With the 2018 NFL season just days away, the Cleveland Browns have finished up their preseason and made the final adjustments to their roster to get the 53-players they’ll roll with this year.
Barring any last minute trades, cuts and signings, the offence looks like this:
Tyrod Taylor, Baker Mayfield and Drew Stanton – Let’s be honest here, it was never going to be anything other than these three. Brogan Roback tried to squeeze into the roster but I must admit that, after seeing him on Hard Knocks, I’m not sorry to see him go.
Although Stanton didn’t look very good during preseason, he does bring the mature, level-headedness to the room and is primarily there to mentor Mayfield should he need mentoring. I did enjoy watching the easily wound up people of Browns Twitter lose their shit when Hue Jackson stated Stanton could well be the #2 and Mayfield the #3 at the start of the regular season. I quite like the way Hue plays with fragile minds via the media.
Tyrod should most definitely be the starter at the beginning of the season no matter how much those Twitter ‘fans’ cry about wanting Baker Mayfield to start from game one. What’s the rush? Mayfield is the future in Cleveland and could even get his chance this year, depending on injuries etc, but we Browns fans have never had it so good, as far as a QB room goes, and yet people still want to throw their young rookie to the wolves straight away even though we have a great QB in his prime willing to lead this season…a bizarre mindset of some fans.
Taylor might be a dink-and-dunk QB in some people’s minds, but he’s the perfect veteran to develop a gameplan around ready for Baker next year. He’s also a very confident player who, I believe, has the respect of his fellow professionals…perfect for the Browns this year.
Carlos Hyde, Nick Chubb and Duke Johnson Jr – This is the other group on offence that was pretty much set in stone before training camp and the preseason started. The only thing that might have changed was whether they’d go with four players instead of three and whether one of those would be a fullback.
In the end, the Browns opted to go with just the three and it was the obvious three that made the roster. Carlos Hyde was a player I wasn’t too bothered for when he was brought in, but after seeing his play during the preseason, wow, I’m all set and ready to watch him run over and through people for the Browns this year. He looks cool and composed as well as quick and powerful to either the outside or up the middle.
Nick Chubb is a fantastic addition to the Browns RB room and he and Hyde will share time on gameday which I think will do them both good. For me, Chubb is the Baker Mayfield of the RB room and will take over from Hyde as the lead back in 2019 or later this year depending on how Hyde is holding up.
Duke Johnson Jr is thought of as our receiving back as he is an excellent receiver, but he also makes things happen on the ground when lined up in the backfield. He’s a slippery customer for defences to handle and good things just seem to happen when he has the ball. There was the talk of him lining up more in the slot this year when the WR’s room was looking suspect, but that talk seems to have gone away after the preseason but I wouldn’t be surprised if we do see him a lot more there during the regular season.
I must admit that I was gutted to see Matt Dayes released. I’ve been a fan of his since the 2017 preseason when he looked fantastic. He didn’t show much during this preseason until the last game when he looked brilliant. I guess the team weren’t impressed that he could only do it against the 2’s and 3’s (maybe even just the 3’s ?) and he’s also not shown much on special teams. I’ll still be watching his career as I do believe he could make some team a good running back somewhere.
Jarvis Landry, Josh Gordon, Antonio Callaway, Rashard Higgins, Damion Ratley and Derrick Willies(stop laughing at the back, hehe) – Right, this is where things started to get a little less straightforward as far as the Cleveland Browns’ roster goes. The unit is loaded with talent but is also loaded with the potential to explode at any time throughout the season. Both Josh Gordon and rookie Antonio Callaway have the potential to be two of the very best receivers in the league but they would appear to suffer from massive immaturity issues (and ego, as far as Gordon is concerned).
