Cleveland Browns Preview: Position Battles During Training Camp

Daniel WolfSenior Writer IMay 8, 2009

CLEVELAND - SEPTEMBER 16:  Brady Quinn #10 and Derek Anderson #3 of the Cleveland Browns look on during the NFL game against the Cincinnati Bengals at the Cleveland Browns Stadium on September 16, 2007 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Every year there are battles that occur on NFL rosters during training camp. Those battles are for starting and backup positions on the depth charts.

One battle that seems to always get attention is the battle for the starting quarterback on the Cleveland Browns. Sound familiar?

Since Brady Quinn was drafted, in 2007 as their “franchise quarterback,” the Browns have had a quarterback carousel at the most important position on their offense: starting with Charlie Frye, then Derek Anderson, Quinn, Ken Dorsey and finally Bruce Gradkowski.

If the Browns are to get out of their constant state of rebuilding, then new Head Coach Eric Mangini will need to put an end to this rotating door of a position since the team had quarterback Bernie Kosar.

No flip of a coin needed to decide who will win the starting quarterback job on the Browns. Coach Mangini will analyze and over-analyze his quarterbacks. His final decision will hopefully be the right one and the Browns will look for consistent performances out of the quarterback spot.

In training camp 2009, the Browns will have several very interesting position battles that many experts and fans will be keeping their eyes on.

WIDE RECEIVER DEPTH CHART BATTLES

Major Battle Participants: Brian Robiskie, David Patten, Mohamed Massaquoi and Mike Furrey

Position Battle Analysis:

With the legal issues of Donte Stallworth becoming more clear as time passes, it looks like Coach Mangini will be moving forward without Stallworth on the roster. The WR position used to be a strong spot on the Browns roster, but injuries and some bad luck have made this position one of the more questionable spots on the team.

Braylon Edwards has publicly stated that he wants to play for the Browns and it looks like the team will not be trading him so he will still be the No. 1 receiver, but after him is just a smoke cloud of competition.

There is no clear cut choice of a No. 2 receiver to line up opposite of Edwards, or even the No. 3, 4 and 5 receivers, but a mix of veterans and rookies can prove to be some interesting competition during training camp this summer.

There have been many additions at wide receiver of the past few months, but no move was bigger than picking up Brian Robiskie. Robiskie was labeled by many experts as the most polished and safest wide receiver pick in April's NFL Draft. He has great hands, route running ability and the he can leap above defenders to go up and get the ball.

The selection of Robiskie was not done for the fans, as some experts say, but he was selected because of his team first attitude, his intelligence and his love for the game. A perfect fit for a team that needed more consistent playmakers and a good locker room guy. Robiskie is already considered to have the inside track at landing the No. 2 wide receiver spot on the Browns opposite of Braylon Edwards (if he doesn't get traded of course).

Patten, Massaquoi and newly acquired Furrey will also be battling for the No. 3, No. 4 and No. 5 spots on this roster, but it's probably safe to say that there is a better than average chance that all of these guys get a spot on the roster at wide receiver.

Predicted Depth Chart Outcome:

WR 1 - Braylon Edwards, WR 2 - Brian Robiskie, WR 3 - Mike Furrey, WR 4 - David Patten, WR 5 - Mohamed Massaquoi

CENTER BATTLE

Major Battle Participants: Alex Mack vs. Hank Fraley

Position Battle Analysis:

The new Browns regime surprised a lot of experts and fans by trading down in the first round three times. Unfortunately, by trading down so many times, the Browns also missed a chance on many future superstars in the league.

After the smoke cleared, the Browns were sitting at number 21 in the first round and they finally pulled the trigger to select.........Alex Mack. Alex Mack?! Yes, Alex Mack.

Not the sexiest first pick of the Browns new regime, but after a few weeks of really thinking about what Coach Mangini wants to accomplish in Cleveland, this pick makes complete sense.

The selection of Mack makes sense because the offensive line in 2008 was horrible (with the exception of Joe Thomas). No offensive points scored in the last six games of the season, three quarterbacks injured in the last half of the schedule, a running back (Jamal Lewis) that could barely break 1,000 yards rushing and a former 2007 offensive team powerhouse that had become the worst in the league in 2008.

Now Mack is in Cleveland and he hit the playbook the day after the draft. Fraley has been a good center the past few seasons, but last year he was overpowered with all the big, strong defensive tackles that reside in the AFC North. Mack will not shy away from this challenge and his physical size will most likely make a huge statement to all opposing defensive lineman not only in the AFC North, but in the entire NFL.

Note: Mack and Fraley can both play either center or guard which makes them both valuable due to their versatility.

Predicted Depth Chart Outcome:

Alex Mack starter, Hank Fraley backup

SAFETY BATTLE

Major Battle Participants: Abram Elam vs. Mike Adams

Position Battle Analysis:

Prior to the 2009 NFL Draft, it looked the the Browns were going to spend one of their second round picks on a safety prospect and groom him into the position while the re-signed Mike Adams kept the position warm for the youngster. Once that blockbuster trade with the Jets occurred, the Browns immediately took care of the safety position with the addition of Abram Elam.

