Family Day last weekend, where he was able to jump above both Dimitri Patterson and Usama Young to catch a Colt McCoy touchdown pass.
Little has clearly been the best receiver so far during the offseason, but the Browns have a lot of other wide receivers to figure into the new West Coast offense, including Josh Cribbs, Brian Robiskie and Mohamed Massaquoi.
Massaquoi acted as the team's No. 1 receiver last year and struggled, only finishing with 483 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Massaquoi's struggles could be contributed to the concussion he suffered against the Steelers when James Harrison delivered an illegal hit.
Little will have plenty of opportunities to prove that he is worthy of the No. 1 spot, as it was revealed that Massaquoi recently suffered a bone injury in his left leg that saw the Georgia alum sporting a cast until it was removed on Wednesday.
Massaquoi could start practicing as soon as next week, but missed the first preseason game against the Packers.
Little finished the game with two catches for 20 yards, which included a nice 12-yard catch as the Browns drove down the field and finished with a beautiful pass from McCoy to Cribbs for the touchdown.
One of the few highlights from last season had to be the play of Marcus Benard.
The third-year linebacker from Jackson State led the Browns in sacks with eight and finished the season with 28 tackles. He was slowly becoming one of the Browns' more reliable defensive players.
However, during the offseason, Benard thought that in able to switch from the 3-4 defensive scheme to the 4-3, he should bulk up. He did just that, adding 20-25 extra pounds. Benard weighed in around 256 pounds last year, which would put him around the 275-280 range with the bulk up.
Coach Shurmur was not too pleased with Benard and told him that he needed to slim down because his quickness is what the team coveted. Benard agreed with the coach's suggestion.
“I do see the wisdom,” said Benard.
"I’m a pass rusher, and speed and quickness [are] my attributes. Definitely being lighter always helps, so I can definitely be lighter and I can see myself feeling good.”
While Benard looks to shed some of his newly acquired muscle, recently drafted Jabaal Sheard has been seeing the reps with the Browns first-team; it's been no cake walk as he's been placed against one of the best tackles in the game in Joe Thomas.
Sheard has been lined up against Thomas during every Browns practice and is learning a lot going up against a four-time Pro Bowler.
"I get better every day going up against Joe Thomas," Sheard said.
"It's a lot different from college, a lot more technique. I mean, in college I used to bull rush and put my head down. You can't stick with that. I'm learning it now before I get in a game."
The coaching staff, as well as Thomas, have been impressed with the skill set that Sheard brings with him.
"I think he's got a really good chance to be a good player in this league," Thomas said. "He's really figuring out how to rush over left tackle pretty quickly. I think he's a quick learner."
After Benard gets into playing shape, look for these two to become more competitive and battle for the starting position.
Benard started right where he left off last season, recording one of the Browns' two sacks and finishing with three total tackles against the Packers.
If Marcus Benard was one of the team's highlights on defense, tight end Benjamin Watson was one of the bright spots on offense, alongside Colt McCoy and Peyton Hillis.
Watson had a career-year last year with highs in yards (763) as well as first downs. He also had his best yards-per-game average (47.7) since 2006-2007, when he totaled 49.5 as part of the Patriots.
Evan Moore, on the other hand, did not have as great a season as Watson. The former Stanford Cardinal finished with only 322 receiving yards and one touchdown.
He missed two games in the beginning of the year with a concussion and was placed on the team's injured reserve list towards the end of the season with a hip injury.
At the end of the season, Moore decided to sign his one-year tender with Cleveland and has been impressing so far in training camp, possibly challenging Watson for the No. 1 tight end position.
According to Steve Doerschuk of Sporting News, Moore "is catching everything in sight," including a one-handed grab over the middle labeled the "catch of the camp."
Watson is still in the Browns' big-picture plans at only 31. He still has a lot of speed and agility left in his game, but when he and Moore line up at the same time, Moore has been able to create a lot more mismatches with his height.
If Moore continues to impress and can stay healthy, he could slowly take over as the team's No. 1 tight end. Look for him and Watson to give linebackers headaches time and time again throughout next season.
Watson out-shined Moore against the Packers, leading all Browns receivers with two receptions for 56 yards and having a crucial catch in the Browns' second touchdown drive.
Moore finished with three catches for 11 yards as well.