Now that the hullabaloo of the team sale has died down, the attention turns to actual football. The Browns played their first preseason game last Friday at Detroit, and three remain.
The most high-profile position battle really wasn’t a battle at all. Brandon Weeden was named the starting quarterback days before the Browns opened the preseason.
What other battles will you be watching closely throughout training camp? Below is what theOBR staff has to say. What say you? Let us know in the comments.
DAVE KOLONICH: With injuries across the defense, the position battles at Defensive Tackle and both Outside Linebacker spots will be interesting to watch. In the offseason, much was said about the Browns' youth - mainly referring to the team's rookie offensive starters. However, it appears that the Browns' defense - a relative strength at times in 2011 - will be frighteningly young in 2012.
But then again, I would rather see James Michael Johnson and Kaluka Maiava suffer growing pains then watch Scott Fujita get outrun by tight ends and end up on injured reserve for a third consecutive year. At defensive tackle, I think John Hughes will be a steady contributor - which he needs to be if the Browns hope to not again have one of the league's worst run defenses.
Other intriguing position battles are found in the secondary, where the Browns boast decent depth. Since the NFL demands that defenses use three corners on most downs, questions about who is the #2 or #3 corner are kind of pointless. Brown, Patterson and Skrine will all play. At safety, it will be interesting to see if Eric Hagg can actually pull off a starting job. But then again, Hagg is competing against geometrically-challenged free agent bust Usama Young.
On offense, it would appear that the only real starting position battles are at wide receiver. Greg Little is seemingly the top wideout - despite being miscast as such. However, competition could come from rookies Josh Gordon and Travis Benjamin. Of course, the planets have to align for these two rookies to instantly adjust to NFL defenses along with their rookie quarterback. This will be a tall order, but the depth behind Little, Gordon and Benjamin is pretty thin.
The most interesting receiver position battle features Mohamed Massaquoi. After three years in Cleveland, not many of us know much about Massaquoi's potential. For the second year under Shurmur, Massaquoi is definitely receiving a huge break early in training camp. However, with the rookies underneath him and Jordan Norwood challenging, Massaquoi could be a late roster cut or trade bait. Also, the numbers game gets more convoluted considering Josh Cribbs' versatile role. And what about the other Josh - Josh Cooper? Remember him from all that great post-draft press?
Backup running back will be worth watching, if only to see how the overall roster takes shape. I can't imagine the Browns keeping four running backs on the final roster, especially if four tight ends are still around. This competition Will Pretty much be determined by Montario Hardesty's health. If Hardesty is healthy, he and Brandon Jackson back up Trent Richardson. If not, Chris Ogbonnaya makes the roster.
Tight end is straightforward. Barring injuries, Watson, Moore, Alex Smith and Cameron make the final roster - along with Marecic - who hopefully will dramatically improve in 2012. It will be interesting to see if Smith is used more as a motion/H-back blocker this season - assuming that right tackle is better stabilized this season. As for Brad Smelley, he could make the roster through special teams, but is probably another numbers game casualty.
I can't imagine much movement among the offensive line, unless injuries occur. The five starters should be entrenched over the next few weeks, with Greco, Cousins and Miller the top backups. Maybe Garth Gerhert or Dominic Alford could make the practice squad, depending on what the needs and makeup of the practice squad are in a month or so.
Backup quarterback will be interesting, as it's possible that either McCoy or Wallace is dealt. In today's NFL, a third-string quarterback is practically useless on game day unless an injury occurs. As for the merits of that discussion, I don't have the energy and I'm pretty sure that Thad Lewis doesn't actually exist.
DON DELCO: To me, the outside linebacker position is of great concern. This team has not been able stop the run since 1999 and I don't think Kaluka Maiava and James-Michael Johnson are the two players to finally turn that around. The loss of Chris Gocong is only magnified because Scott Fujita is suspended for the first three games because of Bounty Gate.
In an already paper-thin position, two starters are out. Not to mention, defensive tackle Phil Taylor isn't expected back anytime soon.
How is this team going to stop the run?
I guess the outside linebacker position really isn't a battle more so than a survival at this point. I do think that will be key to this team finally being able to stop the run.
FRED GREETHAM: There are many intriguing players and positions that I will be watching with great interest. At the top of the list will be the quarterback play and how Brandon Weeden looks against the Lions. Hopefully, they will blitz and put some heat on him so we can see how he can handle it. Also, it will be interesting to see how Colt McCoy handles his time and if he can show how much he and the coaching staff have said he's improved.
Montario Hardesty has looked very good in training camp. He looks leaner, quicker and even changed his jersey number. It's a fresh start for him and with Trent Richardson out, I want to see if he can be the 2 in the 1-2 punch.
Finally, I'm anxious to see what Josh Gordon and Travis Benjamin look like in live action and while we're at it throw Jordan Cameron in there.
The defense already is down at least three starters and four if Joe Haden is suspended, so it should be a lot of watching young players and see some can impress.
LANE ADKINS: It is easy with the Browns team to pick a position to focus upon due to the intrigue of new players expected to change the culture of this team
From rookie QB Brandon Weeden under center to RB Montario Hardesty and Brandon Jackson gaining early quality reps in place of rookie Trent Richardson, intrigue may be a modest way to state the interest.
Rookie WR's Josh Gordon and Travis Benjamin will be counted on to contribute. The same, if not more is expected from veteran Mohamed Massaquoi.
Can the defense, riddled with injury, youth and inexperience at the DT and OLB spots compete at a level which the run defense improves?
Minus Gocong (Achilles) for the season, Fujita (suspension) for three games, Taylor (pectoral) for no less than six games and Haden (alleged failed drug test) four games.......the Browns will have plenty of evaluation upcoming with rookies and inexperience attempting to make the roster, much less some of the same bodies in contention to replace those that will miss time.