BEREA: The Browns are on the verge of making 22 moves to cut their 75-man roster to 53 players, and they’re required to swing the ax by 9 p.m. Friday.
In the meantime, players on the roster bubble will push to secure jobs Thursday night in the preseason finale against the Chicago Bears.
Only the Browns’ brass knows for sure which way it is leaning, but here are my views of the decisions the organization faces:
Number kept last year: Two. On roster: Thaddeus Lewis, Colt McCoy, Seneca Wallace and Brandon Weeden. Picks to make team: Weeden, McCoy and Lewis.
Comment: Coach Pat Shurmur gushed over McCoy during his news conference Sunday and sounded as if he has warmed up to the idea of keeping McCoy as Weeden’s primary backup. Still, don’t rule out the possibility of a trade. If the Browns receive an offer they can’t refuse — a third-round draft pick would be a no-brainer and a fourth would probably get it done — they could deal McCoy and keep Wallace as their No. 2. The most recent signs, though, seem to be pointing toward McCoy becoming Weeden’s main backup and Wallace being cut, provided the trade winds don’t pick up. Before training camp, the Browns might have been leaning toward Wallace as their top choice, but McCoy has rallied by making noticeable strides during his second year in Shurmur’s version of the West Coast offense. I still think Wallace is the more logical fit because McCoy’s status as the incumbent starter could create a distraction for Weeden, but that might not be a deal breaker in the eyes of the team’s bigwigs. Either way, it seems like Lewis is going to stay as the No. 3 because Shurmur believes he’s “worth developing.”
Number kept last year: Three. On roster: Montario Hardesty, Brandon Jackson, Chris Ogbonnaya, Trent Richardson and Adonis Thomas. Picks to make team: Richardson, Hardesty and Jackson.
Comment: Ogbonnaya hurt his left ankle during practice Aug. 20 and it couldn’t have happened at a worse time. He was a long shot to begin with, but the injury probably sealed his fate.
Number kept last year: One. On roster: Owen Marecic and Brad Smelley. Pick to make team: Marecic.
Comment: Smelley, a seventh-round pick in this year’s draft, has practice squad written all over him.
Number kept last year: Six. On roster: Travis Benjamin, Josh Cooper, Josh Cribbs, Josh Gordon, Greg Little, Mohamed Massaquoi, Jordan Norwood and Rod Windsor. Picks to make team: Little, Massaquoi, Gordon, Benjamin, Cribbs and Norwood.
Comment: Norwood seems to have maintained his edge over Cooper, an undrafted rookie and a prime practice-squad candidate.
Number kept last year: Four. On roster: Jordan Cameron, Dan Gronkowski, Evan Moore, Alex Smith and Benjamin Watson. Picks to make team: Watson, Cameron, Smith and Moore.
Comment: Watson has been sidelined for most of this month with an undisclosed injury, but he’s still the starter when healthy. I can’t think of anyone who had a better camp than Cameron. Smith is the best blocker of the group. Moore is on the bubble, but Watson’s injury helps his cause. If the Browns keep Marecic and Smelley, three tight ends will make it instead of four.
Number kept last year: Nine. On roster: Dominic Alford, Oniel Cousins, Stanley Daniels, Garth Gerhart, John Greco, Shawn Lauvao, Alex Mack, Ryan Miller, Jason Pinkston, Mitchell Schwartz, Jarrod Shaw, Jeff Shugarts and Joe Thomas. Picks to make team: Thomas, Mack, Schwartz, Pinkston, Lauvao, Miller, Greco and Cousins.
Comment: Cousins hasn’t played since he injured his right leg Aug. 16 against the Green Bay Packers, but Shurmur might have tipped his hand Tuesday when he said, “we need Oniel to get healthy.” Shurmur also indicated the Browns will likely keep eight offensive linemen. Miller will make it because the team drafted him in the fifth round in April, and Greco is valued because of his ability to play guard, tackle and center.
Number kept last year: Nine. On roster: Ronnie Cameron, William Green, John Hughes, Ernest Owusu, Juqua Parker, Scott Paxson, Frostee Rucker, Ahtyba Rubin, Brian Sanford, Brian Schaefering, Jabaal Sheard, Emmanuel Stephens, Kiante Tripp and Billy Winn. Picks to make team: Rubin, Sheard, Rucker, Hughes, Winn, Parker, Stephens, Schaefering and Sanford.
Comment: Paxson would have definitely made the team before he hurt his right knee Aug. 10 against the Detroit Lions, but he’s been rehabilitating on the field during recent practices and doesn’t look close to returning. I have Sanford winning a race against fellow dark-horse candidates Cameron and Tripp.
Number kept last year: Six. On roster: L.J. Fort, Scott Fujita, D’Qwell Jackson, Benjamin Jacobs, James-Michael Johnson, Kaluka Maiava, Craig Robertson and Quinton Spears. Picks to make team: Jackson, Fujita, Maiava, Johnson, Robertson and Fort.
Comment: Robertson and Fort have filled starting roles on special-teams units throughout the preseason, a sign they’re not headed to the chopping block.
Number kept last year: Five. On roster: Johnson Bademosi, Sheldon Brown, James Dockery, Joe Haden, Dimitri Patterson, Buster Skrine and Trevin Wade. Picks to make team: Haden, Brown, Patterson, Skrine and Wade.
Comment: Dockery is on the bubble and would survive cuts if six corners stick around.
Number kept last year: Five. On roster: Tashaun Gipson, Eric Hagg, David Sims, Ray Ventrone, T.J. Ward and Usama Young. Picks to make team: Ward, Hagg, Ventrone, Young and Sims.
Comment: Ventrone is a special-teams ace, but his injured right hamstring makes me question whether he’s a sure thing. The Browns also could choose between Young and Sims if they keep one more player at another position. In other words, Ward and Hagg are the only locks among the safeties, but I wouldn’t be shocked if five of them avoid cuts.
Number kept last year: Three. On roster: Phil Dawson, Reggie Hodges and Christian Yount. Picks to make team: Dawson, Hodges and Yount.
Comment: No suspense here.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Browns blog at https://ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/browns.abj.