When they drafted Antonio Callaway, I was pissed off as I thought he was an idiot and would wind up being a waste of a fourth-round pick. I’m still not 100% sold on the kid as he still seems immature, but he did look genuinely upset, worried and concerned about the incident that happened when he was pulled over at 3am in his car. I think he just needs to grow up and learn that the organisation is there to help him and that he can go to them should he need to. I hope he’s genuinely learned from that mistake and that it’s been a massive wake-up call for him. I loved how OC Todd Haley asked Jarvis Landry to take him under his wing, and I hope he does.
Josh Gordon, wow, Josh Gordon…what to say about him without upsetting the masses, hmmm. Screw it! I’m sick and tired of hearing about him, tbh. I like that the team have shown their support for him as he tries to get himself straight, of course I do, but I wouldn’t be surprised if, deep down, they’re done with him and that’s really what all that ‘not losing another year of his contract’ was all about. They now aren’t lumbered with him for yet another year should he relapse and can let him go without looking like the bad guys for releasing him in his hour of need. If he has turned himself around and is indeed good to go, then great, we’ve got nothing to lose in keeping him around. I just find it funny how he’s suddenly ready to come back now that he’s in a contract year…he must think people are daft. I genuinely hope he has turned his life around for the better and I hope his football career is back on track but, you know what, I wouldn’t be surprised if he plays well this year(if he can even finish the year still active) in order to get a new (better) contract before disappearing into obscurity. There, I said it. I’m such a horrible cynic, huh?
Jarvis Landry is the absolute leader on the offensive side of the ball and could be the guy to turn the team’s fortunes around. He doesn’t just talk the talk, he also walks the walk with his play on the field. People bitch about him and the fact that most of his many catches are for short yardage but I bet if they were honest for a second they’d admit they’d want him on their team.
The rest of the unit is made up of rookies and the young Rashard Higgins. I liked the look of Higgins last year as I thought he was the best of the bunch that was brought onto the team in 2016 via the draft. That class included recently traded Corey Coleman plus Ricardo Louis and Jordon Payton. Higgins was the last of the receivers taken that year in the draft by the Browns and the only one still playing for them (Louis is on IR). I’m hoping Higgins can continue to improve and fight for a starting role along with the two rookies, Ratley and Willies, who have both looked good at times during training camp and preseason.
David Njoku, Seth DeValve, Darren Fells and Orson Charles – This was a unit that was also pretty well set with David Njoku, Seth DeValve and Darren Fells being my choices for the probable three spots.
Not only have they kept those three players but have also kept Orson Charles. He’s made it onto the roster due to his ability to play both tight end and fullback. Not many teams have a fulltime fullback these days and prefer a kind of hybrid if you will.
Former Lion Darren Fells is in there as the primary blocking TE but can also catch and score, as he proved towards the end of 2017 for the Detroit Lions when it appeared Eric Ebron wasn’t all he had been cracked up to be.
David Njoku is still claimed to be a freakish athlete who’s set to have a breakout year and Seth DeValve, for my money, was the safest pair of hands in a bad passing attack last year. DeValve hasn’t participated in the preseason and some thought his roster spot was under threat from Hard Knocks star Devon Cajuste. Personally, I would have been very annoyed had Cajuste won that roster spot and DeValve released. Seth DeValve is now back training and getting ready for the regular season and I hope he can continue to be a threat in the passing game along with David Njoku. Those two on the field at the same time could be a match-up nightmare for some opposing defences.
Joel Bitonio, Austin Corbett, JC Tretter, Kevin Zeitler, Chris Hubbard, Desmond Harrison, Aaron Neary, Earl Watford and Greg Robinson – This is the part of the offence that, apart from the wide receivers, worries me the most. The thing that worries me is the fact that it’s not a settled unit at all. I’m sitting here writing this just a few days before the week 1 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Joel Bitonio, apparently, still doesn’t know if he’s playing left tackle or left guard. He’s made it pretty clear, in my mind anyway, that he wants to remain at the left guard spot, but he’s spent the preseason at left tackle and has looked good alongside rookie Austin Corbett there. Bitonio said he’s ready to play either position and expects HC Hue Jackson to let him know where he’s playing by Wednesday, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he already knows. It’s fun to watch people on Twitter lose their shit, right?
