The 2018 Cleveland Browns will be a better team than in the past but who should stay to prove that belief?
While there is still a preseason game left to go, it is not one in which Cleveland Browns starters have to be concerned about. That is the case even for most of the second string too. By now, most should already have a great feeling for their future with Cleveland.
For the minority that don’t, the fourth preseason game is a make it or break it kind of scenario. Barring a major injury, the bulk of the 53 roster is pretty much set as the only other situation other than an injury happening that could influence roster spots are depth chart battles.
With a little bit of time prior to the preseason finale and then roster cutdown, these 53 players should be on the final 53 man roster entering Week 1.
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At quarterback, three players are kept, which is not surprising at all. Those three are Tyrod Taylor, Baker Mayfield, and Drew Stanton. Taylor will go out and do his thing to lead Cleveland to some wins this fall. Meanwhile, Mayfield will continue to learn from both of the veterans on the roster waiting his time. Taylor is not the type of quarterback that will be concerned looking over his shoulder, which is a good thing for 2018.
The offensive line had their share of question marks entering the offseason, then again during and after the draft, and finally during training camp. Most are resolved but this is a line that should provide very solid production. However, changes to the line should still be made next offseason.
In the meantime, Cleveland carries nine offensive linemen. They are Joel Bitonio, Austin Corbett, J.C. Tretter, Kevin Zeitler, Chris Hubbard, Greg Robinson, recently acquired Earl Watford, Austin Reiter, and Desmond Harrison.
With this decision, that means no Shon Coleman or Spencer Drango. Bitonio anchors the line with Robinson, who can play both guard and tackle, and Watford, who plays both guard positions as the main depth options. Rather than risking Harrison as a practice squad player, Cleveland keeps the tackle prospect with plenty of promise but a lot to improve upon on the roster.
At running back, like quarterback, the final decision is not shocking as three running backs are kept and their lone fullback also earns a spot. Veteran Carlos Hyde was brought over in the offseason and is now paired up with rookie Nick Chubb and Duke Johnson with Danny Vitale clearing the way.
With the likelihood of going with the hot hand in a committee approach, the only question with the running back position is how will the carries truly be carried out? That is asked because someone will eventually show they deserve more than the others.
The wide receiver and tight end positions were interesting. At the top, the obvious options are on the roster but as one goes down the list, a variety of different angled cases can be made for and against different players. Cleveland ultimately keeps six wide receivers in Jarvis Landry, Josh Gordon, Antonio Callaway, Rashard Higgins, Damion Ratley, and C.J. Board.
The sixth wideout needs to be able to be consistent enough and a valuable option when his name is called upon both on special teams and on offense. Jeff Janis has not done enough but Board flashed some promise and gets the nod.
At tight end, when healthy Seth Devalve can help in the passing game. However, he has not been that way in some time but he still gets on the roster as Hue Jackson, John Dorsey, and company knows what he can do in a supporting role as a TE2. The Browns also keep the emerging David Njoku, who should put better numbers than Charles Clay did when he was thrown the football by Taylor in Buffalo, and Daniel Fells.
When Cleveland signed Watford, they also released among others, kicker Ross Martin, which allowed Zane Gonzalez to win the kicking gig. Joining Gonzalez on special teams are fellow reliable special teamers Britton Colquitt and Charley Hughlett.
Last but not least, the defense has 25 spots available. Four of them go to safties: Briean Boddy-Calhoun, Damarious Randall, Jabrill Peppers, and Derrick Kindred. As good as Cleveland’s front seven is, they will be only as successful as their secondary allows them to. The safties will do well but cornerback is going to be okay at best all season.
The brightest spot will be Denzel Ward but there still needs a lot of work to be done there. No matter how it would end up the uncertainty of hit/miss play will be there. Cleveland ultimately decides on six via Ward, Terrance Mitchell, E.J. Gaines, T.J. Carrie, Michael Jordan, and Jeremiah McKinnon.
Cleveland’s front seven is going to make plays left and right, as well as plenty of times hitting the opposing quarterback. While defensive tackle is still a concern, with a healthy Emmanuel Ogbah and Myles Garrett on the ends, opposing offensive lines will still have their hands full. That said, in addition to those two, Jamie Meder, Larry Ogunjobi, Caleb Brantley, Carl Nassib, Trevon Coley, Chad Thomas, and Zaycoven Henderson also get their spot to help the Browns defense.