Adams started several games last season when former starter Sean Jones (now with the Eagles) was injured and played admirably. Making the most of his playing time Adams also adding a couple of interceptions while taking advantage of Jone's recovery.

Elam was offered a contract by Coach Mangini and the Browns back in March, but the Jets matched that contract. Now that Coach Mangini has the safety he desired from the beginning, Adams will have his hands full in competing for the starting safety spot opposite of Brodney Pool. There are several experts that predict Elam will have a breakout season this year as a starter, and could develop into a impact, Pro Bowl safety for years to come.

Predicted Depth Chart Outcome:

Abram Elam starter, Mike Adams backup

QUARTERBACK BATTLE

Major Battle Participants: Brady Quinn, Derek Anderson and Brett Ratliff

Position Battle Analysis:

Ahh the quarterbacks........all the rumors that have been present, but yet, no one gets traded. Instead Coach Mangini brings in one of his quarterbacks that he drafted last year in the blockbuster deal with the Jets on draft day.

Ratliff brings a whole new perspective to the competition. Ratliff was supposedly the front runner for the Jets starting job ahead of Kellen Clemons before the Jets picked Mark Sanchez.

Everyone knows that Quinn is the golden, local boy who was drafted by the last regime as the teams' “franchise quarterback.” Now that the old regime is completely gone and Coach Mangini has stepped in, will Quinn still have an equal opportunity to start? Coach Mangini has stated that there will be an open quarterback competition between Quinn and Anderson, but that was before Ratliff was brought onboard.

So Anderson is a former Pro Bowler, but he had a horrible follow-up campaign last year and his stock is as low as it can be. Will Anderson be able to get a grasp of the new offense and be ready to compete with a guy who studies the game harder than anyone but maybe Peyton Manning (Quinn) and a guy who was in a similar offensive system last year and already knows the ropes (Ratliff)?

This positional battle will easily be the one that all eyes will be watching during training camp.

Predicted Depth Chart Outcome:

Brady Quinn starter, Brett Ratliff backup, Derek Anderson backup 

RUNNING BACK DEPTH CHART BATTLE

Major Battle Participants: Jerome Harrison, James Davis and Noah Herron

Position Battle Analysis:

Jamal Lewis' tank may not be on empty yet, but he is the workhorse and starter.

The depth at running back is of some concern to many, especially since Lewis will be 30 years old once the season begins and a suitable replacement for him is still in question.

Harrison had a terrific season last year in a very limited/underused role and he still was able to manage a 7.2 yards per carry average. Harrison might not be a full time starter, but Coach Mangini will better utilize Harrison than the previous regime did. As an example, Coach Mangini will probably use Harrison similar to the way Leon Washington was used with the Jets a year ago.

Davis was drafted in the sixth round of April's NFL Draft, but if Davis puts on a few more pounds he may be more of a capable every down back than Harrison. Coming off a very lackluster Senior year at Clemson, Davis shared carries but he is a leader in the locker room and he puts the team first.

As a Sophomore and Junior, Davis rushed for over 1,000 yards and 10-plus touchdowns each year. Davis is an extreme dark horse in the Browns RB competition but his determination to prove all other teams that passed him up wrong might be the best motivation he needs. It helps that Davis went to the same High School as Lewis and was a fan of Lewis while growing up.

Herron may not receive much attention during training camp because he has a huge mountain to climb to have a chance at a opening day roster spot.

Predicted Depth Chart Outcome:

Jamal Lewis starter, Jerome Harrison backup/change of pace back, James Davis backup

STARTING CORNERBACK BATTLE

Major Battle Participants: Eric Wright, Brandon McDonald and Rod Hood

Position Battle Analysis:

With the newly acquired Hood on the team it brings a whole new look to the cornerback position.

Hood has been a starter for the Cardinals for the last two years and a nickel back for the Eagles the four years prior to that. Now in the mix, look for Hood to put pressure on both Wright and McDonald who were both very streaky in 2008.

In 2007, Hood picked off Anderson twice taking one to the house for a touchdown and now he brings his experience to a position that was one of the Browns biggest weaknesses in 2007.

Wright and McDonald are both beginning their third year in the NFL and now will be pushed by a veteran to keep their starting jobs.

A very interesting addition, with Hood, now one of the Browns weaknesses are looking to be more of a strength in 2009.

Predicted Depth Chart Outcome:

Eric Wright starter, Brandon McDonald starter, Rod Hood nickel back

Many great battles will occur this summer during the Browns training camp. From these battles, stories will be born and become memories for all the players involved and fans alike. Training camp is where superstars are born.

(Team Roster Knowledge/Team History #5 assignment)

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