If the team aren’t as sold on Corbett at LG as I am, Joel Bitonio will move back inside and the undrafted rookie Desmond Harrison could come in at LT. Harrison is a player that I’ve mentioned a few times as the guy I wanted the Browns to draft in the later rounds as he has a boat-load of potential but, like far too many of these kids, has had off-the-field issues. I posted about him and other rookies in an earlier post.
He really does look like he could develop into a solid LT starter for years to come, but it’s all about how much he wants it. He’s just looked ok to me this preseason but didn’t look to work well with Corbett on that left side of the line. I’m no scout or analyst, but even I saw him looking lost when defenders stunted or went wide. I like his potential and he looks like a mountain out there on the field but, right now, I’d feel more comfortable with the Bitonio/Corbett setup on the left.
The right side of the line looks solid, so long as Zeitler comes back in and plays to the level his wages suggest he can. The player I’ve heard the least about so far this season is RT Chris Hubbard. The nature of an offensive lineman’s job means that if no one is talking about you, you’re doing a great job. For me, this sums up Chris Hubbard so far and I still maintain that I’d like to see him as our LT at some stage playing next to Bitonio at LG.
I was happy when the team brought in JC Tretter from the Packers to be their new centre but according to Pro Football Focus, his grade dropped last season from those of his time in Green Bay. Having said that, they still had him ranked as the 14th best centre for the season and he was in on over 1000 snaps of the ball, which is more than many others. He’s not been the saviour of the offensive line interior that I wanted him to be but I still think he’s a decent player and I’m happy to have him as our centre.
Two players that have been added as backups are former 2nd overall draft pick Greg Robinson and former 4th rounder Earl Watford. Robinson certainly isn’t anywhere near as good as his draft pick would suggest, but I think he’s good to have as a backup. He can slot into either tackle position and will be why he’s on the roster going into the regular season.
As for Watford, meh, I’m not too keen on him really. I think he’s another player of the Donald Stephenson mould who’s just happy to go through the motions and keep picking up his paycheck. I’m so very surprised they dumped Spencer Drango after all that playing time he got through the preseason and replaced him with Watford so late. This move baffles me but, like I keep saying, I’m just a small time fan on the outside looking in and Drango did look useless on outside runs as he was far too slow to get out and block.
I’m not for a second going to pretend that I know much about Aaron Neary but I’d imagine he’s come in as an interior backup. Most likely as a backup to JC Tretter at centre and maybe as a way of trying to get him to improve on his PFF rating of 68.7 from last year.
Surprise Roster Cuts
The biggest surprises for me were the cuts of RB Matt Dayes, OL Spencer Drango, TE Devon Cajuste, RB Dontrell Hilliard and WR Da’Mari Scott.
As I’ve already said, I’m a fan of Dayes and hope he finds a roster spot somewhere, but Hilliard also looked good during the preseason. There was no room for all five RB’s on the 53-man final roster and it had to be these two who got the boot. Hilliard has, however, been signed to the practice squad.
I can see why Drango has been let go but I just can’t work out why they gave him so much playing time during the preseason and then made the move so late. I guess his replacement, Earl Watford, his just an all-around more competent player as a backup?
Both Devon Cajuste and Da’Mari Scott have, in my mind, been victims of the team having too many decent young players with potential on the roster. I liked what I saw from Scott but I do think Ratley and Willies have performed better and so this move makes sense. As for Cajuste, I think he’s an ok player but the team has players at that position who are consistently better and ready to play now. Cajuste would be good on a practice squad for now.
I do like that both Hilliard and Da’Mari Scott have made it to the Cleveland Browns practice squad but I’m a little surprised that Cajuste didn’t.
So, that’s my little rundown of my thoughts on the final (for now) look of the Browns offensive player personnel. What do you see from the roster right now? Let me know in the comments below.