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Predicting Browns' 53-man roster with cuts on horizon

By Nate Ulrich Published: August 30, 2013

After enduring the grind of training camp and four preseason games, the Browns will cut their roster from 75 players to 53 this weekend.

All NFL teams are required to trim to 53 players by 6 p.m. Saturday.

But it’s important to remember that the rosters released Saturday night are not final. They will change more in the following days as teams scour the waiver wire and pick up players who were cut throughout the league.

With that in mind, here are my predictions for the Browns’ initial 53-man roster:

OFFENSE

Quarterbacks

Number kept: Three.

On the team: Brandon Weeden, Jason Campbell and Brian Hoyer.

Cut: None.

Comment: Campbell maintains his spot as Weeden’s primary backup heading into the regular season.

Wide receivers

Number kept: Five.

On the team: Greg Little, Davone Bess, Travis Benjamin, David Nelson and Josh Cooper.

On the reserve/suspended list: Josh Gordon.

Cut: Mike Edwards, Tori Gurley and Naaman Roosevelt.

Comment: With Gordon suspended for the first two regular-season games because he violated the NFL’s substance-abuse policy, the Browns desperately need Nelson to continue to rebound from his knee issues and give them a boost in Weeks 1 and 2. Gordon will return to active roster in Week 3, and the Browns will need to make a corresponding roster move then.

Running backs

Number kept: Three.

On the team: Trent Richardson, Brandon Jackson and Jamaine Cook.

Cut: Miguel Maysonet.

Comment: Season-ending injuries to Montario Hardesty (arthroscopic knee surgery) and Dion Lewis (surgery on a fractured fibula) opened the door for Cook. Still, the Browns are extremely thin at running back, so look for them to try to add to the position. An undrafted rookie from Youngstown State University, Cook was showcased Thursday in the preseason finale against the Chicago Bears at another area of need – kickoff returner.

Fullbacks

Number kept: Two.

On the team: Chris Ogbonnaya and Brad Smelley.

Cut: None.

Comment: Ogbonnaya is the first-string fullback. But he has been a tailback until this year, and he’ll continue to fill that role, especially on third down. Smelley can also play tight end. He hurt his shoulder Thursday but insisted he’s fine.

Tight ends

Number kept: Three.

On the team: Jordan Cameron, Gary Barnidge and Kellen Davis.

Cut: Dan Gronkowski.

Comment: Cameron is dealing with a nagging groin injury and Barnidge is recovering from a sprained AC joint in his shoulder, so this is an area of concern. Those injuries should help Smelley’s chances of making the team.

Linemen

Number kept: 10.

On the team: Left tackle Joe Thomas, left guard John Greco, center Alex Mack, right guard Oniel Cousins, right tackle Mitchell Schwartz, guards Shawn Lauvao, Jason Pinkston and Garrett Gilkey, left tackle Rashad Butler and center Jarrod Shaw.

Cut: Center Braxston Cave, guards Caylin Hauptmann and Aaron Adams and tackle Martin Wallace.

Comment: Cousins will likely start at right guard in the early stages of the regular season until either Lauvao or Pinkston returns from a high ankle sprain. Gilkey, a seventh-round pick in this year’s draft, should survive cuts because of those key injuries. Guard, though, is another position the Browns would like to bolster.

DEFENSE

Linebackers

Number kept: Nine.

On the team: Outside -- Jabaal Sheard, Paul Kruger, Barkevious Mingo, Quentin Groves and Justin Cole. Inside – D’Qwell Jackson, Craig Robertson, Tank Carder and L.J.Fort.
Cut: Outside – Paul Hazel and Eric Martin. Inside – James-Michael Johnson and Justin Staples.

Comment: Mingo’s bruised lung will likely keep him sidelined for at least the season opener, allowing Cole to squeeze his way onto the roster after an impressive preseason. Johnson, a fourth-round selection last year, would become another player picked by former Browns General Manager Tom Heckert to get chopped by the new regime. Staples should earn a spot on the eight-man practice squad.

Line

Number kept: Six.

On the team: Ends – Desmond Bryant, Ahtyba Rubin, Billy Winn and John Hughes. Nose tackles – Phil Taylor and Ishmaa’ily Kitchen.

Cut: Ends – Hall Davis, Armonty Bryant and Brian Sanford.

Comment: Sanford had a solid preseason, but the Browns traded him last week before voiding the deal, so he’s considered expendable. Armonty Bryant, a seventh-round pick in this year’s draft, is a prime practice-squad candidate.

Secondary

Number kept: Nine.

On the team: Cornerbacks – Joe Haden, Buster Skrine, Chris Owens, Leon McFadden and Abdul Kanneh. Safeties – T.J. Ward, Tashaun Gipson, Johnson Bademosi and Josh Aubrey.

Cut: Cornerback – Akeem Auguste. Safeties – Jamoris Slaughter and Kent Richardson.

Comment: The lack of the depth in the defensive backfield could allow two undrafted rookies, Aubrey and Kanneh, to survive cuts. Slaughter, a sixth-round pick in this year’s draft, is another prime practice-squad candidate. He has been hindered by injuries throughout the summer, the latest being a pulled groin muscle.

SPECIALISTS

Number kept: Three.

On the team: Punter Spencer Lanning, kicker Shayne Graham and long snapper Christian Yount.

Cut: Punter Colton Schmidt and kicker Brandon Bogotay.

Comment: Lanning punted well Thursday and showed he can make field goals in a pinch. Graham has the edge over Bogotay. But Graham didn’t kick Thursday because he felt tightness in his back during pregame warm-ups and Bogotay missed the past two exhibition games with a strained groin. Don’t be surprised if the Browns hunt for another kicker on the waiver wire.

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